Sidney Lumet

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7.0 12 Angry Men (1957)
4.5 Stage Struck (1958)
4.5 That Kind of Woman (1959)
5.0 The Fugitive Kind (1960)
5.0 A View from the Bridge (1961)
6.5 Long Day's Journey Into Night (1962)
6.0 The Pawnbroker (1964)
7.0 Fail-Safe (1964)
5.5 The Hill (1965)
5.0 The Group (1966)
6.0 The Deadly Affair (1967)
5.0 Bye Bye Braverman (1968)
4.0 The Sea Gull (1968)
4.5 The Appointment (1969)
4.0 Last of the Mobile Hotshots (1970)
5.5 The Anderson Tapes (1971)
4.5 Child's Play (1972)
6.0 The Offence (1973)
7.0 Serpico (1973)
6.0 Murder On The Orient Express (1974)
5.0 Lovin' Molly (1974)
7.3 Dog Day Afternoon (1975)
7.4 Network (1976)
5.5 Equus (1977)
4.0 The Wiz (1978)
4.5 Just Tell Me What You Want (1980)
7.2 Prince of the City (1981)
5.0 Deathtrap (1982)
6.8 The Verdict (1982)
5.0 Daniel (1983)
5.0 Garbo Talks (1984)
5.0 Power (1986)
5.0 The Morning After (1986)
6.8 Running on Empty (1988)
5.5 Family Business (1989)
6.5 Q & A (1990)
5.0 A Stranger Among Us (1992)
5.0 Guilty as Sin (1993)
5.0 Night Falls on Manhattan (1996)
5.0 Critical Care (1997)
4.0 Gloria (1999)
6.5 Find Me Guilty (2006)
7.0 Before the Devil Knows You're Dead (2007)

Sidney Lumet (USA, 1924)

12 Angry Men (1957), an adaptation of playwright Reginald Rose's teleplay "Twelve Angry Men" (1954), is a courtroom drama that focuses on the jurors' psychology, and the collective psychology of twelve men locked in a room. The film is entirely shot inside a small jury room (except for three minutes).

A trial has just ended. The judge sends the twelve jurors (none of which is ever named) to deliberate about the young man accused of murdering his father. If found guilty, he will be sentenced to death. All the jurors think that the kid is guilty, but one (Henry Fonda) decides to cast a "no" vote just for the sake of discussing the case, of giving the kid a chance. The other eleven are upset that they have to stay longer in the room just because one person disagrees. But then none of them can explain why they think the kid is guilty beyond any reasonable doubt. In fact, it is Fonda who finds more and more problems with the testimonies. One juror changes his mind. Then another one. The more they discuss the evidence, the less sure they are. After they reconstruct the events of the killing, Fonda gains even more supporters and soon they are six against six. After one of the jurors notices that the knife and the fatal wound do not match, they count votes again, and now the majority is for acquittal. Yet another juror demolishes the main witness, noticing that she most likely was not wearing her eyeglasses when she claims she saw the murder. And now there are eleven jurors in favor of acquittal and only one is stubbornly keeping his "guilty" vote. Fonda smiles because now this lone juror knows how it feels to have all the others against him. Finally even this one breaks down and, crying, votes "not guilty".

Stage Struck (1958) is an adaptation of Zoe Akins' play "Morning Glory" and therefore de facto a remake of Lowell Sherman's film Morning Glory (1933).

That Kind of Woman (1959) is a war melodrama for Sofia Loren.

The Fugitive Kind (1960) is a mediocre and overlong adaptation of Tennessee Williams' play "Orpheus Descending" (1957), which was a confused aggregate of southern-gothic stereotypes to start with.

Val (Marlon Brando) is taken to court where he has to defend himself in front of the judge. The judge asks him to recount the facts that led up to his arrest. He promises he will leave town, taking his only possessions, a guitar and a snakeskin jacket. He drives away under a heavy storm but the car breaks down in a small village. He walks to the only house where the light is still on. A lady, Vee, is home alone, while her husband, the sheriff, is out hunting a man who broke out of jail. They hear the dogs barking and the gunshots: the fugitive has been gunned down. Then the posse returns home smiling. Val admits to the lady that he has a shady past but now wants a chance to reform himself. Vee offers to introduce him to a store that needs help because the owner just underwent surgery. The following day she takes him there. He is spotted by a vulgar girl who dresses like a tramp, Carol (Joanne Woodward), and who recognizes him as a sordid entertainer who lives off a woman, Then the owner of the store arrives from the hospital: he is an arrogant man who mistreats his middle-aged wife Lady (Anna Magnani). The old women of the town gossip that Carol's provocative behavior degrades the town. Nobody wants to hang around Carol, who is loud and obnoxious. She takes Val with her to a joint where she makes a scene in front of her drunk brother. She basically tells everybody that she is an alcoholic and a nymphomaniac. Val drags her away and in the car she admits of being an exhibitionist. She keeps laughing very loud about her own eccentric behavior. But she doesn't fool Val who understands how desperate she really is. At the store Val asks Lady for a job. Lady is also desperate: her husband is dying of cancer and is a vicious devil to live with. She is faithful to him, but he is doing everything he can to make her hate him. Val is attractive. The female customers flirt with him. Lady is distressed by his walk and looks. Refused service at a gas station, Carol drives the car into the station. Carol is now also neurotic about Val and is just looking for excuses to attract his attention. Lady refuses to let Carol enter the store. Carol tells Val that his freedom is in danger: he has already changed his snakeskin jacket for a suit and tie in order to build a respectable life. When Carol's brother comes to pick her up, Lady tells him with as much hatred as possible that he is not welcome in town. It turns out he was her lover before she got married (or, as she puts it, sold herself). Now she reveals that she was pregnant with his child. He didn't know at the time and is shocked. The sheriff's wife Vee is also very nice to Val. Lady asks Val to take her for a ride. She tells him the story of how her negro-friendly father was burned alive when the racists burned down their place. She asks Val to move in, setting up a bedroom for him downstairs. Val sees through her: she is desperate for love. When he confronts her, she cries, humiliated, but then begs him to stay. They become lovers. Lady's husband understands what is going on. He let it slip that he was a member of the posse that burned down her father's place. The sheriff and the sheriff's fascist friends, all of them friends of Lady's husband, harass Val, and the sheriff asks Val to leave town before sunrise. Lady now has a plan in her mind: cause the death of her husband and start a new life with Val. When Val tells her that he has to leave town, she thinks that he too is betraying her, just when she is ready to open a store for him. Carol outside is waiting for Val, determined to try one last time to escape with him. Val learns that Lady is pregnant of his child. Lady is going crazy and he cannot leave her, even if it may cost his life. As they are talking, Lady's husband sets fire to the house, grabs a gun and kills Lady. Then the sheriff's man arrive. They blow water to quell the fire, but blow it against Val in order to push him into the fire. Both are dead. Carol cries and leaves town alone.

