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movie reviewmovie reviewvideo review out of 4 Movie Review: Heat

Starring: Al Pacino, Robert De Niro
Director: Michael Mann
Rated: R
RunTime: 171 Minutes
Release Date: December 1995
Genres: Action, Drama, Suspense

*Also starring: Henry Rollins, Hank Azaria, Susan Traylor, Val Kilmer, Diane Venora, Amy Brenneman, Ashley Judd, Tom Sizemore

Reviewer Roundup
1.  Steve Rhodes review follows movie reviewmovie review
2.  Andrew Hicks read the review movie reviewmovie reviewmovie review

Review by Steve Rhodes
2 stars out of 4

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 of coffee.

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 this isn't.

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

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