It's a more fleshed out and richer version of his TV production L.A. Takedown concerning two groups of people and their leaders: one being super slick professional thieves, and the other being highly determined and driven police officers. It takes the standard good versus evil story, ramps it up to the max, and throws in tons and tons of character development, atmosphere, and some of the most well done, realistic, and accurate gun play in motion picture history. This is all very rich, complex, and very compelling. It's a film both for those who like to think, and those who love a solid crime drama.
It also has the great selling point of being the first film to feature De Niro Pacino sharing screentime together. Granted, this selling point is dated, but compared to Righteous Kill (which has them on screen together longer), this one really gets it right and doesn't overdo the joy of seeing them face off.
The cast are firing on all cylinders here, making their characters, good or bad, interesting, sympathetic, and worth watching. Honestly, I'm really torn between which group I'd rather root for more, which I think is a great sign of brilliant work. Nothing is totally black and white, and each side has their pros and cons. Mann has encyclopedic knowledge of crime, criminals, cops, and police procedure, and it shows. There's a high level of attention to detail, and it really makes one appreciate the time and care that went into all this.
But of course, at nearly three hours, and with a fairly leisurely pace, this could prove to be too slow and boring for some. Honestly, I'm really not bothered by it, Sure, my patience sometimes begins to waver during the third act, but I have seen this several times, so maybe it's just a personal issue, and a bit of burn out.
Mann's trademark mood and atmosphere building tools are pitch perfect here, with some of the best and most expressive lighting and camera placement ever seen in a crime drama, or other type of film for that matter. And of course, one of the other main selling points: the superb action scenes. Granted, the movie isn't wall to wall action, but that's not the point. In fact, a lot of the film is made up of lengthy, quiet scenes with tons of yakking, and even more scenes with no talking, just letting the mood wash over the viewer and draw them into this hypnotic world. However, when this film delivers the action goods, it really delivers them, with the gunfights being intense, wild, loud, and jarring...like they're supposed to be.
Just see this film already. There's only so many ways I can think of to call this brilliant before it becomes redundant.
"Heat" is hardly your average cops and robbers tale. It's long, it's sweeping and is steeped in character moments and conversations. While much of the hype about the film has always revolved around its finale - the bank robbery - it's the small moments that make the film. Take for instance a scene in the middle of the film where Pacino, too tired and beat down to do anything else, tracks down his suspect (De Niro) and invites him for a cup of coffee where the two talk shop and in spite of mutual respect for one another, both vow not to back down. This moment serves to build the tension that is the big pay-off in the film. You get to know and feel for these very real and very flawed characters, so that when the heat is on, so to speak, you don't know who to cheer for anymore.
Undeniably, Robert De Niro and Al Pacino are the stars of the film and are a large part of its greatness, but it is also Michael Mann's ("Collateral," "Manhunter") unique eye and story-telling sense that defines the film as well. Despite his insuppressible style, the film still retains a gritty, realistic air that is best evidenced in a shootout that takes place in the Los Angeles streets. Without a doubt, this is the director's masterpiece and definitely one of the best of its kind. It's a true epic that is filed to the brim with intense acting (nobody's forgotten about you either, Val) and complicated characters as intricate as the job they are trying to do. For all intents and purposes, "Heat" lives up to its name. 5 stars 5-24-13
Professional and precise thief Neil McCauley (Robert DeNiro) lives by a strict code and doesn't 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.
Michael Mann has really outdone himself here. In his magnum opus, 'Heat', he employed an almost deadpan and minimalist cinematography skilfully. Los-Angeles is given it's own character within the movie, with long, sweeping shots of the 'city of lights' interspersed lucidly between scenes of fast-paced action and moments of great depth and gravitas.
His faith is well placed in a cavalcade of incredibly talented acts including Al Pacino as a hard-hitting, obsessive cop and Robert De-Niro as the clinical, disciplined and hardline thief out to tackle the biggest scores. Val Kilmer, Ashley Judd and Tom Sizemore all play vital support roles.
Their ability to express emotion that are aside from what is happening on screen is a testament to Mann's storytelling through minimalist direction. Rather than resorting to flashy screen-grabs or depictions of flashbacks and mental processes, Mann rightfully invests full focus on the actors themselves and the characters they play. We can see what is going through their minds. We believe the struggles they go through in their lives. Their decisions and repercussion they face are real and entertaining.
Definitely a movie one would regret missing.
Much like 'Point Break' the film kicks off fast and doesn't let up till the credits role, its not continuous macho action like 'PB' as there is allot of build up and dialog involving the sting to get De Niro and his gang but when the action does hit its like a freight train in the face.
