USA / Paramount – Artists Entertainment – Complex – Dino de Laurentiis / 130 minutes / 1973 filmed in Technicolor
Writers: Waldo Salt, Norman Wexler from Peter Maas’ book / Cinematography: Arthur J. Ornitz / Music: Mikis Theodorakis / Producer: Martin Bregman / Director: Sidney Lumet
Cast: Al Pacino, John Randolph, Jack Kehoe, Biff McGuire, Barbara Eda-Young
Based on a true story, Sidney Lumet’s film stars Oscar-nominated Al Pacino as the eponymous New York cop who, as he progresses from uniform to plains clothes work, discover that the level of corruption rises accordingly, from free meals to backhanders from crooks. Pressured to join his venal colleagues, he rebels but even his superiors are indifferent to the problem. Compelled to expose the dishonesty, he finds his life at risk (in fact, the film opens with him shot and being rushed to hospital with his story told in flashback).
Established by his roles in Panic in Needle Park and The Godfather , Pacino was hot Hollywood property and Lumet pulled from him one of his finest performances, showing both the honest cop tortured by his colleagues’ corruption and the man away from the job, with supportive friends. He is surrounded by a solid cast, including Jack Kehoe as a graft-taker extraordinaire, Charles White as the crooked police commissioner and Ed Grover as one of his crucial allies but the film belongs to Pacino, from rookie idealist to disillusioned cynic.
A TV series was made a few years later.