A View from the Bridge (1961) is an adaptation of Arthur Miller's play.

Long Day's Journey Into Night (1962) is an adaptation of Eugene O'Neill's 1956 play, and the best of his literary adaptations.

The Pawnbroker (1964), another powerful drama, is an adaptation of the Edward Lewis Wallant novel. The film uses a rapid-fire flow of flashbacks to compare life in the extermination camp and life in a poor neighborhood.

Sol, who owns a pawn shop in a dangerous black ghetto, is a Jew who saved himself from the concentration camp by pretending to be blind. A nice social worker would like to be more than just a friend but Sol is still mourning his wife, murdered a quarter of a century earlier. His young assistant, Jesus, wants to learn the secrets of the business, but Sol does not realize that he is raising a young man addicted to money. Sol has to deal with a black boss of the mob, Rodriguez, and with a black prostitute. The prostitute strips naked to obtain a loan, but he refuses and is instead reminded of the terrifying scenes of the concentration camp. The mobster forces him to accept a deal the way nazists forced the Jews to accept their laws. And Sol accepts one more time. The subway overflowing with workers reminds him of the crowd of the camps. Sol is tough with the criminals, generous with honest people. He is also tough with Jesus, though, who tries to help. Jesus, on the other hand, is planning to rob the store with the help of some punks. Rodriguez shows up with some documents that he wants Sol to sign. Sol refuses. They beat him up but soon the mobster realizes that Sol, tired of living, simply wants to be killed. Rodriguez stops the beating and promises to kill Sol the day that he will not want to die anymore. Then the punks barge into the store, branding their arms. Sol again refuses to open the safe, glad to be killed. But Jesus jumps to protect him from the bullet and is shot fatally. Before dying, Jesus confesses.
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Fail-Safe (1964) Un uomo saluta la moglie e il figlioletto per andare alla base militare dove lavora come pilota di aerei. Dice alla moglie di aver avuto di nuovo il sogno ricorrente della propria morte.
A un cocktail party di intellettuali il professore Matthau, esperto di guerra, consigliere del Pentagono, si dice disposto a perdere milioni di vite se una guerra atomica ne salvera' milioni di altre. La discussione eccita morbosamente una giovane che poi si fa accompagnare a casa dal professore. Tenta di sedurlo, ma lui la prende a schiaffi, disgustato.
Un generale rintraccia un colonnello per una faccenda urgente, e lo trova a casa dei suoi genitori alcolizzati, nei ghetti piu` miserabili.
Nel centro di controllo il generale e il colonnello illustrano a un senatore come funziona la routine dei bombardieri nucleari, sempre all'erta per rispondere a un attacco nucleare dei sovietici, ma al tempo stesso a prova di errore.
In Alaska i piloti giocano a biliardo fra una missione e l'altra.
Mentre il senatore sta osservando il grande schermo radar, viene identificato un aeroplano ignoto. Il generale lo riassicura che capita tutti i giorni, e che probabilmente l'allarme verra` spento nel giro di pochi minuti, e che comunque non c'e` pericolo di scatenare una guerra per sbaglio.
Quando finalmente l'allarme rientra, i bombardieri dovrebbero tornare alla base. Ma questa volta una pattuglia riceve il comando sbagliato e punta verso Mosca.
Fonda, il presidente, ordina di abbatterli, ma i caccia finiscono la benzina prima di riuscire a raggiungere i bombardieri e precipitano nell'oceano.
Il presidente, il Pentagono (dove si trova Matthau) e la base militare (dove si trovano il generale, il colonnello e il senatore) tengono una conferenza telefonica per decidere cosa fare. Matthau consiglia di lasciare che i bombardieri arrivino sull'obiettivo, convinto che, con la distruzione di Mosca, i sovietici si arrenderanno e la guerra fredda sara' finita.
Fonda decide altrimenti. Telefona al Cremlino, spiega la situazione, offre tutto l'aiuto per abbattere i propri bombardieri. Ma i bombardieri americani sopravvivono a tutti gli attacchi dei caccia sovietici. Per convincere i sovietici che si tratta di un errore, ed evitare che i sovietici lancino il loro attacco nucleare, Fonda ordina al Pentagono e al centro di controllo del Nebraska di fornire ai sovietici tutti i dati che questi richiedono per poter abbattere i bombardieri americani.
Il generale nel Nebraska obbedisce ciecamente al presidente, ma il suo colonnello e' convinto che sia una trappola, che i sovietici abbiano fatto in modo che l'incidente succedesse in modo da poter poi chiedere agli americani tutti i loro segreti militari. Il colonnello impazzisce e tenta di esautorare il generale, ma viene fermato.
I sovietici non riescono a fermare i bombardieri e sono pronti a scatenare la guerra nucleare. Per evitarla, Fonda promette di sganciare due bombe atomiche su New York non appena le bombe atomiche cadranno su Mosca.
L'ultimo tentativo lo compie la moglie del capitano dello squadrone, che tenta disperatamente di convincerlo a cancellare la missione. Ma gli ordini sono di non credere a nessuna conversazione perche' potrebbe essere stata artefatta dal nemico, e il capitano si attiene agli ordini.
Matthau tenta ancora di convincere i generali del Pentagono a scatenare la guerra prima che i sovietici possano difendersi. Ma Fonda e' un uomo di parola, e ordina di bombardare New York, ben sapendo che sua moglie si trova li'. A sganciare le bombe e` proprio il pilota dell'inizio, che poi si suicida.
Le ultime immagini del film sono scene di vita quotidiana per le strade di New York in procinto di essere annientata.

