Review by Gordon Justesen
Al Pacino, Robert De Niro, Val Kilmer, Tom Sizemore, Diane Venora, Amy Brenneman,
Ashley Judd, Mykelti Williamson, Wes Studi, Ted Levine, Jon Voight
Director: Michael Mann
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1, French Dolby Digital 5.1
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen 2.35:1
Studio: Warner Bros.
Features: See Review
Length: 172 Minutes
Release Date: February 22, 2005
sitting here, you and I, like a couple of regular fellas. You do what you do,
and I do what I gotta do. And now that we've
been face to face, if I'm
there and I gotta put you away, I won't
like it. But I'll
tell you, if it's
between you and some poor bastard whose wife you're
gonna turn into a widow...BROTHER,
YOU ARE GOIN'
a flipside to that coin. What if you do got me boxed in, and I gotta 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."
Heat: A Los Angeles Crime Saga. To me, no other film had been given a more
perfect description. Truth be told, Heat
is the ESSENTIAL crime saga.
So many great films
came from the 1990s. Even some of what I consider to be the all time greatest
movies. High on that list is Heat, my
pick as best film of 1995. Here was a film that managed to place two of our
greatest actors, Al Pacino and Robert De Niro, on the screen together for the
first time. Although their onscreen time is limited to only two scenes, no other
film could have been more perfect for the two legendary actors to collide in.
This is a bold epic
film in a genre where the word "epic" does not necessarily apply. An action
drama involving cops against crooks doesn't seem like the type of movie that
would expand for a near three hour length. Then again, rarely has a movie in
this genre taken human drama and mixed it in with authentic, razor sharp action
violence. This stroke of genius helps elevate the movie in to the realms of
Heat also serves as crowning moment in the career of writer/director Michael
Mann. His absorbing level of detail, in both directing and writing, resulted in
what is the filmmaker's reigning masterpiece. Mann took his time in bringing
this movie to the screen, with over 20 years of research from close associates
in the police organization, whose real life work is very much reflected in the
Mann's script is a
richly textured examination of hunters and prey in the form of cops and
criminals in contemporary Los Angeles. It defies convention by examining these
characters' lives, both on the job and off. Most unexpectedly, the story even
takes time to view how the women attached to the cops and crooks are affected by
The film opens with
professional thief Neil McCauley (De Niro) and his crew of associates preparing
for a heist involving an armored car. The job goes south when a new arrival
kills the security guards out of pure joy. As a result of this action, McCauley
and his crew, whose operations result in clean getaways, may have attracted
police attention as a result of this botched job.
This puts Robbery
Homicide detective Vincent Hanna (Pacino) on their tail. Hanna is a veteran of
the force, and has taken down many crews such as the one he is pursuing now.
Hanna and his unit go to every length and attachment possible to nail McCauley's
group. As it turns out, McCauley is planning one last daring heist before
fleeing the country into retirement.
For Hanna, whose
dedication to his job often consumes him, his home life is, as he phrases it, "a
disaster zone". Having already gone through two divorces, his latest marriage to
Justine (Diane Venora) is beginning to fall apart. Not only is the marriage
becoming sour, but his teenage stepdaughter (Natalie Portman) is displaying
severe signs of depression.
that his primary commitment is to his job. Before Justine considered marrying
him, he warned her that she was gonna have to share him with his work schedule.
As of late, she sees him as nothing but an obsessive predator that searches for
the scent of the prey, hunts them down, and commits to nothing more.
finds an unexpected romantic connection. He has long lived by a code of allowing
nothing to be involved in your life that you cannot walk out on if the heat is
around the corner. When he meets Eady (Amy Brenneman), his discipline is
challenged. She is a software designer. McCauley hides his profession and tells
her he's an art dealer. Both are lonely souls, and become attached to one
another in a heartbeat.
Another focus of
the story is McCauley's apprentice, Chris Shiherlis (Val Kilmer), whose high
stakes work and rocky gambling addiction take a toll on his wife, Charlene
(Ashley Judd). They have a baby son, but she isn't too happy. When McCauley
spots her at a motel with another man, he angrily instructs her to give Chris
one more chance.
