REVIEW – ‘Heat’

Written by J.T. Johnson


ORIGINAL RELEASE DATE: December 15, 1995
DIRECTOR: Michael Mann
WRITER: Michael Mann
MUSIC: Elliot Goldenthal

An armored truck is carrying $1.6 million in bearer bonds. The truck is attacked by masked men in an elaborate robbery to steal the bonds. Everything is going smoothly until Waingro (Kevin Gage), the newest member of the team, loses his cool and kills one of the guards. This begins a chain of events which will see two men take part in a dangerous game of cat-and-mouse in Michael Mann’s crime thriller masterpiece.

The two men at the center of it all is homicide detective Vincent Hanna (Al Pacino) and master criminal Neil McCauley (Robert De Niro). Neil is meticulous with his work and unafraid of the heat. This is mostly because he lives a minimalist lifestyle in order to get up and walk away in a split second if the need arises.

Vincent is a senior detective who knows how to get the results he needs. His personal life is another story. Vincent is working on his third marriage with a wife (Diane Venora) who is constantly perturbed by the sacrifices that Vincent’s job demands. She is also the mother of a disturbed child (Natalie Portman). Despite his personal problems, Vincent also happens to be the only man that might be capable of taking down Neil and his gang.

Usually, crime thrillers are only interested in the chase and the climax where the good guy and the bad guy finally resolve their issues. “Heat” provides that but it also takes a deeper look at its two male leads. While Neil is a criminal who will put down anyone who gets in his way, he is also a man who is capable of falling in love with woman named Eady (Amy Brenneman) and desires the time when he can stop taking scores.

Vincent is every bit the heroic cop that the story calls for. However, his poor personal life shows that the character is not perfect. The most important thing to him is his job and taking down the criminals on the street.

The film is noted for being the first time that Pacino and De Niro shared the screen together. In reality, there are only two times when the characters actually meet but these scenes are the most memorable. The big scene comes when the two decide to grab a cup of coffee with one another. And why not, Vincent is hot on Neil’s trail but Neil is fully aware of this and taking the necessary precautions. Therefore, why shouldn’t they grab a cup of joe and try to talk things out?

This one scene defines the two characters and their motives for the rest of the film. It also shows that they are not that far apart from one another. They are simply two sides of a coin. If they had met in another life, they may have even been fast friends.

It goes without saying that a film with Pacino or De Niro individually is usually a good sign for a movie. Here, the audience gets to see two masters at work and they deliver with every scene they appear in, either together or separately.

Of course, it shouldn’t go without saying that this film firmly established Mann as a force to be reckoned with in Hollywood. Mann was already well known as the producer of the hit TV show “Miami Vice” and he had already directed “Last of the Mohicans”. But it was this film that has proven over time to be his masterpiece.

There are several intense moments that lead to the climactic battle between the cops and the crooks outside of a bank. It is by far one of the most memorable shootouts ever committed to film during the 1990s. It also shows that when Mann has to pull out all of the stops, he is not afraid to hesitate.

“Heat” follows all of the major conventions of a crime film. With Mann’s skillful direction and above average writing, the film also proves that it has a compelling story that pays attention to its characters as much as the action.


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