The Hill (1965) is a psychological drama set in the desert in Libya during World War II. The film is overlong. Real suspense and tension only arises at the end.

A sadistic sergeant runs a prisoner's camp of the British army in the desert. Prisoners are treated with no mercy. In particular, they are forced to climb an artificial hill carrying a heavy bag. The idea is that the prisoners (mostly British soldiers who have disobeyed orders) will become good soldiers once they are psychologically tortured in the camp. Five new prisoners (one of them black) arrive. One of them, Joe (Sean Connery), is accused of refusing to fight, thus causing the death of most of his men. After a few days, the five prisoners begin to realize the hell they live in. One of them refuses to become the sex slave of one of the guards and is persecuted until he dies. His death spurs a rebellion. The sadistic sergeant terrorizes the prisoners who are shouting the dead man's name. Only one prisoner, Joe, dares to ask to see the comandant to report that the soldier was killed by the guard's brutal treatment. Only the black man is bold enough to back him up. Everybody else betrays him. The result is that the sadistic sergeant makes fun of him. The guard who is responsible for the death beats Joe too. Now Joe is injured and one of the other guards, who can't stand it anymore, takes him to the doctor of the camp. The sergeant confronts Joe. Joe realizes that the sergeant does not want to admit the abuses of the guard because he is stuck in an world of ancient rules. The black man, who is under pressure to retract his testimony, refuses to wear the uniform anymore and start behaving like a monkey. He enters the office of the comandant and tells him that a soldier was murdered by the brutal guard. The doctor orders Joe to be taken to the hospital. The sergeant, who refuses to listen to the good guard, to the doctor or to the black man, wants Joe taken to a solitary cell. Now it is not only the code of military discipline that blinds him: it is also the fact that, ultimately, he, the sergeant, is responsible for what happens in the camp. The brutal guard tries to intimidate the doctor, but the doctor does not change his mind. The sergeant is getting fed up with the brutal guard. The brutal guard, though, is able to manipulate his psychology. Left alone with Joe, the brutal guard is ready to beat him to death. But the black man and another cellmate walk in and attack him. Joe in vain asks them to stop, because this will likely turn against their case. Joe cries while his two friends beat the brutal guard to death.

The Hill (1965), based on a stage play, is another film-debate, centered again around a war theme. But this time the suspense is frail and the story drags on for too long.

In a concentration camp a prisoner faints after climbing up wall carrying a sack of sand. A long line of men is climbing up the same incline. It is situated in the middle of the camp, like a pyramid. Except it is the "Hill", a tool used to punish and "reform" the prisoners of the camp, who are British soldiers accused of various acts of insubordination.
The camp is run by two sadistic officers, Sergeant Harris and Sergeant Williams. A jeep delivers a new group of prisoners, Joe Roberts and four others, including a black man. They are immediately initiated to the brutal manners of the officers. Joe and the black man are singled out, but all five together refuse to take the camp seriously.
Eventally, one of them dies of exaustion. The prisoners stage an uprising against officer Williams, the one who pushed the poor man to death. When the officers regain control of the camp, only Joe stands up and asks to report Williams for the death. The other prisoners let him down, with the exception of the black man. Joe is beaten by Williams and the matter is closed. The most humane of the guards, though, realizes that Joe is seriously hurt and would like to help him, but Williams charges the humane guard with beating the prisoner, despite Joe's protests. The black man, the only one who is willing to testify but is ignored, decides to "resign" from the army and strips himself naked. The humane guard is threatened of punishment. The doctor, who is also willing to help Joe to get to a hospital, is blackmailed by the other offices, because it is his responsibility that the prisoner died. But eventually they all turn against the Sergeant who runs the place and is ultimately responsible for Williams' acts. Joe senses that they won, but the black man has decided to take justice into his hands and beats Williams to death.

The Group (1966) is an adaptation of Mary McCarthy's novel.

The Deadly Affair (1967) is an adaptation of John le Carr‚'s novel "Call for the Dead".

Charles Dobbs is a British secret agent who informs a fellow agent that he an anonymous letter has revealed his communist past. The fellow agent explains that he only was a communist as a young man. Someone is watching them. In the middle of the night Charles is informed that the agent has committed suicide. Returning home, he meets his wife Anne, who obviously spent the night with another man, and it is not the first time. He seems to be used to her infidelity and suspects it even happens with men he knows. Charles' superior charges him with the investigation of the unexplained suicide. Charles visits the dead man's Jewish wife, Elsa (Simone Signoret), a holocaust survivor. During his visit, the phone rings: it's a wake-up call. Charles finds it strange that the man who is planning to kill himself asks for a wake-up call for the following day. However, one of his superiors wants to drop the case. Charles responds by resigning. He then realizes that someone is following him. A young former coworker from the old days in Austria arrives: Dieter. Charles is initially happy to see him, but then realizes that Dieter and his wife Anne are lovers. She confesses. To find out who is following him, Charles hires an old friend, a retired cop, Mendel. Mendel and Charles track down the car of the mysterious stalker to a bar. While Mendel is interviewing the owner of the car, who rented it to a stranger, Charles is attacked by the stranger and almost killed. Mendel beats up the owner of the car to find out more about the stranger, but he only learns his nickname: Blondy. Later Blondy killed the owner of the car. Deiter and Anne leave for Switzerland. Charles and Mendel find out that Blondy is a Hungarian and he has contacts with Elsa. Charles realizes that Elsa and her husband were spying for the communists. Charles and Mendel search the Hungarian's apartment and find more incriminating evidence. On the way out they also find the Hungarian's dead body. Charles confronts Elsa, who admits that her husband had remained a communist and sold secrets to the communists (although donating all the money to charities). Elsa does not reveal the name of the contact who bought those secrets. Charles thinks it's that contact who has engineered the killings. A friend at the secret services tells Charles that in the last month Elsa's husband stopped bringing home valuable material. Charles now suspects that the spy was Elsa, who was selling secret documents unbeknownst to her husband, and that when the husband found out he wrote the anonymous letter reporting himself to the authorities in order to attract attention; then his own wife had him killed. To test his supposition, Charles sends a postcard to Elsa. Elsa responds by buying a ticket to a play and mailing it to someone. Charles bets the recipient is the contact. Charles and Mendel attend the same play and see Elsa being joined by... Dieter! Dieter is not only his lover's wife but even the killer of all these people. Charles reveals that Dieter works for the Russians, and has probably come to town after receiving worthless material when Elsa's husband figured out what was going on. Seeing Elsa's husband with Charles, Dieter thought that Elsa's husband was betraying them and therefore killed him. And then he killed every witness around. By the end of the play, as Dieter and Elsa realize that the postcard was a trap, Elsa is also dead on the floor of the theater. Charles realizes that Dieter has used even Anne (to spy Charles' moves). Charles and Mendel track down Dieter. Dieter shoots Mendel and eventually kills him. While Mendel points the gun at him, Charles asks Mendel whether he loves Anne, and of course Mendel replies that he has no intention of returning to Switzerland to her. Charles manages to disarm Dieter. Then they fight and Dieter dies. Charles flies to Switzerland to his wife.

