Heat - 1995
Written and Directed by Michael Mann
Neil McCauley (Robert DeNiro) and his crew of professional thieves move through Los Angeles always on the lookout for big money scores. After a botched armored car job, top robbery/homicide detective Vincent Hanna (Al Pacino) gets on their trail. Both teams of cops and robbers stage an elaborate cat and mouse game throughout L.A., all while attempting to keep their personal lives from interfering with their work. Vincent is on his third marriage, which is quickly falling apart, and Neil finds himself falling in love with Eady, an innocent graphic designer.
No simple plot summary can give justice to the epic scale of this movie. This film has like 10 or 12 people that can be classified as major characters. All of them are fleshed out, complete with a backstory and a personal life. This results in a sumptuous feast for the intelligent moviegoer, unfortunately it also results in a somewhat bloated 180-minute running time.
Robert DeNiro and Al Pacino are both excellent in their respective roles. The scene where they finally meet face to face in the coffee shop must rank as one of the best of the 1990s. DeNiro is essentially playing the same hardened criminal character he has been playing for the last ten years, not that that’s a bad thing. He’s tough, no-nonsense, and trying to find his last big score before he can retire to New Zealand. Pacino oscillates wildly between cool and collected and chewing-the-scenery insane. Most of the time it’s OK, but sometimes it feels like he’s channeling some weird amalgamation of Nicholas Cage and Gary Oldman and the craziness end up pulling you out of the story. The “Cause she’s got a great ass!!” scene is one excellent example, you’ll know it right when you hear it.
Like most of Michael Mann’s movies, this film deals with driven men and they jobs they feel they must do, often neglecting what other people would consider to be their “personal” lives. For these men their job is their life, everything else is just something that happens in between. This is conflict is longstanding in American action pictures, between the man with "man's work" and the female principal, the woman who wants to tame him, wants him to stay at home. Heat, with its wonderful screenplay, handles it with insight. The men in his movie are addicted to their lives. There is a scene where the thieves essentially have all the money they need. They can retire. But another job presents itself, and they cannot resist it, as Tom Sizemore’s character puts it: "It's the juice. It's the action." That is what they really want.
The heist sequences are very realistic looking and excellently choreographed. They are so entertaining that I wish there were a few more of them in the film. They help to break up the many scenes of exposition so well that sometimes you wish Mann would hurry up with all this dialogue and get to another action scene.
Vincent Hanna: You know, we are sitting here like a couple of regular fellows and if I have to go out there and put you down, I'll tell you, I won't like it. But if it's between you and some poor bastard whose wife you're gonna turn into a widow, buddy, you are going down.
Neil McCauley: There is a flip side to this coin. What if you do get me boxed in and I will have to put you down? Cause no matter what, you will not get in my way. We've been face to face, yeah. But I will not hesitate, not for a second.
Of course this all leads up to a final showdown between DeNiro and Pacino. Both are such well-known actors and their characters are portrayed with such depth that you can’t tell who’s going to end up winning or losing in the end. After it’s all over, you may feel like it was a little anticlimactic, but maybe I just felt like that because my guy didn’t win.
I have barely scratched the surface of this film in my review, you owe it to yourself to see it when you have some time on your hands. Don’t watch the TV version though, 40 minutes of footage has been cut in order for it to fit a three-hour network timeslot. Michael Mann offered to add 17 minutes of cut footage in order to make it fit a four-hour slot, but he was turned down. As a result of this, the network TV versions are credited to Alan Smithee. The DVD is very bare bones, no extras at all and the print isn’t even very clean. This is almost unconscionable with the knowledge that there is at least 17 minutes of useable extra footage out there. If a film ever needed a special edition…
What can I say? Go see Heat!
I usually don’t do cast listings, but this film almost begs for it.
Al Pacino…………..Vincent Hanna
Robert DeNiro……….Neil McCauley
Val Kilmer………….Chris Shiherlis
Tom Sizemore………..Michael Cheritto
Diane Venora………..Justine Hanna
Ashley Judd…………Charlene Shiherlis
Mykelti Williamson…..Sergeant Drucker
Wes Studi…………..Detective Casals
Natalie Portman……..Lauren Hanna
Hank Azaria…………Alan Marciano
Henry Rollins……….Hugh Benny
Tone Loc……………Richard Torena
Jeremy Piven………..Dr. Bob
Trivia and cast listing from IMDB