Due to some unforeseen technical difficulties, Film Club was delayed from its original publication date of 8 February, so I must apologise for that. Now everything is back on track, it is time to move ahead and look at this months entry, Heat. Ryan from Ten Stars or Less had the dubious honour of picking March’s Film Club entry. Below are his reasons for doing so, followed by each members take on the LA crime drama. Enjoy.
“When I joined Film Club in December 2013, I thought it was an awesome idea that someone would pick a movie and then everyone would review it. Over the first couple of days of being in the club I began to put together a list of movies I’d want to suggest for the club at some point. It was during this time that I had watched the movie Heat for the first time in a long time. While watching this movie I decided it would be my first selection if I ever got to choose the movie of the month.”
Heat is a rare action/drama drama movie from 1995 that featured Robert De Niro and Al Pacino on screen together for the first time in their extraordinary careers. Directed by Michael Mann, Heat follows the story of Neil McCauley (De Niro), a criminal that takes down major scores in the city of Los Angeles. Hot on his trail is super cop Vincent Hanna (Pacino) who lives, eats, and breathes crime fighting so much that he doesn’t have much of a personal life. Neil becomes Vincent’s obsession until their two crews engage in a fire fight on the city streets which results in numerous lives lost. When all hope appears to be lost as Neil gets away, Vincent will try to hunt down any loose ends to his investigation that may lead him to Neil before he departs the country for New Zealand.
As of January 2015 Heat currently holds a 8.3/10 rating on IMDb and is ranked among their Top 250 movies of all-time. Jam packed with awesome gun battles and tense sequences, Heat’s biggest selling feature is it’s lead actors De Niro and Pacino. The two steal the show with an epic game of cat and mouse that involves a face to face coffee meeting. These two calm and collected characters exchange their personal goals and objectives all the while stating nothing is going to stand in their way of taking the other down.
My favourite part of the movie is the bank robbery and ensuing gun fight on the streets. Everyone in the scene including Chris Shiherlis (Val Kilmer), Michael Cheritto (Tom Sizemore), and Detective Bosko (Ted Levine) is armed with automatic weapons that pump out rounds like they were in the middle of a war zone. The whole 20+ minute sequence is loud and bloody which it makes worth sitting through the first hour and half build-up. The whole concept of good guys catching the bad guys is taken a new level here with this epic fight that has to be one of the best bank robberies/getaways in film history.
If someone asked me to pick a favourite character out of this stellar cast, I would go with Pacino’s Vincent character. He is always furious, dramatic, desperate, and smart. His attitude and loud outbursts can get people’s blood boiling while he tries to pry away valuable information. Vincent is the complete opposite of De Niro’s Neil character that plays things very close to the chest. He’s more clever, sly, and serious minded which makes him a great bad guy. Pacino usually plays a great cop/detective and I would think Heat is his best performance in that role. I understand some people out there love him in Serpico but this time he is matched up against one of Hollywood’s finest actors that allows him to bring out the best in his detective character.
Heat may run a little long at 2:50 for some of you, but when you take the time to sit down and appreciate everything that went into this movie, you can respect it for what it is. I would consider it one of the best cop dramas of all-time, while serving as a reminder that one “shouldn’t get too attached to anything in life that you wouldn’t be willing to walk out on in 30 seconds flat in you feel the heat around the corner.”
What About the Twinkie?:
We are often given conflicting views on what makes a great a film. Sometimes people say the production was torture and that no one really knew how the film would play out. On the other hand it is commonly said that if you get a good script, great actors and a director who’s passionate about what he’s making then half the work is already done. Whether Heat was an easy film to make, I personally have no idea, but when you have Al Pacino, Robert De Niro and Michael Mann involved in a project, then surely you have a classic in the making. Heat, with its A-list cast, visionary director and a city that feels so alive throughout the film combine to give us one of the greatest crime dramas of all time.
Not a moment is wasted during Heat’s 170 minute run-time. Every scene essential, every word a progression of the story and every look meaningful. The methodical attention to detail from director Michael Mann is akin to Robert De Niro’s character, Neal McCauley. With the way the film takes shape, to how each scene evolves into the next and with such apparent ease you would think Mann had been here before. And indeed he had, in 1989 to be exact, when he filmed LA Takedown for NBC in America.
LA Takedown was Mann’s trial run if you will. The made for TV film was rejected by the network for various reasons, but in essence it gave Mann the chance to make a better, tighter film with Heat. He knew where things had gone wrong and how to iron out the kinks. Thusly, Heat is actually a remake, and one of the rare occasions where a remake improves greatly on the original. Of course having actors such as Pacino and De Niro at the top of their game, have they been better since, improved things greatly, and you get the feeling that everyone raised their game here. Tom Sizemore, Val Kilmer, Jon Voight, Amy Brenneman and even Danny Trejo, to name just a few, are all performing wonders here.
A classic in every sense, Heat is a showcase with everyone performing at the height of their abilities. Recommended.