The comedy Bye Bye Braverman (1968) is an adaptation of Wallace Markfield's novel "To an Early Grave" (1964).

The Sea Gull (1968) is a terrible adaptation of Anton Chekhov's play "The Seagull" (1896).

Set in Italy, the noir The Appointment (1969) is a mediocre and tedious analysis of middle-class life.

A lawyer, Federico, who seems to be undergoing a middle-age crisis, falls in love with Carla, the former fiance of a friend. He becomes so obsessed with her and her mysterious life that he begins to investigate her movements. Suspecting that she may have a second life as a prostitute, he even sets up an appointment with her at the antiquarian store of an old lady where a high-class part-time prostitute works. But Carla has just tried to kill herself. She claims that she is afraid of love because she was hurt by love when she was younger. Believing that he was badly mistaken about her, Federico marries her. But the suspicion returns to haunt him. Carla does not have good explanations for not being home when he would expect her to be. Federico returns to the old lady who arranges sex with the mysterious high-class prostitute and tries to set up a meeting, but she never shows up, a fact that only increases his suspicions. Carla, desperate, tries again to take her life. This time she succeeds. Federico still doesn't know the truth about his wife. He finds out the truth when the old lady calls him and tells him that the high-class prostitute is ready to meet with him: his wife was innocent.

After the terrible Last of the Mobile Hotshots (1970), based on a Tennessee Williams play, on the surface The Anderson Tapes (1971) is a typical movie about an elaborate robbery, but it is also a satire of the establishment (the countless agencies spying on citizens, the dumb and slow bureaucracy of the police).

Released from jail, John "Duke" Anderson (Sean Connery) visits his girlfriend, Ingrid, who lives in a luxury flat. He immediately comes up with the bold idea to rob all the tenants of the building. He has to raise money from the mob All his moves are spied, though: wherever he goes, there is someone recording his words with a microphone or taping his moves with a camera. One agency is investigating political activists. Another one is after a mafia boss. Another one is after drug dealers. And there is even a private detective hired to spy on Ingrid because she is the lover of a tycoon. Various agencies are basically spectators of the preparation, but each only gets a piece of the overall view. The robbery itself is described via the statements that the residents gave to the police. It starts when John's gang raids the building and ends when a sick boy calls the police on ham radio. John kills one of his men who was ready to kill hostages but is wounded in the general chaos. All the agencies that had recorded his actions are now frantically erasing them. The gigantic machine of surveillance had failed to grasp what was going on. Each was only interested in one specific item of reality, and none was interested in protecting the community.

Lumet showed his affinity with the theatre by directing Child's Play (1972), an adaptation of Robert Marasco's play (1970), and The Offence (1973), based upon John Hopkins' play "This Story of Yours" (1968).

The excellent Serpico (1973) is the biography of a police officer.

Serpico has been shot and is unconscious at the hospital. A flashback shows him as a new recruit, enthusiast and overzealous. The son of old-fashioned Sicilian immigrants, Serpico is also humane as he deals with the black criminals of the poor neighborhoods. He moves into a new apartment and a friend introduces him to the world of parties and rock music. He enrolls in the undercover police and, masquerading as a hippie, accepts more dangerous missions. His cute neighbor becomes his girlfriend. During an investigation on drug trafficking, Serpico understands that the police itself is corrupt. His superiors obstruct his research. The other cops make him feel like he is a criminal because he does not take money like all the other cops. He has to witness their corruption, as they cash money under his eyes. He gets more and more lonely, more and more distrusted, more and more nervous. His girlfriend leaves him, tired of his demanding life. Finally, Serpico obtains that two investigators research his allegations. The problem is that they want Serpico to testify against the other cops and Serpico refuses to betray them. But eventually he testifies in front of a grand jury. Politics prevails, though, as Serpico cannot tell the whole story and implicate the bosses, and the grand jury only hears about a few corrupt cops. The cops know that he testified and openly threaten him. He is assigned a new partner. The new partner is sympathetic and even accepts to talk to corroborate his story with a newspaper. The newspaper publishes a story that seems to finally make justice of Serpico's allegations. But politics wins again: Serpico is transferred to narcotics, the most dangerous division. His new partners set him up and basically let the criminals shoot him.
Back to the present, Serpico is released from the hospital. This time he gets his chance to tell the whole story and incriminate the bosses.

Murder On The Orient Express (1974) is an adaptation of Agatha Christie's 1934 novel, and Lovin' Molly (1974) is based on Larry McMurtry's early novels.