With Hanna tailing
McCauley under 24 hour surveillance, there's still no hint as to where the crew
will be striking next. And it becomes a complicated endeavor. With nothing yet
to pin on McCauley, Hanna decides to simply confront the thief, by pulling him
over and offering a cup of coffee.
The two men engage
in a conversation. McCauley, as it turns out, has done major time in prison, and
has no intention of going back. As the conversation progresses, Hanna and
McCauley reveal that, although they are on opposite ends of a moral spectrum,
they seem to have more in common than with anybody else. Both men are dedicated
to their work, commit to the work and nothing else, and are both haunted by the
same kinds of dreams.
It's a masterful
scene that ranks among the greatest movie moments of all time, and one that
Pacino and De Niro performed without rehearsal. As a result, the movie is goes
far beyond whatever hype may have developed when word got around that these two
legends were going toe to toe for the first time. Some may have been expecting
more scenes between them, but Mann has delivered something more effective with
this single scene than the hype could ever help to assume.
And the brilliance
of the film doesn't end there. In addition to Hanna and McCauley's poetic
exchange, Heat delivers what in my
honest opinion is THE GREATEST ACTION SEQUENCE IN MOVIE HISTORY. As McCauley's
crew pull off a big bank heist, they are met in the streets by cops, and what
ensues is a loud, frightening and a most realistic shootout.
This sequence is
tremendously powerful for a number of reasons. First, a lot has happened in the
story leading up to it, thus you've spent a great deal of time with the
characters and care what happens to them. Second, Mann's authenticity, by way of
shooting this scene right smack dab in downtown L.A., with a handful of extras
as frightened bystanders, is nothing short of astonishing. Thirdly, the level of
high powered artillery used is simply mind blowing, and although the actors
obviously went through extreme weapon training, I've never seen such outstanding
physical maneuvering as a result. They look like they're all ready to go into
I can't believe I'm
saying this, but I don't think that the shootouts in The Matrix could begin to measure to this single sequence.
enough, Mann never lets his film run out of steam in its final half. Hanna and
his unit close in on all angles and corners relating to McCauley's crew. Some
escape, others don't. And the final sequence is a most heartbreaking moment, as
one character has to make a crucial choice, no matter how painful it feels,
involving love or freedom.
What we're left
with is what can only be labeled as a true cinematic masterpiece, and one that
only Michael Mann could deliver. With a great cast, brilliant writing and
directing, masterful characters, big time action and intense drama, Heat is the true epitome of what great films are all about.
stylish film, where the L.A. setting is a crucial character, Warner has done a
most splendid job with this transfer. I have viewed the original disc quite a
number of times, and I do think that this new release presents a more touched up
presentation. The image is terrifically crisp and tremendously sharp. Detail
level is near-magnificent. Only setback is a case or two of noticeable color
changes in some scenes, but that can't even begin to derail a movie with a 172
minute running time. A well done job, indeed!
The 5.1 mix is a
most explosive one that delivers awesome sound power in more ways than one.
Every possible sound element is given first-rate treatment. Dialogue, wonderful
music, and set pieces are all magnificently handled in a presentation that
provides high level sounding range. And when that shootout scene comes up, all I
can say is...DUCK! It's as explosive as they come. A marvelous piece of sound,
for a film that truly deserves the treatment.
Being that it's one
of my all time favorite movies, I couldn't wait to hear the day when a Special
Edition re-issue was in the works. It's been nearly six years since the original
disc was release, and with this new 2-Disc release, I'm happy to announce that
the wait was worth it.
Disc One includes a
commentary track with Michael Mann, as well as three theatrical trailers for the
Disc Two has a
grand total of 5 in-depth documentaries: "True
Crime", which recalls the real-life cops and criminals scenario
that was reflected in the film, "Crime
Stories", which discusses the screenplay's 20-year history and how the
movie was made. "Into the Fire:
Filming in L.A." covers the production of the movie, "Pacino and De Niro: The Conversation" takes a look at the
historic on-screen showdown, and "Return
to the Scene of the Crime" revisits the L.A. shooting locations ten years
after the movie was made. In addition, there's also 11 additional scenes.