I haven't seen this since its cinematic release and thought it may have lost some edge...it hasn't, its razor sharp and hardly looks dated in anyway, it could of been made today, you could never tell apart from the actors age of course. So apart from Mr De Niro and Mr Pacino you have a big name cast of stoic solid character actors and Val Kilmer, to be honest everyone is perfect accept Sizemore and Kilmer for me, both of whom just don't fit this kind of epic slick heist film with Kilmer being too weak and not believeable whilst Sizemore fits B-movies or less intelligent action flicks..in my opinion.
The story arch is perfect and smoothly takes you from one plot point to another even having a small sub plot in a way with the character 'Waingro' who slips in and out of the main heist plot perfectly without causing any questions from the viewer. The film never lets you out as you struggle to decide who's side your on as the audience, do you root for De Niro as the criminal/anti hero type who finds love yet must give it up to survive or do you go for Pacino who is simply trying to keep his family life together and bust a dangerous gang of armed robbers? right to the end your never sure who to cheer for, its a personal choice almost like choosing your own ending.
The highlight of the film of course must be the fight fire just over midway on a busy main downtown street, from a quiet, calm yet tense sequence it suddenly erupts into a massive onslaught of loud gun fire from the automatic weapons as the criminals must duck, cover and evade police covering each other step by step. The sequence may be one of the best gun fights ever filmed with heart racing camera movement to cover all the actors and bullet holes that spray the police cars, its fast, loud and relentless plus it looks damn real too. Add to all this a tremendous moving score for the very end as the credits role after the two main men of the film finally lock horns and you have a near if not perfect film from Mann, probably his best.
Heat follows the story of two men: the cop, Vincent Hanna (Al Pacino in one of his best performances ever) and the thief, Neil McCauley (Robert De Niro in one of HIS best performances). Yes, even though it is historic for bringing these two titans together onscreen for the first time, and a lot of the film is focussed on the characters these two bring to vivid life, Michael Mann, cleverly, keeps these two apart for almost the entire film, bringing them together for the first time in one of cinema's most reknowned scenes; the coffee shop scene. More of that later.
We begin Heat with a cryptic first sequence which is only really understood after the second viewing, which shows De Niro simply walking through a hospital and driving out in an ambulance. Upon the second viewing, Mann's subtly brilliant directing becomes apparent, giving the viewer a real taste of McCauley and how he goes through life, analysing everything; every strange noise and random movement, anything even slightly out of the ordinary. Truly amazing stuff. The rest of the films direction is no less attentive or amazing as Mann creates a bleak yet fascinating, burnished daytime Chicago in which our character's live. It seems as though the scum of the city is just about to burst through but it's kept under a single layer of decency. Mann's precision filming is a fascinating thing to watch, as he captures every moment of the brilliant leads onscreen, drawing the best performance out of the both of them that he can. He lingers lovingly on his actor's faces, framed to perfection and set in a nighttime blue or a daytime darkness, as if you're wearing very light sunglasses while watching the film. Truly brilliant.
The script is beyond any reproach; a perfect level of realism for every character as well as some killer lines. Mann obviously prefers to let his actors extrapolate for themselves what their character might be doing at the time, as most of the time more is understood from a single glance than any line of dialogue the character may utter. That doesn't render it obsolete, however. The film would be average without it. Without the support of this incredible document, De Niro and Pacino would never have made their characters so believeable or layered.
Speaking of those two, they are absolutely amazing. They know their characters inside and out. Nothing about the people they portray is foreign to them, every tick, every movement, every glance, they are completely inhabiting the real-life counterparts at all times. The supporting cast pale comparrison, despite their own strong performances, in particular Amy Brenneman and Val Kilmer who both do extremely well, especially Kilmer who shows that he actually was good, extremely good, he just slipped a little. But these two performers, backed by this brilliant script and coached by this amazing director are the real strength of the film. Not that they carry it on their shoulders, but they take to a stratospheric level.
Great action set pieces abound, just by the way, in particular the shootup in the streets of LA and others such as the first major heist, but Mann's action scenes are of a different breed to todays explosion fests. His action sequences involve the building of tremedous tension, an ever tightening which you fear will never break which is much more riveting than a simple shoot 'em up. Where every move is crucial and real danger is actually felt, these scenes are intensely dramatic as well as being some amazing spectacles.
Heat is a modern American classic crime thriller, the obvious inspiration of films such as The Dark Knight and a must watch for any movie buff, or for someone who just wants to watch an awesome movie.
The coffee shop scene. Of course. The close runner-up is the platinum heist.
You wanna be making moves on the street, don't let yourself get attached to anything you are not willing to walk out on in thirty seconds flat if you feel the heat around the corner.