Dog Day Afternoon (1975), one of his most powerful films, is the portrait of a loser but also of an era of wild social changes.

A young man talks to the people inside a car. They seem nervous. Sal, dressed like a businessman and carrying a briefcase, walks out and enters the bank. He walks straight to the bank manager and pulls out a machine gun. Sonny (Al Pacino) and the first kid walk in and approach the counters. When Sonny pulls out the gun, the kid freaks out and tells Sonny that he wants out. Sonny lets him go. The kid almost takes off with the car keys, and Sonny has to explain that they (Sonny and Sal) need the car to flee. Sonny is an amateurish robber. He also discovers that the safe is almost empty: the guards just picked up the money. Sonny, who has worked in a bank, knows what is safe to steal and goes for the traveler cheques. He sets fire to the register that has the list of their numbers, so they cannot be traced. The bank manager and all the employees cooperate, but the insurance agent who works across the street sees smoke come out of the building and gives the alarm. Sonny is ready to leave the building but he can't lock up the employees in the vault because the ladies have to go to the bathroom urgently. Just then the phone rings: it's a police detective who wants to talk to the robbers. In a few seconds police cars pop up from every corner. The employees themselves are mad at the robbers for being so inept that now all of them are in a messy situation. The robbers can't leave the building without being arrested and can't let the hostages go lest the police would storm the bank. Sonny is a simply guy. Neither him nor Sal want to harm anyone. The detective negotiates with Sonny. Sonny accepts to release one hostage, the old guard who has asthma. However, the police almost shoot the hostage as he leaves the bank, mistaking him for one of the robbers (the fact that he is black does not help him). Finally, the detective talks Sonny into coming out to talk. The detective wants Sonny to see the massive police presence around the building, but Sonny steals the show by shouting "Attica", a place where the police was accused of carrying out a massacre. The crowd that has assembled behind the police line cheers the bank robber. Even one of the hostages, the head teller, yells at the police (after having yelled at the robbers). An FBI agent has been watching from a distance. The media start broadcasting nation-wide. Sonny's family is glued to the tv set. Sonny demands another meeting with the detective. He walks out and is cheered again by the crowd like a hero. However, one of them attacks him: he's the boyfriend of one of the tellers. The police saves Sonny. Then Sonny talks alone with the detective. He wants helicopter and a jet to leave the country. And he wants his wife and children. The cops track down his wife at the amusement park. She doesn't believe her husband is capable of robbing a bank.
Back at the bank Sonny realizes that the cops are trying to enter from the back and gets mad. There's a moment of tension but the detective restores calm. Sonny asks for pizza. When they deliver it, he insists on paying. He also throws money at the crowd, causing a mini-riot.
The cop dig up another "wife" of Sonny: Leon. Leon is a transsexual whom Sonny insisted on marrying in a church. Leon needs money for the sex-exchange operation and thinks that is the motive that drove Sonny to rob the bank. Cops smile in the background as Leon tells his story to the incredulous detective. Leon also tells the police about the "regular" wife, Angie, and the two children. The tv channels love the story. Inside the bank the employees watch tv and hear the whole story. Now the story has turned from a bank robbery into a story about homosexuals. Sal is actually upset that the media think both of them are homosexual. The bank employees, who were as friendly as a hostage can be, are now silent and embarrassed.
As night sets in, the police cut off the electricity to the bank. Sonny is called outside again. This time the FBI agent is in charge. He has opted for a tough stand. First of all, he demands to see that the hostages are all right. Sonny escorts him inside. Sal asks him to tell the tvs that he is not a homosexual.
The bank manager has an attack of diabetes. Sonny asks for a doctor. Leon finally accepts to talk to Sonny and they put them on the phone. Leon reveals that he tried to commit suicide because of Sonny and afterwards was locked into a mental asylum. Sonny tells Leon that he robbed the bank to pay for him. Leon refuses to leave on the plane with Sonny and decides to go back to the hospital.
Sonny then calls his wife. The wife is a petulant woman who doesn't let him talk. She keeps crying and yelling. He tries to say something but she just doesn't stop. Eventually he just hangs up.
Meanwhile, the doctor has advised Sonny to let the bank manager go so he can get the care he needs. Sonny would like to, but the bank manager refuses to leave before the other hostages.
The police try another move: they have Sonny's mother talk to him about surrendering. After that fails too, the police provide a limo for Sonny and Sal. The two pack the hostages inside and take off for the airport, escorted by a long line of police cars. The road is lined with demonstrators, some of them cheering and some others insulting them. At the airport the police act: they surprise the two inept robbers, kill Sal and immobilize Sonny. The hostages are free, the nightmare is over. Sonny sees Sal's body carried away in a stretcher with a hole in his forehead.

The excellent Network (1976), scripted by Paddy Chayefsky, is a powerful post-McLuhan-ian examination and satire of mass media.

A veteran news anchorman, Howard, who has lost his touch with the audience and is about to be fired (and has nothing else to live for), announces publicly that he will commit suicide live on tv. His boss, Max (William Holden), who is also his best friend, allows him to continue the charade on tv and is in turn asked to leave: his news division was losing money anyway, and the new owners of the network were pushing for a reorganization. In the meantime producer Diana (Faye Dunaway) is an ambitious, cynical executive devoted to the network. She realizes that Howard's pathetic outburst has been extremely popular. She asks her superior Frank (Robert Duvall) to hand her the show, even if she is not in charge of news, because she thinks it can become a hit as a show in which Howard simply vents his frustration. The majority of the staff is outraged by this "bastardization" of the news. Max changes his mind and decides to stay. He is fascinated by the young Diana and she sees an advantage in forging a partnership with the middle-aged Max. Their relationship picks up steam, with Diana having orgasms while she talks about her tv shows, but Max's career is finished as Frank fires him. His marriage is also finished when he tells his wife that he loves Diana. Like a televangelist, Howard galvanizes crowds that start repeating his anti-establishment mantras. One day, though, he attacks the new owners of the station, some Arabs. Frank is now risking his job. Howard is now totally demented, screaming to everybody the truth. The chairman of the network decides to talk to him in person. The chairman brainwashes the demented Howard, who then start being boring on tv. His success vanishes as fast as it came. Diana is desperate. Realizing that she is totally indifferent to him, that she is merely a clog in the television business, Max decides to go back to his wife. As the ratings are falling, Frank decides to take Howard's show off the air. But the chairman wants him back on the air because he deems his tirades important. Frank and Diana realize that the only way to get rid of Howard is to kill him. Diana finds a wonderful way to assassinate him: she has another show in the pipeline, a show about terrorists, and she can start the new series by having a terrorist kill Howard live on tv in front of millions of people.

