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Frank Serpico, once a rookie patrol cop now turned undercover agent, is man of integrity. His shabby "hippie" look helps grease his way in with drug dealers and pushers of the street whom he's assigned to bust. His morals, however, refuse him to allow a pay off from his busts, unlike some of his fellow officers. Intent on setting things right, Serpico's honesty rubs the dirty cops the wrong way and now Serpico must do his best to evade the life threatening situations the corrupt force places him in so as to try to keep him quiet.
The cast includes: Al Pacino, John Randolph, Jack Kehoe, Biff McGuire, Barbara Eda-Young, Cornelia Sharpe, Tony Roberts, James Tolkan, Lewis J. Stadlen, M. Emmet Walsh, F. Murray Abraham, Kenneth McMillan, and Judd Hirsch.
Director Sidney Lumet's, "Serpico," is a tough, realistic, involving cop drama.
"Many of his fellow officers considered him the most dangerous man alive - An honest cop."
Based on the fact-based book, by Peter Maas, which makes it all the more compelling, this gritty, Oscar-nominated screenplay, by Waldo Salt and Norman Wexler gives us the trials and tribulations of Frank Serpico, an offbeat cop who comes to be hated by his fellow cops when he uncovers corruption in their department.
Frank Serpico (Al Pachino) joins the New York Police
Force as an idealistic patrol cop in the 70's . When he works himself
up to the rank of detective, he becomes an uncover cop, working in
busing drug dealers. He runs into trouble from fellow officers when
he refuses to take his cut of the money that was routinely extorted
from local criminals, which alienates him from the people he must
work with as a team. Staying true to the NYPD mottos, "To serve
and protect" and "New York's Finest," he reports the
extortion racket of his fellow officers, after witnessing a lot of
graft and corruption. In Serpico's words, "The reality is that
we do not wash our own laundry -- it just gets dirtier." Serpico
testifies to the grand jury, hoping to make a difference. Afterwards,
he finds that things have gone from bad to worse, as no one wants
to work with him, and is deliberately put in dangerous situations
on the job, with no one willing to back him up.
Jack Kehoe as Tom Keough, gives a convincing supporting performance, as the fellow cop who listens to Serpico's frustrations, and giving him feedback about other officer's opinions. "Now I ain't sayin' who. They just said ya'... ya' couldn't be trusted, you know? Frank, let's face it. Who can trust a cop who don't take money?"
The Director, Sidney Lumet, does a terrific job directing this marvelous cast, bringing this gritty, realistic screenplay to life in the mean streets locations in the Big Apple itself. The pacing and tension keeps the audience involved, wondering if Serpico can keep his head above water, as he tries to swim upstream.
Lumet must like the theme of police corruption. He's returned to it time and again, including: "Prince of the City" and "Q & A." "Serpico" is the earliest and best of his films exploring this theme, where he shows the battle between good and evil, and explores the suffering an honest cop endures, that people have endured for making the choice of being honest, and doing the right thing from the dawn of time. One can see why this film is considered one of the top social consciousness films of the 1970's.
If you enjoyed SERPICO you may like HEAT, SE7EN, SEA OF LOVE, PRINCE OF THE CITY, L.A. CONFIDENTIAL, THE FRENCH CONNECTION, BOUND BY HONOR, DONNIE BRASCO, IN TOO DEEP, NEW JACK CITY, COP LAND, and/or "Q & A.