Documentary Recommendation: Frank Serpico (2017)

Quote from Frank Serpico by Frank Serpico

“I said this to the Knapp Commission over 25 years ago,… We must create an atmosphere where the crooked cop fears the honest cop, and not the other way around.”

frank serpico

Executive Producers: Brian Devine Sr. Silvija Devine, and Jonathan Gray

Director: Antonino D’Ambrosio

Writer: Antonino D’Ambrosio

Major Cast: Frank Serpico, Stanislao Pugliese, Janet Panetta, John O’Connor, John Bal, Londel Davis, Ramsey Clark, Bob Delaney, Eddie Mamet, David Burnham, Robert Daley, Luc Sante, Donna Murch, and John Turturro plus archive footage of John G. Avildsen, Dino De Laurentis, David Durk, Daryl Gates, Rudy Giuliani, Charles Grodin, Whitman Knapp and voice of Al Pacino

MMPA Rating: NA

Running Time: 1 hour and 38 minutes


When the movie Serpico was released in 1973, based on the experiences of Frank Serpico while employed by the NYPD, he probably didn’t think it would lead to Al Pacino’s Oscar nomination for Lead Actor or Waldo Salt and Norman Wexler’s Oscar nomination for Best Adapted Screenplay from the book written by Peter Maas.  Al Pacino did win the Golden Globe for Best Actor in 1974 although the real Frank Serpico was in Switzerland during this time.  He has since returned to live in New York and continues to speak out about police corruption and brutality.  While any random police department has never operated 100% completely in the negative or positive, there are some departments that seem more prone to operate in the shadows.  It’s in these larger police departments, where corruption, violence, and greed breeds, that is the concern of Frank Serpico.  It’s easier to get rid of a few sour grapes, as I call them in police departments, compared to a whole organization operating outside written policies and principles.  The justification seems to be “it’s always been done this way” without looking at ways to change things for the better.  Many current police officers view Serpico as a traitor while others view him as a hero.  It’s easier to stay in the background and remain quiet than speak up for your convictions as fellow officers point out in the documentary.  I believe it’s possible to dissect parts of any police department without destroying everything around it including morale.  With the right open minded people, it’s possible to improve police relationships within their own ranks, let alone the communities they are to protect.  To quote Serpico himself, he said, “the problem is that the atmosphere does not yet exist in which an honest police officer can act without fear of ridicule or reprisal from fellow officers.”  It’s hard not to think he was put there for a reason.  I’ve said before you’re a human first and profession second.  Your childhood upbringing will influence your views later in life.  If you grew up in a family committed to certain beliefs, chances are you won’t outgrow them until you move away from your family or you find the strength within yourself to challenge them for whatever reason.  Serpico held fiercely onto his need for authenticity and while it got him kicked off the movie set of Serpico, he was willing to sacrifice himself for the greater good.  This documentary ends on a sobering note where it’s clear some important aspects of police work have remained the same despite the amount of time passed since the 1970s.


I rate Frank Serpico GREAT with Four Fingers at 90%



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