Who wouldn’t get a kick out of a Pacino and De Niro film, the dukes of cinema? I must say that I usually don’t have a taste for crime films, but Heat is a must see for any film lover out there. Two powerful men, the detective, Vince Hanna (Pacino) and the criminal, Neil McCauley (De Niro) holding two different ends of a rope and an ongoing battle begins between good and bad.
Director Michael Mann knew exactly who to cast, and that’s what makes Heat the hit that it is. The film revolves around Pacino and De Niro’s ultimate rivalry, nonetheless there are excellent appearances from others such as Val Kilmer as Chris, an ex con with a constant conflict between his crime life and unsatisfied wife, Charlene, played by the stunning Ashley Judd. Jon Voight, Tom Sizemore, Amy Brenneman, Danny Trejo, and a very young Natalie Portman also nourish the film’s magnificence with worthy performances. Every were at their best in this film and there was room enough for everyone to shine, whether leading or supporting roles. Mann successfully inserted little stories to the leading plot and every scene finally intertwined into an unforgotten ending. Very clever.
Favorite scene: the famous café scene. The two men confront each other, face to face, after a long and exhausting chase. It’s such a great and unforgotten scene. No harsh threats are being made at any point, but civil words in relaxed and confident tones. Boundaries are crossed when they share personal details about their lives, and you can experience the honor and admiration they have towards each other, you might think they are friends rather than enemies. Hanna summes it best, and I quote: You know we’re sitting here, you and I, like a coupla regular fellas. You do what you do. I do what I gotta do. And now that we’ve been face to face. If I am there and I got to put you away. I won’t like it. But I’ll tell ya, if it’s between you and some poor bastard whose wife you’re going to turn into a widow, brother, you are goin’ down. The film splits into two parts for me, before this scene and after it. There is an obvious shift of attitude when Pacino and De Niro’s characters introduce, and the chaser/ chasee relationship gets a whole new meaning.
Considering it’s still an action film I have to admit I didn’t care much for the gun shooting and chasing scenes, but with me it’s no big surprise as I never have patience for those. Another thing, and I hope I’m not collecting any haters right now, was Pacino’s slight overacting. I have much appreciation for this man and his chronicled success, but I think he overdoes it sometimes. Pacino has a tendency of yelling his lines or having these momentary outbursts which aren’t always necessary. I’m still a fan, though, still a fan. I watched Frankie and Johnny the other night and noticed the same thing, and I guess that’s when I realized it’s a Pacino thing. Maybe it’s the woman in me writing, but I mostly enjoyed De Niro’s crime/love transitions. I’m really trying not to spoil too much, but those are what mostly caught my attention. His character was actually my favorite. De Niro’s serious demeanor keeps shifting, and it’s only by the presence of a woman that it softens. There is the surprise effect here, and it’s somewhat unexpected, and I repeat, not your common crime film.
So turns out this is a movie I have never seen. Ever. Which is why I love Film Club, it pushes me to look into new movies, or get to ones I have been putting off for ages. Heat is a film I know a lot of people speak highly about, and the last time De Niro and Pacino were together was a thing of greatness (not even kidding), so I thought this could be another goodie. Alas, it was not so much the case. Pacino was all over the board – sometimes he was awesome, and sometimes he was so embarrassing I was cringing. De Niro delivered a solid performance, and I enjoyed the dynamic between his crime team. However, I thought this movie was excessively long and did not focus on the things that could have made it great. For instance, the relationship between Vincent and Neil didn’t feel fleshed out enough. I understood that they were similar men in polar opposite fields and all that, and I had a good time when they finally met, but I really think more work and time could have been invested there.
Again, back to the length. It was long. By the end of it, I felt that it was wasted time, not time well spent. I know I am probably going to pick up some flak for this, but I was not so in love with this movie, and feel it has been overhyped. There are moments of greatness woven throughout this, don’t get me wrong, and there were things that I enjoyed very much. I loved the drama, but there was too much lull, I loved the action, I enjoyed the majority of the dialogue… makes it sound like I should have loved it, right? On the other hand, there were a lot of discrepancies that just worked on my nerves. As for the conclusion? It felt like such a cop out! Again, if some more work had gone into bringing Neil and Vincent together, I think it would have resonated more. Heat is definitely a movie worth looking into, especially if you are a De Niro/Pacino fan, and they do still work well together. It was shot well, contained relatively decent performances, had a plot that carried potential, but it ultimately felt like a missed opportunity for me.
Heat is sold to us as one of the greatest classic cop movies of all time. Robert De Niro’s (at the peak of his career) icy-cold career criminal, brilliant, honourable and compassionate takes on Al Pacino’s (the one actor we have been waiting to share a screen with DeNiro for years now), volatile yet cunning homicide detective. The two characters find their way of life crumbling around them, setting them on a chase to the death, as they come up against one another. It sounds like the action movie we have been waiting for all this time. New viewers might be surprised to find themselves, wading through a three hour complicated plot, which puts more emphasis on tension and depth than explosive set-pieces. Yes, this movie does hold one of cinema’s greatest shoot-outs – and it really is mind-blowing, taking place in a crowded Los Angeles street and killing off several key characters – but otherwise, Michael Mann is more than happy to have the cops and criminals of the piece taking part in the mundane planning of heists or routine investigations, as the tension ticks away in the background, ever present thanks to an almighty score.
