HEAT is a action movie of great energy and excellent stunts that
masquerades as an epic. The plot can easily be summarized as cat
chases mouse, mouse chases cat, and cat and mouse stop to share a cup
HEAT is a new movie written and directed by Michael Mann (THE LAST
OF THE MOHICANS, MANHUNTER, THIEF, and the TV series "Miami Vice"). It
has fours sets of characters: good guys (cops), bad guys (robbers), all
their families, and the people doing the stunts. It is an intriguing,
but exhausting movie where only two aspects (bad guys and the stunts)
of the movie work. It is an interesting movie with lots of action so
most viewers will leave the theater satisfied and yet it has the
potential for much more that it delivers.
As the show starts, a group of robbers by the names of Neil
McCauley (Robert De Niro), Chris Shiherlis (Val Kilmer), Michael
Cheritto (Tom Sizemore), and Waingro (Kevin Gage) are gathering for an
elaborate but precisely coordinated heist. They are going to take a
massive pickup truck of the size that is used to pickup semis and ram
it into an armored car. These are cold blooded killers who terminate
their victims with no remorse and little reason. The action sequence
here is impressive and the best part is the sound effects - massive
steel on steel impact. Shades of the DIE HARD series.
Detective Vincent Hanna (Al Pacino) arrives on the scene soon
after the crime has been completed and the chase is on. Early on, each
side learns the identity of the other so that the movie consists of
Hanna and company, Detective Casals (Wes Studi), Detective Drucker
(Mykelti Williamson), etc., watching the bad guys and waiting for them
to commit the big one.
While waiting for the inevitable capture, they get to philosophize
a lot on their roles in life. Detective Hanna says, "I've got a lot of
angst. I preserve it, I hold it, it keeps me sharp where I've got to
me." Neil McCauley explains to Hanna, "I do what I do best; I take
scores. You do what you do best and try to catch bad guys like me."
Several times during the show McCauley reminds us of his guiding
principle, "Do not get attached to anything you can not walk out on in
thirty seconds flat if the heat comes around the corner." Shakespeare
The movie has many an exhilarating action scene full of great
sound effects especially of assault-weapons. Sorry to say that since
Mann believes he is creating something on the scale of the GODFATHER
sagas, he pads the movie with numerous and superfluous family scenes.
None of them work. Both sides are married to dysfunctional but
ultimately boring families. The only point the families seem to serve
is to say that both good guys and bad guys have families to distract
them and that the families on both sides look and act alike.
The female roles in the movie, Justine Hanna (Diane Venora), Eady
(Amy Brenneman), and Charlene Shiherlis (Ashley Judd), are all poorly
written. Justine complains to her husband that "I may be stoned on
grass and Prozac, but you've been walking through my life dead." The
only scenes with a female in it that work are a tragic one that will
tear your heart out when a girl teenager is dying as well as Eady's
tragic expression in a great scene towards the end.
The robbers are quite well done. The makeup and the costumes add
to their aura of evil. De Niro has a sinister goatee and slick black
hair, while his mentor, Nate (Jon Voight), has a pock marked face
reminiscent of the moon and sickly eyes that make him looked wasted as
if he has indeed been dissipated by a life of crime. The acting by the
robbers is excellent. De Niro delivers a strong but controlled
performance as do Kilmer and Voight. Pacino, on the other hand, loses
control emotionally in almost every scene. The script attempts to
compensate by giving him a plethora of expletives for adjectives with
which to scare the crooks.
Now we come to believability. This is where the movie earns its
lowest scores. Let's take a quiz. If someone is firing a stream of
bullets from an assault-weapon into your windshield, would drive keep
driving straight into him? If you are surrounded by hundreds of
policemen and you have to fired constantly for many minutes, would you
never need to reload? In this case, would you expect to kill scores of
police but get away unscathed yourself? If you are a cop and a killer
is holding a little girl hostage while spinning around rapidly, would
you shot at him? If you are a cop, would you push a guy through a
plate glass window to make him talk? If you were able to answer all of
these in the affirmative, you may have a lucrative career in front of
you in Hollywood. Give the studio (Warner Brothers) a call now and set
up an interview. Your fortune awaits.
The music is bland - made up mostly of pseudo-haunting violin
melodies. The camera work is good and fast paced in the action
sequences, but it has too many hyper close-ups in the family scenes.
When Pacino's nose covers the entire screen at the local monsterplex,
you feel like you are viewing Mount Rushmore.
HEAT runs (sometime crawls) 2:51, but there is really only enough
material for two hours. It is correctly rated R as it is full of
violence with more deaths that you can hope to count. I do not
remember any nudity, but there was a little sex. It is suitable only
for mature teenagers. I liked all of the bad guys and the stunts are
terrific, but ultimately I have to give the movie a mild thumbs down.
It gets ** from me.
Copyright © 1995 Steve Rhodes