'Attica! Attica!' Pacino's 'Dog Day Afternoon' Line, Explained

By | July 15, 2020

test article image
Source: IMDB

Even if you haven’t watched Dog Day Afternoon, one of the most intense and tragicomic films of the 1970s, you’ve heard the phrase “Attica! Attica!” Al Pacino, playing a bank robber, shouts this mysterious word again and again during a standoff with the NYPD, and it riles up the crowd. Attica is a town in western New York state, far away from Brooklyn, where Dog Day Afternoon is set. According to the people involved with the film, things were free flowing on set which allowed for all kinds of improvisations and discoveries, leading a to film that was like no other in 1975, and a scene that will outlast the film from which it was born.

"Attica" wasn't in the script, and neither Pacino nor director Sidney Lumet came up with it. So why is it there in the moviee, and what does it mean?

‘Dog Day Afternoon’ is about a bank robbery gone wrong

test article image
source: IMDB

Directed by Sidney Lumet, Dog Day Afternoon is based on The Boys in the Bank by P.F. Kluge, a Life Magazine article from 1972 that detailed a bank robbery carried out by John Wojtowicz. In 1971, Wojtowicz and his two accomplices attempted to rob a branch of Chase Manhattan bank in Brooklyn. They hoped pay for gender reassignment surgery for Wojtowicz’s partner, Elizabeth Eden.

The film follows the same basic plot, with Pacino playing “Sonny Wortzik,” a man trying to rob the First Brooklyn Savings Bank to pay for his partner’s gender reassignment surgery. The plan goes upside down immediately when Pacino’s character discovers that the cash pick up has already occurred and his accomplice, Stevie, runs away.

Once Pacino is barricaded in the bank he has to negotiate with the police, and on his first trip outside he gets into a heated exchange with an officer that culminates in Pacino shouting, “Attica! Attica!”