Monday, April 11, 2016

TODAY'S NUGGET: Serpico (1973) - The Uncomfortable Character

[Quick Summary: When officer Frank Serpico refuses bribes, his fellow officers are out for his blood.]
The real Frank Serpico said: 
“They took the job I loved most,” he said. “I just wanted to be a cop, and they took it away from me.”
Did he say that in 1967 when he testified against fellow cops?

No, he said that in 2010, FORTY THREE years later.

What does this tell you about him? That he holds grudges? That he's soured?

To me, it says this man believed deeply in the principles that his badge represented.

It was a belief so deep that he was willing to suffer great personal discomfort and pay the price, even if it meant losing his badge (and he did). 

Why is this character so interesting? This article about the film put it well:
[Serpico is] ‘a driven character of Dostoyevskian proportions, an anti-cop cop.’ And the positioning of Serpico as a man with this dual nature, one foot in each world but never wholly accepted into either, heightened his isolation and discomfort in almost every aspect of his life, making for a compelling human drama. 
ex. "Serpico and Peluce are sitting at a table, food and soft drinks on trays in front of them. Serpico takes a bite of the sandwich, makes a face, opens the sandwich and looks at the meat.

SERPICO: This is 85% fat!

He starts to get up.

SERPICO: Hell, I saw some real lean beef over there.

Peluce grabs him by the arm.

PELUCE: Take it easy. Don't be so fussy. it's free. Listen, Charlie's an okay guy. We give him a break on double-parking on deliveries.

Serpico is disconcerted. He senses there's a kind of protocol here that he should not defy -- and he doesn't want to offend Peluce. He sits down.

SERPICO (diffidently): Couldn't I pay for it...and get what I want?

PELUCE: You pay for yours...I'd look pretty dumb. (pause) Frank, just sort of take what Charlie gives you.

He looks somewhat sheepish. On Serpico's face there is surprise and then a look of disgust."

WHAT I'VE LEARNED: I feel the trendy thing is to create morally ambiguous characters and duck the uncomfortable questions for another day (that never comes).

This character was refreshing because he couldn't be bought and actually had to make many uncomfortable decisions that had tough consequences.

Serpico (1973)
by Waldo Salt & Norman Wexler
Based on the book, "Serpico," by Peter Maas

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