Equus (1977) is a mediocre adaptation of Peter Shaffer's expressionistic play.

The movie opens with a a psychiatrist, Martin, alone in his studio, who rants incoherently about a case, sounding more like a patient than a doctor. A flashback shows what this is about. One day he was told by a friend magistrate, Heather, that a teenager, Alan, blinded six horses with a metal spike. (As Martin tells the story, he is also self-analyzing himself, as Alan's case was simply a phase in the development of his own madness, even retelling his own dreams). Martin accepts the case and visits the boy's parents. Alan's mother is a kind, religious woman who read the Bible to her son (and taught him the biology of sex). Alan's father is a shy man who disapproves of the woman's religious obsession (and once replaced an image of Jesus in Alan's bedroom with an image of a horse). Alan tells Martin that the first time he saw a horse he was a child at the beach: a young rider took him for a ride, his parents got scared and ran after them, his father pulled him down from the horse. Later Martin witnesses Alan pretending to be a horse and whipping himself. A flashback within the flashback shows how Alan met a girl riding a horse and applied for a job at the local stable because he wanted to be able to ride a horse. He rode him naked. One day the boy turns the tables on the psychiatrist, asking him a flurry of questions about his childless marriage, accusing him of not having sex with his wife. Alan has developed a personal cult of horses, focused on the mythological figure of Equus, replacing the figure of Jesus that caused so much conflict between his parents. Martin reveals his existential doubts only to his friend Heather. He even confesses to her that he hasn't kissed his wife in six years. He finds it paradoxical that he is treating the boy for insanity when in fact he should be treating himself. Alan relates another episode of the past (via another flashback within the flashback). One day he met again the girl at the stables, Jill. She invited him to watch a porno movie. Jill was the only girl in the movie theater, everybody else being male perverts. Alan was shocked to see that his father was one of them. His father pulled him out of the theater and then came up with an implausible excuse of why he himself was there. To Alan it was instead a revelation that sex is not a big deal. When Jill proposed that they had sex in the stable, he accepted but then couldn't get an erection and sent the girl away. (Alan is suffering as he tells a morbid Martin the story of his initiation). That's how he blinded the horses: he was furious at Equus for his impotence.
Alan's confession concludes the therapy. Martin has removed the pain from Alan's mind. But now he is left to wonder if this was good or not. And what to do with his own pain.
The closer Martin gets to the boy's psyche, the closer he gets to his own psyche. Alan was merely a reflection of Martin's soul.

After the musical The Wiz (1978), a terrible remake of The Wizard of Oz, and the comedy Just Tell Me What You Want (1980), Lumet directed the complex, sprawling and multi-layered noir Prince of the City (1981), based on Robert Daley's book (the original TV film lasts almost five hours, the shorter version lasts two hours and a half). The film is a bleak portrait of a city full of the cops who are thieves and of informants who are junkies; but the psychology of the protagonist is never fully explained. It is not clear why he chooses to do what he does, betraying his friends, even risking his life and upsetting his wife. Once he made that decision, the film describes the pressure that mounts on him but perhaps in too much detail, with continuously changing co-protagonists (cops, informers, lawyers, bureaucrats). As a documentary on how the law works, it's impeccable. As a film that is supposed to sustain tension, it occasionally backfires. Lumet mainly shows us the tragedy of these cops who actually did fight for an ideal, even though they used illegal methods, and whose top ideal was friendship, brotherhood. In the end the real hero is the one cop who refuses to cooperate, true to his ideal of brotherhood to the end.

