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->''"It's my life you fuck!"''
-->-- '''Frank Serpico'''

This 1973 film, directed by Creator/SidneyLumet and produced by Dino De Laurentiis, is based on the non-fiction novel by Peter Maas. Frank Serpico (Creator/AlPacino) is an idealistic {{New York City Cop|s}} who dreams of becoming a detective. In order to qualify for the famous 'gold shield' he joins the Plainclothes Division, where Serpico's tendency to dress like a hippy -- and refusal to take bribes -- earn first the bewilderment, and later the active hostility, of his police colleagues. Equally disturbed by the corruption that surrounds him, Serpico keeps trying to inform his superiors of the situation, but all are reluctant to open a can of worms that could jeopardize their own careers or alienate their fellow officers. Eventually Serpico is forced to go public -- an action that puts his life in danger from those who are sworn to serve and protect.

The RealLife Frank Serpico has said of Al Pacino's performance [[http://news.yahoo.com/serpico-pacino-played-better-did-195535521.html "Pacino played [me] better than I did."]]

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!! This film provides examples of:

* AllCrimesAreEqual: In the novel Serpico arrested a cop who tried to shake down his brother for a $2 bribe. Later another cop is furious, asking "How could you do that to a cop over a lousy $2?" Serpico replied "[[FelonyMisdemeanor Just because it's only $2, that makes it right?]]"
* BadassBeard: Serpico grows a very impressive one halfway through the movie, becoming a virtual trope setter for future undercover cops both in fiction and real life.
* BetrayalByInaction: A precinct captain warns Serpico that being an honest cop in a precinct where many of his fellow officers take bribes makes him a marked man. "They don't have to do anything to you. All they have to do is ''not be there when you need them''." (See UnfriendlyFire below.) [[spoiler:That's exactly what happens.]]
* BigApplesauce
* TheBigRottenApple
* BittersweetEnding: Serpico does succeed in creating a body to deal with police corruption. However, his colleagues are implied to have set him up to get shot in the face, after which Serpico bitterly quits and leaves for Switzerland.
* CantStopTheSignal: Serpico's efforts against corruption are a complete failure until he goes to the press.
* DirtyCop: Both inverted and played straight.
* GoodCopBadCop: Played straight. A rapist is beaten up by the detectives and doesn't talk; Serpico tries a softer approach afterwards and gets the names of the other criminals. Then after arresting them, Serpico is threatened with a reprimand for not having his notebook written up, unless he allows the detectives to claim the arrests.
* GoodIsNotSoft: Serpico doesn't take bribes and is a lot nicer to criminals. The latter actually makes him [[GoodIsNotDumb more effective]] at getting names. He buys one of the rapists a snack, but he wouldn't hesitate to put a bullet in him if he tried to walk away. The former makes him bullied and menaced by other cops, but push him too far, like the guy with the knife, and he'll put you to the ground with the gun in your face.
* HandsomeLech: Played down in the movie; the real Serpico has been married and divorced four times.
* HeadInTheSandManagement:
** The police commissioner is informed of Serpico's allegations and promises action, then does nothing at all (when testifying at the Knapp Commision, he claimed to have just forgotten about the manner). When the precinct commanders bring the matter to his attention, rather than give it to Internal Affairs he just tells them to investigate the matter themselves.
** The precinct captain demands to know why Serpico didn't go to him about the corruption. Serpico pointedly remarks that he doesn't know the captain from the next man, as this is the first time his precinct captain has ever deigned to speak to him.
* HeroicBSOD: Serpico has been told an investigation is "ongoing", but no-one appears to be doing anything while his fellow officers are becoming increasingly suspicious. Serpico then finds himself getting into shouting matches with his LoveInterest who eventually breaks up with him.
* HolierThanThou: Serpico approaches a staunchly Christian superior in the belief that he will be shocked by his allegations and do something about it. He turns out to be worse than useless, getting Serpico's hopes up by claiming to have gone directly to the police commissioner, and then when nothing happens revealing Serpico's allegations to the precinct captain of the department that Serpico has already told him is entirely corrupt.
* HowWeGotHere: The film begins with the incident that caused Serpico's retirement, where he was shot in the face during a drug raid.
* {{Irony}}:
** The police department only launches a belated investigation into Serpico's allegations after he reveals that he's been to "outside agencies". The truth is those agencies are just as reluctant to investigate the matter as the NYPD.
** Further irony in the fact that they refuse to actually do something until Serpico leaks the story to the newspapers, as opposed to preventing him from talking to the papers by investigating.
** Serpico wants to become a gold shield detective, but can't get in because it's assumed that all plainclothes detectives are corrupt. By the time he does get his gold shield, Serpico no longer cares as it's just a political move after he's shot in the line of duty.
** InUniverse when Serpico notes that he's not trusted at his new precinct because he's honest.
* KnightInSourArmor
* ''Magazine/{{MAD}}'': ''Supercool''.
* MononymousBiopicTitle
* MoreDakka: Serpico buys a 9mm Browning Hi-Power (13 + 1 rounds) when he thinks his life is in danger from his fellow officers.
-->"Are you expecting an army?"
-->"No, just a [[StealthPun Division]]."
* NewYorkCityCops
* NoCelebritiesWereHarmed: The movie changed the name of the police officers accused in the book.
* ObstructiveBureaucrat: Serpico's efforts to both fight crime and get something done about police corruption are hampered by petty regulations, and his superiors who are more interested in maintaining the image of the department than getting to grips with the problem.
* PaperThinDisguise: The plainclothes officers dress in polished shoes and short haircuts, making it obvious that they're cops. Serpico tries to avert the trope by dressing like a hippy.
* ProtagonistTitle
* ReasonableAuthorityFigure: After years of superiors who regard him as an embarrassment, Serpico finally meets a precinct captain who genuinely admires him. The two [[TheyFightCrime team up to fight crime]], but find their own precinct also has a corrupt network and the brass are still reluctant to do anything.
* TheSeventies
* TheStoolPigeon: Serpico: a heroic whistleblower to the outside world, but a rat to his colleagues for breaking the code of silence.
* StopOrIWillShoot: While plainclothes Serpico is trying to capture a thief, a patrolman opens fire on them both right after he gets out of his patrol car, assuming that Serpico, who's just drawn his gun and yelled "Hold it," to be just another armed criminal. Serpico chews him out for this:
--> "You stupid fuck! ... You didn't know me? You fire without looking? You fire without a warning, without a fucking brain in your head? Oh, shit. If I buy one, you motherfucker, I'm not gonna buy it from you."
* UnfriendlyFire: One of Serpico's fellow officers pleads with him to drop his corruption allegations because his life will be in danger. "They don't even have to shoot you. They just have to not be there when you need them." This is played out when Serpico is caught by a closing door during a drug bust, and his police colleagues don't do anything until after he's shot. (See BetrayalByInaction above.)
* TreacheryCoverUp: Serpico is repeatedly told that the NYPD "cleans its own laundry"; instead corrupt officers are just transferred so they will be someone else's problem. Moreover corruption is so widespread the officers can simply join another corrupt network in the unit they've been transferred to.
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