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Heat (1995) WS A/1 Retail Blu-ray Disc
Action, Crime, Drama, Thriller
Two men on opposite sides of the law, both loners obsessed by what they do. Two of contemporary cinema's greatest actors, facing off for the first time in their 30+ year-long careers. A director with an impeccable sense of style. And a tremendous cast, whose every member delivers a truly stunning performance. These are some of the ingredients that elevate Michael Mann's "Heat" high above any average thriller.
The film's mood is set from the very first camera shots, following Neil McCauley (Robert De Niro) from a subway station to a hospital, to drive off with an ambulance he'll be using in hismore… crew's next score. While we don't hear him speak a single word, his movements alone are unquestionably those of a leader; a man in absolute control of every situation. Like many of "Heat"'s crucial scenes (including the two lead characters' sole face-to-face encounters in a coffee shop and during the grand finale), the opening shots are set at night; and the hard contrast between almost black darkness and brightly shining neon lights thus established from the start is soon revealed as a hallmark of the movie's cinematography. One of the next shots shows McCauley's adversary-to-be, homicide Lieutenant Vincent Hanna (Al Pacino) making love to his wife (Diane Venora). But afterwards there is no coziness; no conversation and no joint breakfast. Their relationship is disintegrating and, although fully aware that his obsession with his job is turning his life into a "disaster zone," it is ultimately Vincent who sacrifices it to that very obsession. Similarly, Neil has adopted a discipline of never letting himself get attached to anything he can't "walk out on in 30 seconds flat" if he feels the heat coming on: a discipline looming in the background even of his growing feelings for Eady (Amy Brenneman), with whom he has gotten involved against the instinct that told him to treat their encounter as a one-night-stand. Also troubled is the relationship between Neil's friend Chris (Val Kilmer) and his wife Charlene (Ashley Judd); but there it is Chris who wants to hold on to their marriage, whereas Charlene, no longer able to cope with his gambling and immaturity, wants out, although she still clearly loves him.
Vincent and Neil are pitted against each other after an armored car holdup of Neil's crew goes awry when a new man named Waingro (Kevin Gage), who will soon be revealed as a ruthless serial killer, escalates the robbery by shooting one of the guards. Knowing that they are now all up for first-degree murder, the gang don't hesitate to kill the other guards, so as not to leave a living witness. Yet, with the police on their trail they still plan two more scores; one at the Precious Metals Depository and one at a downtown bank, the latter of which in particular proves fatal when it ends in a shootout turning L.A.'s business district into a virtual war zone. Further complications arise out of Neil's attempt to sell the bearer bonds stolen in the holdup back to their owner, a shady businessman named Van Zant (William Fichtner), who ultimately pays a high price for underestimating him.
Shortly before the bank heist, Vincent and Neil have a brief but crucial encounter in a coffee shop; and what has heretofore been mere respect developed from afar grows into a feeling of empathy and kinship when they discover their similarities. Yet, neither is willing to cross the lines: He won't like it, Vincent ultimately tells Neil, but if it's between Neil and "some poor (...) whose wife you are going to turn into a widow, brother, you are going down." Neil responds that on that coin's flip side, he, too, won't hesitate to kill Vincent if he gets in his way. And with their positions thus established, the action is up and almost never lets off again, until they meet again during their final chase over LAX's airfield.
"Heat" is a self-described "Los Angeles crime saga," which by implication almost necessarily means that it's not characterized by down-to-earth realism; nor does it strive to be. Of course you do *not* walk away from a midday shootout with what looks like the better part of the LAPD's Central precinct (and unquestionably the movie's saddest unintended consequence was the real-life shootout provoked in imitation of this scene a few years later). Of course it's doubtful that guys like Vincent and Neil would ever sit down together over coffee - more likely, their encounter would have brought about Neil's arrest for murder, as Vincent by this time arguably had probable cause. Of course a real cop's loyalty would always be with his colleagues, and even respect for an adversary like Neil wouldn't propel him to hold his hand, after that same adversary had shot several of his fellow policemen. But all this is ultimately beside the point. This movie's entire dynamics are driven by the antagonism between its unexpectedly similar protagonists; and on that basis, their mutual feelings of empathy and even brotherhood are entirely credible.
The pairing of Robert De Niro and Al Pacino was a dream finally come true; for their performances alone, "Heat" deserves highest honors. While Pacino is his usual self as a supercharged bundle of dynamite, De Niro shows incredible (mannerism-free!) control, contrasting Pacino's bursts of temper with a chilling coolness that can nevertheless flip into ruthless violence in a split second, or into tenderness and emotion in his scenes with Eady. They are complemented by the stellar ensemble cast, also including, inter alia, Natalie Portman in her U.S. film debut as Vincent's troubled stepdaughter (after her very first appearance alongside Jean Reno in Luc Besson's "Leon"), John Voight and Tom Sizemore as Neil's associates Nate and Michael, Hank Azaria as Charlene's love interest and Mykelti Williamson and Wes Studi as Vincent's fellow cops. All in all, this is a truly outstanding production - and despite almost 3 hours' running time, not a minute too long.
|Robert De Niro|
- Movies > Films
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- Heat (1995) WS A/1 Retail Blu-ray Disc
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- 20/05/10 by virus911
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