Director: Michael Mann
Cops and thieves have been enemies for ages, in reality like in movies. But are they so different? This interesting film shows that in some ways, these two clans are closer than one would think. They play on the same grounds, and they need each other in a way. What use would be a cop if there wasn’t crime? And if there weren’t cops, everyone would break the law, and thieves wouldn’t need to exist, right? “Heat” was written and directed by Michael Mann, a generally overrated filmmaker. His writing is smart and mature, and his direction is efficient, but that doesn’t make “Heat” a great film. What makes it special, though, is its all-star cast.
De Niro plays Neil McCauley, a top thief whose bravado only matches his intelligence. Basically, this is a variation of the many other gangsters De Niro played. The difference is that instead of being a wiseguy, McCauley is just a criminal who does scores. There’s no system of honor like in the Mob. These guys are just doing jobs. De Niro’s team is composed of Tom Sizemore, Danny Trejo and Val Kilmer. Kilmer might be better at impersonating Jim Morrison than anyone else, but besides that, he’s not such a good actor. He seems to always suck the life out of his characters. In “Heat”, he’s the only supporting player who does more than wave a machine gun, but his scenes with his wife aren’t much exciting because of his lack of presence. Too bad, because his wife is played by Ashley Judd, who’s really good here. Hank Hazaria can also be seen as the jerk who bones Judd behind Kilmer’s back, and De Niro’s crew is kind of sponsored by Jon Voight, who plays a guy who knows how to get information.
The film’s other star is Al Pacino. Most of the film’s hype was about the pairing of De Niro and him, arguably the two best actors in Hollywood. They both took part in “The Godfather part 2” back in the 70s, but never together. So it’s a blast to finally see them together, even though they meet only twice. Pacino plays Vincent Hanna, a cop who’s determined to stop De Niro, so much than he hasn’t time for his family. Even though Hanna’s a good guy, Pacino still plays him as a badass who has trouble holding his temper. The coffee shop meeting between the two Italian-American thespians is great, but Pacino’s most memorable scene has got to be his interrogation of Hank Azaria. “Because she’s got a… GREAT ASS!”
“Heat” is a superior film, but it lacks something. Michael Mann works well with actors, but the film in general could have been tighter. It clocks at almost 3 hours, even though it’s not an epic. As for the few action scenes, they are strangely unexciting. There’s an armored car robbery, a hold up and a cat and mouse game between Pacino and De Niro around an airport, but none of these scenes are as good as they would have been if they had been crafted by a better action director. And by the way, will people stop praising the shoot-out that follows the hold-up? The least memorable action scene in any of John Woo’s classics would put it to shame!
And while we’re at it, “Heat” borrows heavily from Woo’s “The Killer”, which is also about a cop and a criminal who bond together. De Niro’s character also reminded me of the one Pacino played in “Carlito’s Way”; both are aging criminals in love who want to leave and start over. Well, now I’m just focusing on the film’s flaws, but that doesn’t mean that it doesn’t deliver anything good. The story is quite involving, and some scenes are very interesting. The best thing in the movie is probably all the stuff about Pacino following De Niro constantly, which leads to a scene in an isolated warehouse area that deserves to become a classic. So, “Heat” is a film to see, even though it ain’t the masterpiece it could have been.