In 1970, Sidney Lumet said, “If you’re a director, then you’ve got to direct…. I don’t believe that you should sit back and wait until circumstances are perfect before you and it’s all gorgeous and marvelous…. I never did a picture because I was hungry…. Every picture I did was an active, believable, passionate wish. Every picture I did I wanted to do…. I’m having a good time.”
With the walls ready to tumble on the brothers, Lumet has set the viewer up for a tumultuous grand guignol and a tragic dénouement. Dana Stevens, in her review for Slate applauded the “claustrophobic suspense and deep compassion for its characters—abject, grasping everymen who truly believe they're only one act of violence away from everything they've ever wanted.” The bank robbers played by Pacino and John Cazale in Dog Day Afternoon can be described the same way. We know and understand them. This deep compassion is a hallmark of Lumet at his best and why he is one of America’s great directors.The evil in this world arises not out of any grand metaphysical principle, but rather from petty, permanent features of the human character: greed, envy, stupidity, vanity. There are no demons on display, just small, sad, ordinary people. The filmmakers rigorously tally the results of their sins, minor lapses made monstrous by the failure of love and the corruption of ambition. Simple, familiar desires — for money, sex, status,
respect — end in murder.