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Serpico Review

Other Critics provided by

Critics scores range from 0 to 100, with higher scores indicating more favorable reviews.

  • 5.0

    out of 100

    Universal acclaim
    based on a weighted average of all
    critic review scores.

  • 80

    out of 100

    Village Voice

    Ought to look pretty dated. Instead, Sidney Lumet's biopic of Frank Serpico, the virtuous cop who exposed a network of graft in the NYPD, feels depressingly relevant.

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  • 80

    out of 100


    Pacino dominates the entire film. His inner personal torment is vividly detailed. (Review of Original Release)

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  • 90

    out of 100

    The New York Times Vincent Canby

    It is galvanizing because of Al Pacino's splendid performance in the title role and because of the tremendous intensity that Mr. Lumet brings to this sort of subject. (Review of Original Release)

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For Families provided by Common Sense Media

Pause for kids 17 & under

Gritty, mature cop story with violence and nudity.

What Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that this dark police drama deals with adult issues such as dishonesty, brutality, and corruption of law enforcement officers throughout a big city police department. There are numerous violent and suspenseful scenes which include an attempted rape, the beating of handcuffed prisoners by policemen, chases and take-downs on foot and in vehicles, fighting and gunfire. A man is shot in the face, then shown wounded and bloody during several sequences. The hero is in danger through much of the film. There is partial nudity (bare breasts) in romantic scenes, with no explicit sexual activity other than kisses and embracing. Characters drink and smoke; the main character gets very drunk in a club.

  • Families can talk about making choices under tough circumstances. Would you report bad behavior if you knew it could end up hurting you? What factors would influence your decision?
  • Often heroes (in real life and in fiction) have a negative character trait -- a "tragic flaw" -- which threatens their ability to overcome great obstacles and reach their objective. What was Serpico's tragic flaw?

The good stuff
  • message true3

    Messages: It is brave and just to fight corruption, regardless of the personal cost. One person, if willing to put him or herself at great risk, can bring about major change.

  • rolemodels true4

    Role models: Unconventional in his demeanor, lifestyle, and attitudes, Frank Serpico has a strong moral center and is willing to put his life on the line to ensure fairness, honesty, and integrity in the New York City Police Department. Numerous members of the police force are portrayed as corrupt and "on the take," while others are upright and honest; some straddle the fence and are struggling with their consciences. Set in 1973, there are no female police officers involved.

What to watch for
  • violence false4

    Violence: An early scene shows a beating and attempted rape. The female victim, clothes torn and breasts bare, is rescued by NYPD officers. A policeman brutally kicks a handcuffed prisoner; a second prisoner's head is pushed into a toilet. A man is shot in the face and is shown bloody and wounded in several scenes. In addition there are scuffles, car chases, and guns are fired.

  • sex false4

    Sex: Some kissing and embracing, no overt sexual activity. Partial nudity (bare breasts) in numerous romantic scenes, including one in which a man and woman take a bath together and are seen from the waist up. Police officers are portrayed as "peeping toms" as they watch an unseen woman undress in a nearby apartment. Accusations of homosexuality are made against a police officer, referencing oral sex.

  • language false5

    Language: Constant swearing throughout. Countless uses of "f--k" in many forms, "screw," "s--t," "bastard," "quiff," "fag," the "N" word, "a--hole," "sucking c--k," "prick," and numerous other explicit insults and epithets.

  • consumerism false0

    Consumerism: Coca Cola, Land O'Frost.

  • drugsalcoholtobacco false3

    Drinking, drugs and smoking: Lots of social drinking (champagne, wine, beer). One sequence shows the hero drinking and getting very drunk at a club. Police officials pass out marijuana cigarettes to a squad room, hoping to "teach" the officers the affects of smoking and to recognize the smell; the scene results in some merriment as the officers get stoned. Serpico and others smoke cigarettes throughout.