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Monday, November 25, 2013

Serpico



This week's old movie from the public library was Serpico ...

a 1973 American crime film directed by Sidney Lumet and starring Al Pacino. Waldo Salt and Norman Wexler wrote the screenplay, adapting Peter Maas' biography of NYPD officer Frank Serpico (born 1936), who went undercover to expose corruption in the force. Both Maas's book and the film cover 12 years—1960 to June 15, 1972—in the life of Serpico, who was trying to be an honest policeman. The film and principals were nominated for numerous awards, earning recognition for its score, direction, screenplay and Pacino's performance. The film was also a commercial success .... Pacino won his first Golden Globe award for Best Actor in 1974 for his performance in the film.

You can read The New York Times review here.

The movie (rated R) was good but very sad/disturbing. As I watched, I couldn't help thinking of the parallels between the corruption and cover-up in the NYPD and the sex abuse problem and cover-up in the church, but on to the movie. When Serpico began his career as a cop ...



he was idealistic and sweet. Here he buys one of his many pets, asking the puppies, "Which one of you guys wants to come with me?" :) ...



But it's not long before he discovers that his fellow cops are taking bribes. He refuses to do so and thus alienates them ...



He moves from precinct to precinct, looking for somewhere he can just do his job without being part of the corruption but there doesn't seem to be any such place, and eventually he tries to tell his bosses what's going on. They assure him they'll take care of the problem but they never do. Finally he makes the anguished decision to 'go outside the department' and tells someone in the mayor's office about what's going on. The mayor declines to move on the info, not wanting to antagonize the police department. ...



At that point the police department learns what's he's done and they tell him, "We wash our own dirty laundry." They say they'll investigate the problem themselves. His personal life meanwhile falls apart from the stress ...



Eventually he considers testifying in a grand jury investigation and everyone in the department is alerted to his betrayal. He becomes a pariah and is warned that his life will be in danger - "Nobody has to take a shot at you, they can just not be there when you need them" ...



And that's just what happens ...

Serpico called for help, but his fellow officers ignored him. Serpico was then shot in the face ... His police colleagues refused to make a "10-13", a dispatch to police headquarters indicating that an officer has been shot. An elderly man who lived in the next apartment called the emergency services and reported that a man had been shot. The stranger stayed with Serpico.[7] A police car arrived. Unaware that Serpico was one of them, the officers took him to Greenpoint Hospital. The bullet had severed an auditory nerve, leaving him deaf in one ear, and he has suffered chronic pain from bullet fragments lodged in his brain .... He survived and testified before the Knapp Commission .... Serpico was the first police officer in the history of the New York City Police Department to step forward to report and subsequently testify openly about widespread, systemic corruption payoffs amounting to millions of dollars.

Frank Serpico retired on June 15, 1972, one month after receiving the New York City Police Department's highest honor, the Medal of Honor. There was no ceremony; according to Serpico, it was simply handed to him over the desk "like a pack of cigarettes". He went to Switzerland to recuperate and spent almost a decade living there and on a farm in the Netherlands, as well as traveling and studying. When it was decided to make the movie about his life called Serpico, Al Pacino invited Serpico to stay with him at a house that Pacino had rented in Montauk, NY. When Pacino asked why he had stepped forward, Serpico replied, "Well, Al, I don't know. I guess I would have to say it would be because... if I didn't, who would I be when I listened to a piece of music?" Serpico credited his grandfather, who was stabbed and robbed, and his uncle, who was a respected policeman in Italy, with his sense of justice.

- Wikipedia

2 Comments:

Anonymous Henry said...

Hi Crystal - I actually saw that movie in the theater with my brother! And yes, I lived through those times in NYC and it was pretty accurate. Have you also seen the 2007 movie "American Gangster"? It's also good and shows what it was like.

I agree about the fact that there are some parallels between what happened to Serpico and the clericalism that protected the "good old boys".

12:17 PM  
Blogger crystal said...

Hi Henry,

No I haven't seen American Gangster but my sister did and told me about it (Russell Crowe and Denzel Washington, right?). She thought it was pretty good. Life in New York City must be so different from here in the west coast suburbs!

12:59 PM  

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