Review by Gordon Justesen

Stars: Al Pacino
Director: Sidney Lumet
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1, Dolby Mono, French Dolby Mono
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen 1.85:1
Studio: Paramount
Features: See Review
Length: 130 Minutes
Release Date: December 3, 2002

“That gun takes a 14 shot clip. You expecting an army?”

“No, just a division.”

Film ***1/2

When The Godfather was released in 1972, audiences caught a glimpse of some stunning fresh faces in the movies, one of which was the now legendary Al Pacino in the pivotal role of Michael Corleone. Between that film and it’s even stronger 1974 sequel, Pacino was able to try out for the first time the lead in a motion picture, and the result was astonishing. Serpico is considered one of the true classics of the 1970s, and it’s easy to see why. Pacino’s strong and authentic portrait of a real life policeman, who was honest and nothing more, is what makes this piece the masterful work that it is.

The movie is centered on the life of NYC policeman Frank Serpico, who is also known as Paco to his friends. Frank, unlike many of the officers in his precinct, is one hundred percent honest and isn’t accustomed to taking bribes. This is a difficult gesture for any cop who happens to specialize in undercover work, but Frank sticks to his guns all the way. Another thing that Frank is strongly against is police corruption, which is a plague in NYC, and it’s very much what Frank vows to get rid of.

Of the limited complications that found their way into Frank’s personal life, the most difficult was perhaps his relationship with women. Frank indeed wanted to be with a loving woman, and he finds a couple of relationships along the way. The problem was he didn’t want to live the typical lifestyle of the average cop with a wife and two kids, probably because it would’ve put too much tension on him while on the job. This notion made his personal life such a wreck.

Bottom line is this, if you’re a die-hard Pacino fan, and you’ve never seen this film, you owe it to yourself to experience this monumental character piece from one of the finest actors we will ever know. That was the case for me. I have always been a Pacino fan, yet I had never been able to see what many consider to be one of his most superb acting achievements. Now that I have, I can honestly say that it is exactly that.

Video ***

Talk about a shocker! This early seventies piece is presented in a surprisingly decent transfer by the pros at Paramount. I would never expected a film with a good deal of age to turn up so nicely on the DVD format. Watching, I thought to myself, this had to be better than watching it in a theater back then. Image quality is at a brisk clearness for the better part of the presentation, and while a touch of softness is seen here and there, the overall presentation is staggeringly impressive.

Audio ***

For a remastered 5.1 audio track, Paramount did themselves quite well for this release, though it won’t break any records as far as sound quality goes. What stands out on the disc are scenes involving a lot of background noise, and the upbeat score by Charles Bailey is delivered outstandingly well. Dialogue, for that of a 70s pic, is heard in terrific clarity.

Features ***

Some nice touches on this disc, as included are three in-depth featurettes; “Serpico: Real to Reel”, “Inside Serpico”, and “Serpico Favorite Moments”. Also included is a photo gallery with commentary by Sydney Lumet, and a trailer.


It’s as memorable as any character piece can get, as Serpico stands out as a milestone for one of our greatest living actors, as well as one of the strongest accounts of police corruption to date.