Monday, January 5, 2015

Heat (1995)

Director: Michael Mann
Writer:    Michael Mann
Cast:       Al Pacino, Robert De Niro, Val Kilmer, Jon Voight


A group of professional bank robbers start to feel the heat from police when they unknowingly leave a clue at their latest heist. 

Both Al Pacino and Robert De Niro starred in Godfather 2 where the former played Michael Corleone whereas the latter played the role of his father, Don Vito Corleone, but in an entirely different timeline. This meant that these two actors who were arguably the greatest lead actors from Hollywood never shared screen-time till Michael Mann decided to make 'Heat'. They of course went on to act together in some crap film called 'Righteous Kill' in the noughties, but lets just forget that since they were not really at their best and didn't give a shit about films anymore. The fact that they will be on screen together was of course the selling point for the film which marketed itself as a Pacino-De Niro showdown. Still it happens in only two scenes since Al Pacino is playing a cop and Robert De Niro is the head of the robber crew which the former is trying to bust. The first of those scene is quite contrived but is necessary for the film nevertheless since it is trying to portray a situation where both these characters have huge respect for each other, like in real life I guess. 

The film is about 170 minutes long and it is well utilized to tell a story about complex set of characters with sufficient time given to show their family life. Vincent Hanna (Al Pacino) is hugely dedicated to his job and that might be the reason for him being in his third marriage. On the other side, all the people from the crew except for their leader Neil McCauley (Robert De Niro) have a family. Neil lives a very disciplined life based on the principle: "Don't let yourself get attached to anything you are not willing to walk out on in 30 seconds flat if you feel the heat around the corner." But over the course of the film he develops a relationship with a lonely girl and his inclination towards the well being of his colleagues, Val Kilmer especially, leads him to take some undue risks that could very well cause their downfall. The good thing about the film is that it is not just about their mistakes but also about good police work and lucky breaks for the law establishment. Since the film is from Michael Mann, one would expect great authenticity in the the set-piece scenes involving robbery and action sequences. I am told the bank robbery scene and police confrontation afterwards are the most realistic portrayal of them on screen. 

Michael Mann had the script of the film ready by 1979 and shelved the project after he made 'Thief'. Heat is based on the real life story of Chicago police officer Chuck Adamson and his pursuit in the 1960s of a career criminal named McCauley. In the film we are more sympathetic towards Neil and we want him to escape in spite of the body count that he caused. It might be partly due to the way the characters are played with Al Pacino doing another one of those hammy performance like in 'Scent of a Woman'. The line Because she's got a... GREAT ASS!'' was ad-libbed by Pacino and the look on Hank Azaria's face is genuine shock.

Overall it is a great watch and is my third favorite Michael Mann film after 'The Insider' and 'Thief'. When I saw it initially for the first time, I was quite underwhelmed but I didn't understand much of the intricacies involved in the scheming because of lack of subtitles. I loved it on my next viewing with the aid of subtitles. This was my third watch and I still found it to be great despite some problems involving the not so well fleshed out family back story given to the lesser characters- for eg the ones played by Danny Trejo and the other guy whom they used as the replacement driver. It would have been better if he didn't make those half arsed attempt at all. It was great to see Jeremy Piven in a cameo role of about 15 seconds which he manages to make memorable. LA looks great in that bluish tinge.

Rating: 4.5/5