Frank Serpico

v1.bTsxMjM5NDQ3MDtqOzE3NTEzOzEyMDA7Mjg0OzQwNQThe 1973 production of “Serpico” told the story of one man’s crusade against the corruption then rampant in the NYPD to light. The flick became one of Hollywood’s iconic neo-noir classics and propelled Al Pacino to superstardom.

Fourty-four years later, documentarian Antonino D’Ambrosio brings us the real Frank Serpico, still bearded, wiry, outspoken, charismatic and enigmatic at 81. “Paco” Serpico muses on his father’s shoe shine shop, becoming a cop, Greenwich Village in the 1960s, resisting corruption, opposing corruption, being shot, dealing with PTSD, self-exile, and the periodic re-emergence of police scandals. Interviews with many of the still-living people who knew Frank during the key years almost overflow the film, but the moments with former US Attorney General Ramsey Clark, now in his 90s, stand out. Frank comes off not just as a hero, but as an iconoclast who defies stereotyping, deeply human, bearing the scars of a singular life.

Like many documentaries, some repetitious observations could be cut without losing the narrative. But it’s worth the time to get to know this extraordinary New Yorker. Opens November 1 at IFC Center in Manhattan.

Phil Neches


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