Movie Review: Heat

“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.”

I know, I know, right? Watcha doing, Mr. G? This movie is so old!

And yet, I just saw it for the first time, so bear with me as we enter into a classics review with Heat, starring Al Pacino and Robert De Niro. Seeing this movie, I could understand immediately why there had been so much hype (undeserved hype, mind you) for Righteous Kill. Heat is everything that RK isn’t, a seamless jaunt through the seedy world of cops and robbers, and the unsettling investigation of how little might actually separate the two.

Heat follows the crime life of Neil McCauley (De Niro)and his gang of expert thieves (including Val Kilmer and Danny Trejo) as they run wild in Los Angeles. They are joined by Pacino as their relentless hunter, Lt. Vincent Hanna, and William Fichtner as Roger Van Zant—a vengeful businessman out for blood after getting repeatedly screwed over by McCauley’s thieves.

I hold this movie up as the prime example of a crime drama. You see it from both sides: cop and criminal. The plot is the traditional romp that always dominates the genre, but plot is layered with numerous sub plots, weaving an intricate story of colliding lives. It is a morally grey world where everyone’s got their nose in the dirty, and everyone’s living their lives as they need to survive. Pacino and De Niro shine opposite one another, and every actor, big or small, is at one with their role.

Great pain is put into humanizing the characters, and no one comes across as stale. We see every aspect of their lives, both good and bad. Business or personal—the two worlds circle around and around one another in an increasingly downward spiral of destruction, and no one emerges untouched. What’s more is that you feel for them.

When Hanna’s finds his step-daughter (A young Natalie Portman!) floating in his bathtub, arms slit…the emotion is raw.

Script—dark, brooding, cold, lonely—spot on. It is dramatic, thrilling, and powerful in every stride. Watching everything collide is a masterpiece in and of itself, magic in its execution. The action, when it comes time for it, is powerfully executed cinematic purity. Case and point: The Bank Robbery. This scene is the iconic moment of the film and a model for countless would-be imitators. It is a scene without equal on the action market.

This scene is atmospheric, crafted in angle, sound, and raw delivery. Even off the big scene, you feel the cinematic power. It presents Los Angeles as a city gripped by terror, when a bank robbery spills into the streets and criminals and cops exchange continuous volleys of gunfire, first by car, and then on foot. It is an ambush gone wrong, and Michael Mann captures the feeling of chaos and wraps you up in it. Bullets rip through metal and skin. The robbers clearly have the police outgunned and outarmored, but the police have numbers, and death does not discriminate between the two sides. The body count is horrendous. Innocents scream as they are caught in the middle. It also finishes with one of the most dead-on shots ever made, as Pacino aims, fires, and kills, a young girl hanging in the balance.

Whether alone or with a group, this one is a thing to see. If you’re looking for a movie that will enthrall you for hours of a night, this one won’t lead you astray.

Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars!

~ by Chris G. on February 23, 2010.

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