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The Weekend Australian - Review - - Television -

IF this col­umn had to name the most ad­mired and en­dur­ing of the great Amer­i­can male stars, our vote would prob­a­bly go to Al Pa­cino, still in busi­ness in his 70s. I don’t think he has made a re­ally good film since The In­sider in 1999 (with Rus­sell Crowe), and it’s 20 years since he won an Os­car for play­ing a blind army man in Scent of a Woman, the only time his act­ing has been recog­nised by the Academy of Mo­tion Picture Arts and Sci­ences. But that sat­ur­nine charisma survives, typ­i­cally in roles as a tough au­thor­ity fig­ure on one side of the law or the other.

The five Pa­cino films show­ing this week span 24 years and in­clude Sid­ney Lumet’s Ser­pico (Sun­day, 8.30pm, Fox Clas­sics), in which Pa­cino gives a riv­et­ing per­for­mance as a New York cop who blows the whis­tle on po­lice cor­rup­tion in the NYPD in the 1970s and is tar­geted by both po­lice and criminals for his pains. It’s a true story (more or less) and may be the de­fin­i­tive Hol­ly­wood por­trayal of the hon­est cop who re­fuses to go on the take.

Cor­rup­tion is never far away in a Pa­cino film, and in Two for the Money (Mon­day, 3.30pm, Show­time Drama) it has in­fected the US sport­ing scene, with Pa­cino as the ail­ing Wal­ter Abrams, who runs a thriv­ing busi­ness sell­ing dodgy ad­vice to sports gam­blers. In Nor­man Jewi­son’s And Jus­tice for All (Satur­day, 8.30pm, Show­time Drama) he’s a crim­i­nal at­tor­ney fight­ing to save his clients from the whims of a flawed jus­tice sys­tem. His one at­tempt at a ro­man­tic role re­sulted in the un­for­tu­nate Frankie and Johnny (Satur­day, 6.30pm, Show­time Drama), an awk­ward, Marty- style heart­warmer di­rected by Garry Mar­shall from Ter­rence Mcnally’s play. Pa­cino’s short­order cook falls for shy wait­ress Michelle Pfeif­fer and won’t take no for an an­swer.

He’s back on fa­mil­iar ground in The Re­cruit (Fri­day, 8.30pm, Movie Ex­tra) as a griz­zled CIA in­struc­tor in­duct­ing Colin Far­rell into the murky ways of the agency as they track down a mole within their ranks. ‘‘ Trust no one!’’ is Pa­cino’s ad­vice to Far­rell and, given the deadly morass of dou­ble­cross­ing and de­ceit that emerges in this su­pe­rior thriller, that makes a lot of sense.

It’s un­for­tu­nate Brian De Palma couldn’t find a role for him in The Un­touch­ables (Satur­day, 8.30pm, Show­time Ac­tion), an­other great Hol­ly­wood gang­ster saga, with plenty of slam­bang ac­tion and a witty script by David Mamet. Kevin Cost­ner played leg­endary G-man Eliot Ness and the Al Capone role went to Pa­cino’s old friend and God­fa­ther II co-star Robert De Niro. (The last time Pa­cino and De Niro ap­peared to­gether was in Jon Avnet’s Right­eous Kill, when they were re­united on the side of law and or­der.)

There was cer­tainly no ob­vi­ous Pa­cino part in Dar­ren Aronof­sky’s Black Swan (Sun­day, 8.30pm, Show­time Pre­miere), a won­der­fully fevered film about bal­let dancers, though at a pinch he might have played the im­pe­ri­ous bal­let mas­ter who has to de­cide whether to give the lead­ing role in Swan Lake to Natalie Port­man or Mila Ku­nis. Port­man gets the nod, but her dis­or­dered per­son­al­ity isn’t up to the chal­lenge and she lapses into a hal­lu­ci­na­tory world of para­noid delu­sion and self-mu­ti­la­tion. This is a hor­ror film dis­guised in the trap­pings of tra­di­tional high cul­ture and the re­sult is hyp­notic.

Many lovers of tra­di­tional high cul­ture are said to be an­noyed that Opera Australia is putting on Rodgers and Ham­mer­stein’s South Pa­cific this year in­stead of con­cen­trat­ing on more se­ri­ous op­er­atic busi­ness. As reg­u­lar readers know, this col­umn loves Amer­i­can mu­si­cals, and for those who can’t make it to the opera we rec­om­mend the gor­geous 1958 film South Pa­cific (Wed­nes­day, 10.45pm, Fox Clas­sics) with Mitzi Gaynor. Pa­cino was too young to play Emile de Becque, so the part went to Ros­sano Brazzi.

Sun­day, 8.30pm, Fox Clas­sics

Satur­day, 8.30pm, Show­time Ac­tion

Sun­day, 8.30pm, Show­time Pre­miere

Wed­nes­day, 10.45pm, Fox Clas­sics

Al Pa­cino and Colin Far­rell as CIA op­er­a­tives in The Re­cruit

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