The movie shows how everything goes wrong from the very start. From little money being in the bank since they robbed it after the daily cash pickup. Then in an attempt to destroy records and steal traveler's cheques, they start a fire which then gets the police called in. Now they have to take the employees hostage.
This is one of the standard gritty dramas that became the standard during the decade and is done well. This is Al Pacino during the peak of his acting before he became a caricature of himself. Sorry, but this true. The time between The Godfather and Scarface are his most memorial great roles, with the exception of Glengary Glen Ross. And the great John Cazale, the only actor to act in an Academy Award nominated Best Picture for all his films. Remember he was with Al Pacino in The Godfather and The Godfather Part II, and was in The Conversation and The Deer Hunter. Three of those films won Best Picture. And they had a flashback of him in The Godfather Part III, another nominated film, so even in death John Cazale can only appear in great films.
And this is one of those great films. The acting is great and combined with a strong screenplay, which was the only Oscar the film won, makes this an enjoyable film from start to finish. For me I really like the unpolished nature of the bank robbers. Too many times you see films where the bank robbers are all slick and smooth, professionals who know the exact second the police will show up and get out the door just before they arrive. Not this film, this movie takes the reality of what went wrong and puts it up on the screen.
The 1970's was one of the greatest decades for Hollywood, with only the 1930's being a bit better. But after enough time for the dust to settle of the end of the code, films used their new found freedom and made good movies like this one. Try and catch it sometime, you won't regret it.