movie film review | chris tookey


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  Heat Review
Tookey's Rating
9 /10
Average Rating
8.00 /10
Vincent Hanna ........ Al Pacino, Neil McCauley ........ Robert De Niro , Chris Shiherlis ...... Val Kilmer
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Directed by: Michael Mann
Written by: Michael Mann

Released: 1995
Genre: DRAMA
Origin: US
Length: 174


Manic L.A. cop (Al Pacino) hunts cool gang of killers (led by Robert De Niro).

Reviewed by Chris Tookey

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It's the oldest cliche in gangster movies - when the killer comes face to face with the cop who's hunting him, and they realise that they are two sides of the same, bent coin. They exchange glances of grudging respect, and you know that one is going to wind up killing the other.
It's a measure of this film's excellence that the scene is played here with such freshness and wry self-knowledge that it seems to be telling us something new about human nature. Mind you, it helps that the cop is Al Pacino and the criminal, Robert De Niro.
Three hours long and never dull for a second, Heat is one of the all-time-great thrillers.
What's so great about it? Writer-director Michael Mann has taken a commonplace story and shot it with a flair that borders on the poetic (the miraculous cinematography is by Dante Spinotti). He has staged exciting, inventive set-pieces and terrifying shoot-outs, then deepened the picture with superb dialogue, actors and sub-plots which cleverly illuminate the central theme.
Some women will be irritated by that theme - which is essentially an update of the old John Wayne maxim, "A man's gotta do what a man's gotta do".
Stern moralists may deplore the film-maker's obvious respect for professionalism, however criminal. The not altogether benign influence of Quentin Tarantino on both style and substance is never far below the surface.
Michael Mann directed the best episodes of Miami Vice, went on to make the stylish Manhunter and the scenic if violent Last of the Mohicans. This is by far his finest movie - not only a masterly thriller, but a penetrating analysis of what it means to be a modern, workaholic male. It's an action movie about men who prefer action to thought.
Those who dislike Heat might argue that it is also for men who prefer action to thought.
Pacino's performance has its irritations - especially when he is indulging his favourite mannerism of speaking very softly and then suddenly exploding at top VOLUME! Some of his policing decisions are reprehensible, and much of his behaviour is bizarre bordering on psychotic. But he is never less than riveting. Whether barking orders at subordinates or suffering while his third wife (Diane Venora) pronounces on his shortcomings, he has a power which few screen actors could hope to match.
Except De Niro. His performances recently have been uneven, which may be why he has to take second billing to Pacino; but this is one of his best efforts. He is cool, where Pacino is hot; careful, where Pacino is impetuous; as the criminal mastermind, he leads and makes Pacino follow. All the more touching, then, when this lonely man with an inhospitable life loses his heart to an attractive graphic artist (Amy Brenneman) with whom he plans to move to New Zealand... except, of course, that there is always one more heist to pull, one last enemy to eliminate.
The structure of Mann's screenplay is as fiendishly complicated as any episode of Hill Street Blues, and he even allows himself a third storyline about De Niro's fellow-thief (Val Kilmer) whose marriage (to Ashley Judd) is in trouble because of his gambling. You can gauge how good the script is by the fact that Jon Voight, Wes Studi, Tom Sizemore and Natalie Portman take minor parts.
The final shoot-out has two of Hollywood's greatest actors, De Niro and Pacino, disorientated on an airfield, dwarfed by jets coming in to land, marionettes of their own gigantic machismo. They come across as both mythic and pathetic, which I'm sure is precisely what Mann had in mind.

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