They are narcotics detectives and we see them carry out complex operation that involves several people. They succeed and catch the drug smugglers with the money. One of them, Danny, an Italian-American, is summoned by a special detective, Rick, who is investigating corruption in his unit. Rick congratulates him on an extraordinary career and notes that he and his partners are called "Princes of the City" because they don't always follow the rules. Danny lives in a nice house. His brother is a drug addict who is envious of Danny and insinuates that Danny's money comes from stealing. His own father seems to think so. On a rainy night one of his informers, also a junkie, calls that he desperately needs drugs and Danny knows where to buy them. He sees another junkie, Jose, come out of the place. Danny chases him, beats him up, steals his drugs and gives them to Jose. Danny is then moved to compassion that Jose is shivering and crying in the rain and takes him home, where he witnesses Jose fight with his very young girlfriend about drugs. Danny calls Rick. Something is eating him up but Danny finds it difficult to talk about his unit. Rick remarks that Danny has good connections with the mafia: his own cousin Nick. Rick introduces him to another special detective, Brooks. Danny lectures Rick and Brooks on his job and breaks down admitting that he and his partners steal from the gangsters, and that he provides drugs to his informers. Rick proposes that his unit be disbanded so his partners will be protected from the investigation. Rick promises that they will never force you to do something he doesn't want to do. Danny's wife Carla, when Danny tells her, fears that Rick will force Danny to hurt his partners. Dany starts working for Brooks and Rick. Brooks tells him that they will not incriminate him for whatever he has done that broke the law as long as he never lies. Danny starts by meeting with his cousin Nick, who is a member of the mafia, and asks Nick to organize a meeting with a suspect, Rocky. Danny is wearing a microphone under the shirt so cops can hear what they are discussing. Rick and Brooks set up an entire new office out of an abandoned building. Danny gets excited about incriminating corrupt officials and starts taking too many risks. He collects evidence about a corrupt attorney, Blomberg, who works for the mafia, and this time a gangster named DeBenedetto senses that he is dangerous. He almost gets killed and has to thank his cousin Nick, who vouches for him with DeBenedetto, if they don't. Brooks and Rick send Danny and his family out of town. He is called back to meet with Santimissino, who works for the federal government in Washington. Santimissino wants Danny to help frame a mafia boss, Sardino. Danny asks his lifelong friend Gino for help. It turns out that Santimissino is after Gino too: Gino too is a corrupt cop. Danny tells Santimissino that he will never betray his friend and Santimissino tells him to find another way to get to Sardino. DeBenedetto again senses that Danny cannot be trusted but Gino vouches for Danny, but the following time DeBenedetto is sure that Danny is a traitor and Danny has to resort to violence and arrest him. The goal is to nail Sardino and Danny is close but suddenly Santimissino tells him to lay low and confesses that someone else was working on the same case and is about to arrest Sardino. Danny fears that his friend Gino is also a target of Santimissino. His wife Carla is disappointed that Danny would help destroy his friend Gino. Sardino meets with Gino at a restaurant and pays a bribe in return for a favor. It's a trap: Sardino is wired and the cops arrest Gino as he leaves the restaurant. Santimissino interrogates Gino and gives him only two options: help nail others or go to jail in dishonor. Gino chooses a third option: he pulls out a gun and shoots himself. Danny has been summoned to help convince Gino and arrives one second too late. Now Rocky too is suspicious of Danny. Danny admits that he is now working with the investigators. Rocky offers him a large amount to leave town and start a new life, but Rocky refuses. Danny gets together with his old partners and swears he didn't have anything to do with Gino's arrest. The old partners have heard rumors that he is cooperating with prosecutors but don't believe them. Danny confesses that he is doing it but swears that he would never do anything to hurt them. Danny sounds suicidal and they even would like to take his gun away. A newspaper discovers that Danny is an informer and publishes an article about it. Rick and Brooks provide a 24-hour escort for Danny and his family. Danny now realizes that he will have to survive not only until the trial where he will be the star witness but also after the Blomberg trial. Both Rick and Brooks get promoted, so Danny cannot count on their support anymore. Brooks warns him that at the trial he should not lie: it would be perjury. His cousin Nick finds a way to approach Danny. Nick tells him that the mafia wants him dead. In fact, the mafia asked Nick to kill him, but Nick refused because he's family. Blomberg's lawyer plans to discredit Danny by citing all the cases in which Danny provided drugs to informers. He denies doing it even though countless informers testify that he did. If the lawyer can prove that Danny has been perjuring himself, Blomberg's conviction will be overturned. Particularly troubling is the testimony of a black informer nicknamed "The King": Santimissino and another prosecutor, Polito, are ready to send Danny to jail if he perjured himself. Meanwhile, Danny's cousin Nick is killed and dumped in a garbage can. His family doesn't allow Danny to attend the funeral. Danny and his family are moved to a safer location. Luckily for Danny, The King fails a lie detector test. Another prosecutor, Vincente (Italian-American like most of the others), becomes interested in his story. Meanwhile, the district attorney is launching a crusade against corruption and cops get a confession from a cop, Raf Alvarez, who justifies stealing from crooks because otherwise the crooks would use the cash to bribe officials. Raf cannot prove that Danny has lied and perjured himself but can testify against Danny's partner and best friend, Gus Levy. Danny runs to warn Gus. Gus reassures Danny that he will never cooperate with the investigators. Polito doubts everything Danny says. Polito summons Danny in his office and then lets Danny face a drug dealer who spits in Danny's face. The evidence is becoming overwhelming. Vincente warns Danny that all it takes is that one of his partners cooperates with the prosecutors and then Danny will be indicted for perjury. Gus and Danny swear to each other not to betray each other. Gus is true to his words: rather than cooperated with Polito, he beats him up in Polito's own office. Danny has a hysterical crisis. Vincente advises him to tell the truth, implicating his partners. Danny starts telling the truth about how his group took money from crooks, gave drugs to infermers, etc. Vincente also advises Danny to call his four partners and tell them that he is confessing and that they all have to come clean with the investigators. One kills himself just when he's about to meet with Gus. Danny is taken by Vincente to the scene and has to face Gus' look of hatred. Danny runs away from Vincente and visits Brooks. He complains with Brooks that no mafia boss ever committed suicide whereas a cop just did: cops who fought gangsters all their life get more humiliated than gangsters. Danny visits Gus and confesses that he told the cops all about their illegal methods. Gus ignores his confession, looks down on him and says that, unlike him, he will never cooperate with the investigation, never betray anyone.
Now two "trials" take place at the same time. In one room Blomberg's lawyer is arguing that Blomberg's sentence must be thrown out because Danny perjured himself at the trial of his client. In another room a judge has to decide whether to forgive Danny for cooperating or send him to trial for perjury. Rick and Brooks testify on his behalf, describing Danny as a hero who risked everything to help them, whereas Santimissino and Polito see him simply as a criminal, show no compassion and want him in jail. Vincente threatens to resign if they don't help Danny. Blomberg's attorney ruthlessly unveils the dirty methods used by Danny to extort valuable information from informers, turning many of them into drug addicts. The two "trials" end with Danny free and Blomberg still in jail. It looks like a happy ending, but the last scene shows up Danny, now an instructor at the police academy: upon learning who he is, one of the detectives in the audience gets up and leaves the room in disgust.

The Verdict (1982) is a film noir and a powerful portrait of a disturbed ego.

Deathtrap (1982), from Ira Levin's Broadway play, is a macabre comedy that does not fully succeed in puzzling nor entertaining.

