Robert De Niro in silhouette as the career criminal character Neil McCauley in Michael Mann's "Heat".  Mr. De Niro's character is based on the real
                                      life Mr. McCauley, a criminal from Chicago who met his end in the 1960's at the hands of a police detective. 

          Admiration For A Film That's Worth Its Weight In Cool
       By Omar P.L. Moore/
              Tuesday, March 3, 2009                                 

            Call it cool mood blue.  Call it what you will, but "Heat" is a film that still shows its style and construction in a strong way.  Michael
             Mann's classic cops-crime L.A. saga did less than stellar box office in North America upon its theatrical release in December 1995
             but since then it has become one of the best American films in the crime genre.  Michael Mann created an atmosphere with film
             characters so tightly wound and methodical that they were blinded by a driven rigidity that was perfection in a destructive sense.

             There was Neil McCauley, based on the real-life Chicago convict who was killed in the 1960's by a police detective.  Robert De Niro
             played the heavy McCauley and did so well, as usual, trademarking the character with the typical traits of intensity and absorption
             that Mr. De Niro does.  Mr. De Niro's longtime friend Al Pacino was his opposite number as Lieutenant Vincent Hanna of the LAPD,       
             chasing McCauley the way a cat does a mouse. 

             The epic film was written by Mr. Mann, whose backstory for each character was richly detailed and gave a platform to women that
             was honest and diverse.  They played the most important role in the film, defining the men of "Heat" and saving them (or not) from
             themselves.  Amy Brenneman played Eady, Ashley Judd played Charlene, Kim Staunton played Lily, Diane Venora played Justine.
             And there was Natalie Portman too, as Lauren, caught up between adults in a turbulent marriage.

             Lest there be any doubt, "Heat" is undoubtedly a man's movie.  Violence rules the day, with a spectacular eight-minute shoot
             out sequence in downtown Los Angeles.  Guns blazing, bullet holes shattering, bodies being ripped by anger, adrenalin and a whole
             lot of malevolence.  Val Kilmer, Mykelti Williamson, Dennis Haysbert, Tom Sizemore, Jon Voight, Wes Studi, Kevin Gage, William
             Fictner, Ted Levine, Danny Trejo, Henry Rollins, Tom Noonan, Xander Berkeley and Jeremy Piven are all the testosterone on offer.

             Dante Spinotti's cinematography captures the mood of the principal characters -- Mr. Pacino's brown suits and black shirts are often
             framed in earth-toned, near sepia-shots -- at least in the nightclub in which Mr. Pacino and Ms. Venora's characters have a post-
             police call discussion.  Mr. De Niro's character was framed in steel gray and deep blue hues.  And on a personal level the character
             of Neil McCauley is framed by isolation, even as he insists that that "I am alone, I am not lonely."

             But the showpiece of this two hour-and-52-minute film is the conversation between the two heavyweight New York acting legends
             Al Pacino and Robert De Niro as their characters talk shop for four minutes across a coffee table about midway through the film.
             Shot at Kate Mantilini Restaurant in Beverly Hills, the scene took almost a week to film.  It is the most important scene in "Heat" as
             everything spoken during the conversation has a direct meaning and tie in to what follows.

             Michael Mann's film is also punctuated with an impressive soundtrack, with music from Brian Eno, Moby and the classic song from
             Blues legend B.B. King "The Thrill Is Gone", plus the Kronos Quartet and the music score from Elliot Goldenthal.

             In 2005 the ten-year-anniversary edition of the film was released in the U.S. and Canada on a two-disc DVD from Warner Brothers.
             It is a disc to watch and it includes Mr. Mann's feature-length commentary, full of insights and fascinating observations.  The second
             disc contains eleven deleted scenes, an examination of the famous conversation between Mr. Pacino and Mr. De Niro (who have
             since starred together in "Righteous Kill", last year's disappointing crime drama) and four other documentaries on the making of

             If you are not one to tolerate strong gun violence then you are advised to stay away from "Heat" but if you can stomach the guns,
             blood, bullets and octane to appreciate both great acting from all involved and positive, affirming women characters, then you
             will admire and thoroughly enjoy "Heat".

             Related: Kate Mantilini in Beverly Hills

             Related: Introspective Men, In Life's Twilight

             Related: "Righteous Kill" Movie Review



          Copyright The Popcorn Reel.  2009.  All Rights Reserved.  Photos, logos and posters courtesy of Warner Bros.


                           Spiritual Cinema Circle