Heat (1995)

 “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.” “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.”

 “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.”

Pacino, De Niro, Kilmer, Voight… need I say more? No, ok we can just leave it at that. As a matter of fact, let’s talk about this crime epic. Don’t get me wrong Heat is an epic that while watching you realize immediately how influential this film is. Just like how the war epic Apocalypse Now influenced almost every war film that was made after it and how The Godfather influenced so many crime films and shows. I try not to use the word epic too much; I feel like that word is played out in terms of film and cinema. Only a few films in history truly deserve that term of “epic” and this film is the definition of the word. Heat is a film that cranks up the stakes (almost had a pun there, you know, Heat…. Steaks… just spelled differently) with every scene once it fades in. If crime drama films were the only films society were allowed to view, I would be completely ok with that. As I mentioned above, Heat influences the video game Grand Theft Auto 5 especially with the heists played out in the film. The GTA game series takes a lot of influences from films; one prime example is Goodfellas. The GTA 5 mission that is inspired by this film is the Blitz Play mission, it’s clear and evident the moment Heat starts.

Neil and his crew (Michael, Chris, Waingro) are minutes from pulling their first heist, a money truck. Each crew member has their own job. As they ram the truck over with an 18-wheeler, it’s time to move. The team has a 3-minute window from when the driver calls it in to the cops arriving on the scene. Waingro who is tasked with watching the cops from the money truck has a trigger finger and claims one moved before shooting him and the other 2 cops. Neil wished to cause no violence as spike strips were laid out for an easy getaway in an ambulance. One they make a clean escape; the ambulance gets torched of all evidence. Lieutenant Vincent Hanna immediately is on the scene and takes the case to stop Neil and his crew while dealing with a marriage and an unhappy, depressed stepdaughter Lauren. It’s Vincent’s obsession with catching Neil that causes the rift between him and Justine that he becomes cold and distant to her with every scene they share together. Neil is the loner of the crew and doesn’t open himself up much to anyone outside his circle (of trust, it’s De Niro, I just had to). He meets this woman Eady who starts this romance with while his code tells him otherwise.

Neil (Robert De Niro) and his crew’s next heist is a bank at night, with no one in it, should be an easy job, right? Wrong! While Chris (Val Kilmer) is drilling the safe, Neil hears a noise, gets spooked and stops the heist. Lt. Vincent Hanna (Al Pacino) and Sergeant Drucker (Mykelti Williamson) are on their tails. Neil sets up a fake meeting to discuss the next attempt and discovers this in a shipyard. The moment we were all waiting for finally arrives Neil and Vincent sit down and have coffee offering up some of the best lines of dialogue in this film. One being the quote above the article. The crew of Neil, Chris and Michael (Tom Sizemore) are ready to put their bank heist attempt number 2 in action. This time, in broad daylight. It comes as news to Neil that Waingro (Kevin Gage) snitched and switched sides to aid Roger Van Zant (William Fictner).

Neil, the highly skilled intelligent criminal mastermind that he is, finds Donald (Dennis Hayesbert) to step in and take one more score. Things go almost perfectly as the crew takes the score and almost make it until the entire LAPD is on call and a shootout occurs on a busy street. Neil ties up loose ends before he leaves LA for good with the help of Nate (Jon Voight), not before Eady (Amy Brennman) finds out Neil has been lying to her this entire time. In the end she decides to leave with him, but she ultimately doesn’t expect him to leave her as his thief’s code comes into play in a final confrontation between him and Vincent.

Ladies, gentlemen, everyone, if Heat could be described in one word, that word would be bulletproof. It’s perfect in every sense of the word. From start to finish Heat hits full throttle and doesn’t let up on the gas. Even with its lengthy (not quite as bad as The Irishman long) runtime, the film doesn’t slow down nor miss a beat. The pacing is incredible as the story constantly gets pushed forward. The best thing this film has to offer, besides the action, is the characters and their development throughout the film. This is the pinnacle of character driven development in film history. Each character is written in a way that the more we see and learn about them as individuals, the more complex they are than when we see on the surface. To paraphrase the animated film Shrek each character is like an onion, (I know, it’s cheesy that I referenced Shrek when talking about this masterpiece. Go ahead and roast me) the more we see, the more we get.

Neil for instance, is set in his ways. He’s intelligent, he run the show, does all the preparations and is the mastermind behind each heist. He has rules that he lives and swears by because if he doesn’t abide by his law, he’s just a hypocrite; his words would be meaningless. In the final confrontation, Neil has to make that tough choice, and it certainly is a tough choice with the heat coming down on him he leaves the girl he loves. De Niro played that scene perfectly as his inner voice got the best of him. Ultimately, he ran to protect Eady. Neil didn’t want to leave her, he needed to.  

Vincent is the definition of a cop; he represents good and justice. He is also a workaholic who takes his work home with him. That is what drives Justine to cheat on him and serve him with a divorce. Their relationship spirals out of control but the one thing that keeps them connected is Lauren (Natalie Portman) (blows my mind how young she is in this film). Lauren’s father has been absent the entirety of the film causing her mental state to deteriorate and make a destructively dark decision. That decision brings Vincent and Justine (Diane Venora) together. Even though their home is essentially nonexistent anymore Vincent still took care of a child that wasn’t his and got her the help that she needed.

It blows my mind that Pacino and De Niro have never been in a scene together until this film. Yes, the two Hollywood heavyweights were in Godfather II together but, their characters were alive in two different time periods. It’s fascinating to me since both actors at the time are in their early 50’s (This is how they should have looked in The Irishman). In the end, it doesn’t really matter that some guys get away, Vincent gets his man, his mission is complete and the respect that the two men show each other is just the icing on the cake. If each of these simple yet complex characters are poorly executed in writing and acting, this film doesn’t work, at all. Everybody nailed it and I mean everybody. If anybody has seen The Town by Ben Affleck (I wrote a review on it previously, go read it, after this obviously), you can see the inspiration this film gave Ben with certain aspects. There are really only a handful of films that can have me transfixed with my jaw on the floor for 3 hours; Heat is one of them. If I were to rate Heat I’d give it a 5 out of 5.

So, tell me guys, have you seen Heat and if so, what do you think about it? Do you agree or disagree with me? Comment below or send me an email and let me know what you think.

Heat is written and directed by Michael Mann is Rated R and has an 86% on Rotten Tomatoes. Heat was released on December 15th, 1995 and has a runtime of 2 hours and 52 minutes. Heat can be bought online by retailers including Vudu and Itunes.

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