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Serpico

Year: 1973
Production Co: Artists Entertainment Complex
Director: Sidney Lumet
Producer: Martin Bregman
Writer: Peter Maas
Cast: Al Pacino, John Randolph
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Borrowing from the same world as Ridley Scott's American Gangster, it's always shocking to realise there have been times when most of the police paid to protect us have been on the take, no better than the criminals they're supposed to be catching. And like Scott's epic, this film focuses on what seemed to be the historical hotspot of police corruption, 1970s New York.

We first meet Serpico (Pacino) in the back of a car on the way to hospital bleeding to death after a shooting, and spend the rest of the film learning how he got that way. He graduated into the force an eager and idealistic rookie, and not only didn't succumb to the rot, bribes and graft all around him but ostracised himself and made himself a marked man in various departments by refusing to take part in it.

Sidney Lumet brings us another powerhouse about the true story, and Serpico's tale is heartbreaking. The stress of it not only destroys his relationships and his career, but he's constantly turned against and let down by the powers that swear to protect him until the seemingly-inevitable climax where colleagues may or may not lead him into a death trap drug sting and do little to protect him.

Frank is given a distinctive sleazy/cute charm by Pacino, but it's the story that holds up after all this time.

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