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Ten Great Al Pacino Films


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With Al Pacino returning to theaters this weekend (in 88 Minutes). Canada.com has the 10 greatest Al Pacino movies. Read on and see if you agree and let us know what is your favourite Pacino film.

Al Pacino returns to the multiplex this weekend in 88 Minutes, a standard thriller in which he’s a college professor stalked by a serial killer who has given him 88 minutes to live.

It’s one of two films from the veteran stage and screen actor due to hit theatres this year. The other, Righteous Kill, a somewhat more promising crime drama, re-teams Pacino with his Heat castmate, Robert De Niro.

If we’re judging that film’s potential by the recent output of these two New York acting legends, Righteous Kill should be euthanized before it even hits theatres. Pacino and De Niro have been slumming for so long, we’ve almost forgotten why they were so great in the first place.

But we hope those stuck watching 88 Minutes will cut the living legend at least a little slack. If anyone deserves it, it’s this man. Here are 10 perfect Pacino performances.

1. The Godfather: Part II (1974)
Pacino’s greatest role arrived midway through his 1970s peak, following The Godfather and between Serpico and Dog Day Afternoon. In the second instalment of Francis Ford Coppola’s trilogy, his role of a Mafioso rising to power became the role against which all his others were judged. And rightfully so: it earned Pacino the second of his eight Oscar nominations, and helped put The Godfather: Part II in the books alongside the greatest films in history.

2. Scent of a Woman (1992)
Forget the guttural, cringeworthy “Hoo-has!” that Pacino became known for as a result of this film. Sure, it’s a slight movie that tries desperately to achieve greater meaning, but underneath the over-the top antics lies a great presence, a particular kind of movie magic.

That would be Pacino, who won his only Oscar here as a blind colonel with plans to commit suicide.

3. The Insider (1999)
Michael Mann makes great-looking movies, but the casting of Pacino as real-life TV producer Lowell Bergman is what gives this underbooked gem its gnarly underbelly. Pacino is bang-on as a haggard 60 Minutes producer whose supervisors bail on a source when the heat is on.

Pacino was overshadowed big-time by Russell Crowe (in his best role as the titular character), which is like saying Mark Messier wasn’t so hot because the spotlight was always on Wayne Gretzky.

4. Scarface (1983)
The intensity of Pacino as cocaine kingpin Tony Montana has yet to diminish, despite the somewhat pastel look of Brian De Palma’s cult classic. That’s a tribute to an inimitable performance so over-the-top it could scale Mount Everest. “I bury those cockroaches!” is one of 2,430 quotable lines Pacino delivered in this film.

5. Dog Day Afternoon (1975)
It has been argued that Sonny – who attempted to raise funds for his lover’s sex change operation by robbing a bank – is one of Pacino’s finest roles. It’s hard to argue with that; his range of emotion in Dog Day Afternoon is one of the crown jewels of ’70s cinema.

Sonny, who is by law a criminal, would have stayed true to the page in the hands of a lesser actor. Pacino makes him leap from it.

6. Serpico (1973)
Plenty of crime dramas have employed the cop-as- conflicted hero that Pacino pioneered in Serpico, while even more have attempted to cut as deep socially – in both cases, to no avail. For some reason, Serpico is a bit of a sleeper in Pacino’s catalogue. For shame, we say.

7. Glengarry Glen Ross (1992)
Scent of a Woman quickly made flamboyance Pacino’s stock-in-trade in 1992. That turned some off his other Oscar-nominated role that same year: scenery-chewing Ricky Roma, a borderline sleazeball salesman in David Mamet’s riveting morality play, Glengarry Glen Ross. Pacino acts vain throughout, which bothered some. But the role required it. If you ask us, that’s just good acting.

8. . . . And Justice for All (1979)
Intensity was still a part of Pacino’s oeuvre in the courtroom drama . . . And Justice for All, and he used every last molecule of it as a lawyer whose fight for truth did not result in justice for all. It did earn him a much-deserved Oscar nomination, however, and remains one of Pacino’s signature roles from the 1970s.

9. Angels in America (2003)
To stand out amongst a crew of actors that includes Meryl Streep, Emma Thompson and Michael Gambon is a feat in itself.

To create sympathy for a conflicted character – as Pacino did in spitfire lawyer Roy Cohn – was herculean. Angels in America was a force of nature on television, thanks in part to Pacino’s Emmy-winning performance.

10. Heat (1995)
Heat was promoted as the acting field’s equivalent of a G8 summit, for it featured the first onscreen pairing of De Niro and Pacino, who shared billing but not screen time in The Godfather: Part II. Their brief meeting in a diner was magnificent. But on their own, in the roles of a criminal and cop, De Niro and Pacino shone equally brightly.

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