Heat * * * * *

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Director: Michael Mann.
Screenplay: Michael Mann.
Starring: Robert DeNiro, Al Pacino, Tom Sizemore, Val Kilmer, Jon Voight, Kevin Gage, Diane Venora, Amy Brenneman, Ashley Judd, Mykelti Williamson, Wes Studi, Ted Levine, Danny Trejo, Dennis Haysbert, William Fichtner, Natalie Portman, Tom Noonan, Hank Azaria, Henry Rollins, Tone Loc, Jeremy Piven, Xander Berkeley, Martin Ferrero, Bud Cort.

When this was released in 1995, most people believed it to be an original idea. It wasn’t. It was actually a more fleshed out and elborate version of Michael Mann’s 80’s TV movie “L.A. Takedown“. He obviously didn’t have the budget or the actors, to realise his vision at this time, so with a second chance, Mann grabs it with both hands and both of the best actors in the business.

Professional and precise thief Neil McCauley (Robert DeNiro) lives by a strict code and doesn’t take chances. He has a tight-knit crew that takedown big jobs for big money but he ends up drawing the attention of determined and obsessive robbery/homicide cop Vincent Hanna (Al Pacino). The two of them have more in common than one might think and as their worlds draw closer, they are led to an inevitable confrontation.

At it’s core, “Heat” can be viewed as an old fashioned cops-and-robbers tale but it’s done with such vastness and great attention to detail that it rises above most, if not all, of the genre. It not only focuses on the the lives of the two main characters – at opposite ends of the moral scale – but it pays attention to the city and environment in which they operate. What almost overshadowed the storyline, was the anticipation of seeing DeNiro and Pacino share the screen for the first time (They were both in “The Godfather part II” but never had any scenes together). Comparisons between their acting styles will obviously be made and without focusing too much on their different approaches, I found DeNiro’s more subtle, calculating delivery far more convincing than Pacino’s tendency to overact with random, explosive outbursts, bellowing at everyone he meets. There, I said it. However, the film is far more than just these two great actors. It’s a multi-layered character study and the supporting roles, particularly Sizemore and Kilmer (in a role originally intended for Keanu Reeves) are given a substantial amount of work and the female parts of Venora, Brenneman and Judd play a massive part in shaping the leads also. We are given a glimpse into their home lives and the struggle they all face in maintaining a ‘normal’ life – when it goes against their nature. The actors are all given roles to work with, allowing us to identify and care about them. It’s because of this, that when the action is delivered, it’s edge of your seat stuff. There are three great ‘Getaway’ scenes from movies that I found particularly powerful; Kathryn Bigelow’s “Point Break” had Keanu Reeves and Patrick Swayze (on foot) running through suburban houses and backyards; The opening of Nicolas Winding Refn’s “Drive” had Ryan Gosling (in a car) careening and speeding through a darkened urban jungle and this… the major characters (with weapons) shooting it out through a busy congested Los Angeles street. As much as this isn’t just about the two leads, it’s not just about the action either. It’s more about the city itself and it’s inhabitants. The refined dialogue allows these inhabitants to come alive and Mann’s meticulous, hypnotic direction and ethereal choice of music breathes life into the city as well.

An exciting and methodical piece of work from a highly accomplished cast and director. A near masterpiece of modern cinema.

Mark Walker

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28 Responses to “Heat * * * * *”

  1. This movie is a stone cold classic. I still remember the first time I saw it actually. It was on TV the night of Princess Diana’s car crash.

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    • How the hell did you manage to avoid the royal murder on TV? We were bombarded with that stuff. I’m impressed lol. Yeah, I remember going to the cinema when it first came out. It actually felt like the spectacle it turned out to be. Absolutely superb.

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  2. Loooove “Heat”. In fact, it will be appearing in a near future “Phenomenal 5” I’m doing. Fantastic review.

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  3. Wow. Never knew that about LA Takedown. Nice 411.

    I’m with you about Pacino’s randomness here “She got a GREAT ASS!!” LOL but my biggest gripe is the whole Portman character/suicide attempt. Just too much… didnt really fit. Lets pare it down…

    That said, still an incredible flick. An incredible flick.

    No love for “The Town” in your getaways list? 😀

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    • Yeah, L.A. takedown Foggs. I hunted it down after seeing Heat and I have to say, you see exactly where Heat came from. The story is practically identical but done on a cheaper budget and lasts about a 90mins. When I seen it, I lost some respect for Heat, as it didn’t seem original anymore but after further thought, it’s not like Mann stole it or anything. It was always his story.

      I loved The Town as well but the three getaway’s I mention blew me away when I first seen them. They are the ones that will always stick in my memory. Affleck is a very competent director though. I like him.

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      • As for the Portman suicide… I forgot all about that. It just shows how important it is to the plot, if it can escape your mind. I agree, that could have been dropped. I would also have liked a little more characterisation from Pacino’s crew. They don’t get as much focus as DeNiro’s men.

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  4. Great review. I need to see this. I love this type of film and the cast is to die for!

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  5. Joe 'Blondie' Manco Says:

    I love the tense meeting of DeNiro and Pacino. Have to give credit to Mann for getting them both on board. One of my all time favourites.

    (Another great meeting of stars that comes to mind is Hopper and Walken in True Romance.)

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    • Very true man. The sit-down between Hopper and Walken in True Romance is probably more powerful. It’s a classic. It was great to DeNiro and Pacino but I would have loved some Tarantino dialogue in there.

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  6. Heat is the pinnacle of modern american cinema for me. It is without question a masterpiece. You are right about Pacino, but its what he does best and i love them both equally. they are chalk and cheese. dont watch ‘righteous kill’. Great review.

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    • It is certainly a modern classic. I don’t dislike Pacino. I actually think he’s great but if I had to pick. I mean, really had to pick between them. I’d pick DeNiro. Unfortunately, your advice on Righteous Kill is too late. I have already endured that stinker. That probably stands as one of the most disappointing film’s I have ever seen.

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  7. Way too long for my liking, but still has great performances from De Niro and Pacino, and features some really cool and thrilling action scenes. I think Collateral is better, believe it or not. Nice review Mark.

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  8. Paragraph Film Reviews Says:

    Every time I set up a new surround sound system I pull this bad boy from the shelf and skip to the big downtown shootout… then watch the whole film again. Total classic, although this this much talent involved it would have taken a spectacular effort to fuck up!

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  9. sanclementejedi Says:

    Ashamed to admit, I saw this for the first time last year. You pretty much said it all with “A near masterpiece of modern cinema”

    I really liked the opening sequence in this film.

    I got to try and find this on Blu ray on the cheap.

    Nice review, Mark

    Like

    • Cheers Adam. I actually went off it for a bit after seeing the original TV movie but on repeat viewings this really does stand the test of time.
      I have a similar feeling towards The Departed. Not an original movie but a damn fine one all the same.

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  10. Awesome review, Mark!! This is easily one of my top 5 favorite Michael Mann films, a masterpiece is not an exaggeration I think. Your review makes me want to see it again soon!

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  11. Love this film. Along with Goodfellas, I am always in the mood for it.

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