Arguably one of the greatest films ever made about New York City, the film “Serpico” and the eponymous biography by author Peter Mass, which sold over three million copies, is also a story of North Brooklyn. If you have never seen Al Pacino’s depiction of the honest New York City cop, then you are missing one of the most tremendous film performances of the last 50 years. Pacino won a Golden Globe for his portrayal in 1974 and was also nominated for an Oscar for best actor in the same year.
The film, set in the late 60s and early 70s in Brooklyn and the Bronx, shines a light on a dark era of New York City history, accurately portraying parts of Williamsburg as a drug infested, dangerous den of crime. Locals will recognize many of the buildings and streets in the film.
In the late 1960s, New York City police officers were massively underpaid, which led to corruption on a massive scale. According to the book, large numbers of cops were taking bribes and turning a blind eye to a number of crimes from prostitution to gambling. Frank Serpico, however, was that rare person at that time, an honest cop who could not be bought. Serpico, born in South Brooklyn in 1936, served in Korea, before joining the force in 1959. When Serpico was a child his parents were store owners who were shaken down for payoffs by local police and the payoffs were a real financial burden to the struggling family. Serpico, recalling the hardship the payoffs placed on the family, vowed never to accept bribes. Continue reading