The elusive St. Francis of copdom Frank Serpico is interviewed in tomorrow's Times. At 73, he still sort of even looks like Al Pacino circa 1971! Does the movie even hold up as well? I "rented" it to find out…
Frank Serpico, real guy:
Then: Frank Serpico was an undercover cop who served in the NYPD from 1959 until 1970, during which he lived in the Village, participated in ballet lessons and sundry other pinko-slash-faggy activities that alienated him from other officers who wouldn't have trusted him anyway because he refused to take bribes from gangsters or beat people up gratuitously unless he was really, really mad. Somewhat in the tradition of Jesus etc., he made snitching look honorable and sincerity/long hair seem totally ungay, but he was forced to flee the country after exposing the department's systemic corruption to the New York Times and getting shot.
Now: Real-life Serpico eats organic, practices Eastern medicine, acts in local theater productions, rails against consumerism, wears elaborate rings on numerous fingers and dates a European gal young enough to be his daughter. He still has not brought himself to watch the world famous movie about his life and is still bitter about not getting promoted to first-grade detective. In short, Real-Life Frank Serpico is essentially the inverse of real-life Bob Woodward.
Frank Serpico, movie version
Then: Al Pacino has never looked so awesome, except of course in Panic In Needle Park, but that movie is really boring. He won a Golden Globe for this role in what some guy in the Times called Sidney Lumet's "toughest" movie.
Now: However critically acclaimed at the time, this movie is no The Wire. It does feature awesome clothes and some insightful commentary on how the vapidity of the Nico crowd sort of enabled the venality of the RICO crowd, bad pun I know look I am fucking rusty. Oh, and many lingering shots of naked post-anorexic pre-silicone era breasts. But basically pretty silly.