But this is by far a dull affair. What makes Heat great isn’t the by-the-numbers cops and robbers story, or even the terrific gun fights. It is the characters. Mann ensembles a terrific cast and gives each and every one of them three-dimensional characters to show off with, even if they have a few, fleeting moments of screen time. Natalie Portman makes a set-in-stone career in the acting world with a combined screen time of two minutes. Ashley Judd takes a ‘wife of a career criminal’ role and gives us the impression that we are only scratching the surface of her story. Even the characters we don’t get to know as much as we would like are instantly likeable. Perhaps the most shocking element of Heat is how difficult to get on with Pacino’s hero is, when he is away from the action. He is explosive, foul-mouthed and not empathetic in the slightest. It is Robert De Niro’s McCauley who becomes the most sympathetic of the movie, despite being the bad guy, the only character to hold down a functional relationship, the only one who seems genuinely cut up when a friend takes a bullet to the side and one whose honourable code is stuck to, right until the heart-breaking ending. This is how you make a classic.
Heat is a movie that gives the viewer both sides of the law in an extreme showdown between two experienced professionals. The casting of DeNiro and Pacino in the main roles was a genius move by Director Michael Mann. To emphasis the power these two men have for their respective sides, they only meet face to face in two pivotal scenes throughout the close to 3 hour movie. This is such a great portrayal of ‘cops and robbers’ because it gives us the ability to understand so much about both sides, both in their professional and personal lives. Besides the two main stars, this movie is jam-packed with lots of well-known actors and actresses not only portraying characters on both sides of the law, but also their loved ones.
This movie is known for having one of the most intense non-military street combat scenes in movie history. Besides the movie magic of unlimited bullets, it works so well. That scene has even been used by military units to show what to do correctly in certain situations. Although it’s not the kind of publicity this movie needs, but 3 years after the movie came out, a group of LA robbers used the tactics shown in the movie for a real heist after repeatedly watching this movie.
The main thing that hurts this movie is its near 3 hour running time. I have no problems with long movies, but only when you don’t begin to feel the length. Here I felt that there were too many scenes that dragged a bit and could have been cut.
Heat is a film that I have been meaning to watch for a while now so when I received our monthly email informing us of the choice I was excited to now have the excuse and motivation to watch the film. I had heard great things about the movie and the crime drama genre has provided me with some of my all-time favourite movies (L.A. Confidential, The Usual Suspects, The Departed etc) so could Heat join these other titles? Definitely not.
Unfortunately I really found Heat quite uninspiring, I felt it lacked drama on most occasions. The few action sequences that are included are decent however they are nothing spectacular, they simply make up for the slow pace that is adopted during the rest of the film. I did find this film boring and unengaging, this was due to a whole host of reasons however I just didn’t think that the story was an interesting one, it wall all a bit too straight forward. Simplicity can be a good thing in films but maybe not in ones that last 170 minutes. The length of this movie was a big problem for me, an hour had passed and I found myself wondering what had actually happened, the answer was not a lot and the events certainly could have played out in half the time! The slow pace, un-interesting story and the bog standard action meant that I thought this film was a real drag.
There are huge names in this movie, another reason why I thought I would enjoy it. Robert De Niro, Al Pacino, Val Kilmer, Jon Voight and even a young Natalie Portman feature here. Overall the cast do a fine job however it was the characters that I just didn’t engage with. I thought Al Pacino as the cop, Lt. Vincent Hanna was unconvincing. This is probably due to the films I have seen featuring Pacino, I am used to seeing him in most recent films which obviously aren’t his best works meaning that I didn’t warm to this character. He wasn’t enough of a hero so I never developed any care for him, I wasn’t willing him to catch his target the way I should have been. I actually preferred the bad guys in this film, which isn’t always a bad thing. De Niro and Kilmer head up the criminals in the movie, I like both of these guys as actors but they just weren’t mean enough here, well Kilmer possibly was, but De Niro seemed weak. Throughout the film he continues to show the viewer just how much of a nice guy he is, this to me just confused the situation and it meant that regardless of the outcome I didn’t care what happened. I think Heat would have been much more successful if it had focused on the cat and mouse between Pacino and De Niro, it tries to on occasions but both of the characters just confuse this meaning it isn’t achieved.
Although there are a couple of good scenes and at times I did engage with the film but nowhere near enough for me to maintain my interest for the ridiculous running time. I was really surprised that I didn’t enjoy this movie, I had always anticipated to because of its cast, genre and reputation yet I never built it up in terms of my expectations so I know that isn’t why I didn’t enjoy it. I would have loved to like this film but just for the reasons I have mentioned I didn’t seem to connect with this one.
Overall rating: 7.6/10
General consensus: Heat drew more heat than I, and several Film Club members anticipated. Thought of by many as a crime classic for its patient build-up and frenetic gun fights, is also disliked for the same reasons. To many, Heat is a classic showcase of a director and a cast performing at their best, while others struggled with a long running time and an ending that left something to be desired. Interesting.