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If cop flicks from the early ’70s are to be believed (and maybe they are), America’s largest cities were once overrun with street crime, drug traffic, and officers too corrupt to do anything about it. In many of these films, this breakdown in the system is solved by a rogue cop who acts, usually against orders, in what he believes is the city’s best interest. Serpico is a true story that unfolds along similar lines: When Frank Serpico joins the NYPD, he hopes to help clean up the city, but the department he’s working for has no real intention of doing so. But instead of taking the law into his own hands and bringing more violence to the streets, Serpico chooses a novel corruption-fighting route: He goes through the accepted channels of internal investigation. Eventually, these methods are exhausted, and Serpico goes public with his accusations—creating a kinder, gentler vigilante. The film screens at 7:30 p.m. at the American City Diner, 5532 Connecticut Ave. NW. Free. (202) 244-1949. (Jacob Long)