Sidney is a middle-aged mystery playwright who has lost his touch: another of his Broadway plays has flopped, and he gets drunk out of desperation. Sidney lives with his charming and delicate wife Myra in a sumptuous mansion. Myra has had a number of mild heart attacks. One of Sidney's students, Clifford, has written a marvelous play, "Deathtrap", that Sidney can only envy. Clifford is a naive youth who has not told anyone else about the play. Sidney invites him to their mansion, tricks him into wearing a pair of handcuffs and then strangles him in front of his horrified wife. They have barely removed the corpse that a neighbor, Helga, comes to visit. She happens to be a psychic and starts wondering around the house, sensing that something is wrong. She tells the couple that they have to move out, particularly Myra.
As the couple is retiring to bed, the first major shock occurs: a blood-stained Clifford breaks into their bedroom from the garden window armed with a piece of wood and attacks Sidney. As Disney falls on the floor apparently dead, Myra runs into the kitchen, chased by the terrifying avenger. Before the mad man can strike her, she drops dead of a heart attack. At that moment Sidney appears walking calmly behind Clifford: they faked the entire thing to cause that very heart attack that now makes Sidney the sole heir to his wife's fortune. Sidney burns the manuscript of "Deathtrap" and the two begin a new life, as Clifford installs himself in the house and assumes the roles of secretary, companion and lover.
One day they are visited by Sidney's attorney, Porter, who notices Clifford hiding a manuscript in a drawer. Sidney manages to get hold of the manuscript and finds out that Clifford is really writing a play entitled "Deathtrap" about what they just did. Sidney is furious (because he fears that the police will understand the truth), but cannot stop a determined Clifford. Sidney then pretends to cooperate and tricks Cliff into acting out parts of the second act as they are writing it. In reality Sidney is simply waiting for an opportunity to shoot Cliff. Alas, Cliff has figured out all of this (in fact, he has planned it this way) and has removed the bullets from the gun. Cliff handcuffs him to a chair and attempts to leave the house. But the handcuffs are "magic" and Sidney frees himself. While a thunderstorm rages outside, the two stage a duel in the house. Sidney kills Cliff, but Helga shows up and catches him in the act of hiding the corpse. Helga grabs the gun and holds it against Sidney. Cliff is not dead and grabs a leg of Helga. They all fight and someone gets stabbed... The lights go on... Curtain... It's a play in a theater, and it is a big success. A big sign outside: "Deathtrap", a play by... Helga!

Lumet then wasted his talent on Daniel (1983), a lame adaptation of Doctorow's novel, the lame comedy Garbo Talks (1984) and the lame political thriller Power (1986). A little better fared the film noirs The Morning After (1986) and especially Running on Empty (1988)

Family Business (1989) is an adaptation of Vincent Patrick's novel.

The ambitious Q & A (1990) is the last in the trilogy of New York police crime dramas, after Serpico and Prince Of The City. The plot is complicated and eventually puts everybody under investigation. There is no "moral" world, only humans more or less willing to compromise.

A police detective, Mike, kills a Hispanic drug dealer in cold blood and makes it look life self-defense. A young, enthusiastic, inexperienced lawyer, just hired as assistant district attorney, Al, is assigned to filing the report on the incident by a chief of homicide who thinks it is just a formality. An old acquaitance warns him that Mike is a xenophobic racist homophobic macho. The lawyer does his job and interviews two gangsters who happened to be on the scene. The mafia boss Larry is introduced by a sleazy lawyer. The Latin boss Bobby has an argument with the Latin detective who knows him since childhood and now works for the police. Bobby also happens to have a girlfriend, Nancy, who used to be Al's girlfriend. They both do not support Mike's version and the Latin detective tends to believe them.
Al desperately tries to straighten things out with Nancy, but she has not forgiven the way he reacted when he met her father and paled, only because her father is black.
While the chief is putting pressure on Al to give up his investigation (especially since all the witnesses are notorious criminals), Mike blackmails Al's two partners in the investigation (one a Latin and one a black) because he knows that they have taken illegal money.
In the meantime, a ruse develops between the Italians (Larry's friends) and Bobby: they have agreements about splitting the territory but Bobby is becoming ambitious. Bobby has hired two bodyguards, but the reason is that he has reason to believe Mike will try to kill him.
That is also what travenstite Roger tells him. Roger also happens to be the only witness one can use against Mike (he saw him murder the junkie) and Bobby decides to hide him in Puerto Rico and keep him as his own life insurance. The only other people to know about this are Nancy and Roger's girlfriend.
Al witnesses a meeting in which wealthy and influential people discuss the political ambitions of the chief.
In the meantime, Mike visits the Italian family, who are obviously his allies in illegal drug trafficking, and demands that Bobby be eliminated. Larry is put in charge, but Bobby foils the attempt At the same time, Mike kills Roger's girlfriend (after hearing a message from Roger who is already in Puerto Rico).
Bobby decides to cooperate with Al and calls him in the middle of the night to offer Roger the witness. By now, Al has realized he cannot trust anyone. Al and the Latin detective take the flight to Puerto Rico, unaware that Mike is also on the same flight.
Bobby and Al meet. They have something in common: a sense of justice and honor. Except that Bobby is courageos and Al is naive. Bobby comes through as a sort of small-time "Godfather". But he also needs something from Al: Bobby wants a regular life and a future with Nancy.
Al reports back home that he found a witness ready to incriminate Mike and the district attorney gets ready to act, but Mike has sequestered Roger and forced him to call Bobby with an excuse and Mike is ready to kill Bobby. The police find the body of Roger's girlfriend and, hearing Roger's message on the answering machine, Al realizes what is going on. Al calls Nancy telling her to run and save Bobby, but it is too late: Mike has blown up the yacht with Bobby and Roger on board.
Al tries to arrest Mike but Mike (after giving a speech about the tough life of cops) starts shooting. Finally, Al's Latin detective kills Mike. Al has now evidence that the chief in person was in it, but can't prove it. The old friend who has advised him all the time tells him that nobody wants to pursue the case anymore. The case will just be buried and, yes, the chief will be allowed to run and win the election.

Then came the crime thrillers A Stranger Among Us (1992), Guilty as Sin (1993) and Night Falls on Manhattan (1996), the comedy Critical Care (1997), the Cassevetes remake Gloria (1999), the courtroom drama Find Me Guilty (2006), and the crime thriller Before the Devil Knows You're Dead (2007), his moving ethical testament.

Lumet died in 2011.

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