To celebrate Al Pacino’s 80th trip around the sun on April 25, Be Reel zeroes in on one of the acting legend’s favorite archetypes—the ragged police detective. 

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Today, our podcast traces Pacino’s investigative methods all the way from iconic “Serpico” (1973) to controversial “Cruising” (1980) to charged “Sea of Love” (1989) to unimpeachable “Heat” (1995) to perhaps underrated “Insomnia” (2002), all the way to VOD schlock like “Hangman” (2017). 

It’s a trajectory that reveals his groundbreaking subtlety transforming into meme-able gravitas. Plus, the journey intersects with some of the absolute best directors of the last half-century, filmmakers like Sidney Lumet, William Friedkin, Michael Mann, and Christopher Nolan.

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These roles, we should say, are often surprisingly different in tone and approach, as Pacino is unafraid to go pitch-dark, playfully dandy, or totally insane in performances of detectives losing themselves in pursuit of a perp. In interesting harmony with Pacino’s other most famous recurring role—the gangster—his lasting interpretation of the detective lies in the investigator transforming into a shadow of their original selves, a damaged and ambiguous outline of their work.

“All I am is what I’m going after.” —Vincent Hanna, “Heat” (1995)

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