So with my brother returning home from University recently, my siblings sat down and created a ‘Cinema Club’ which they thought contained films that we should have definitely seen. A lot of these films are certainly on my to-watch list, but often I find that I’m so caught up in the superhero world that I rarely make time for anything else. But I thought it was a good idea and I asked them if I could join. A lot of the films on the list, I noted, had either Al Pacino or Robert De Niro in them. Tonight’s film had both!
‘Heat’ sees Neil McCauley, a man who runs a crew of thieves that goes around Los Angeles carrying out jobs. Their latest job involves them stealing a large amount of cash in the form of bonds. However, one of the crew members, who is new to that job, a man named Waingro, decides to kill the guards driving the truck they stole from. This naturally then puts them in the crosshairs of the LAPD and in particular, Lieutenant Vincent Hanna. Vincent is a man obsessed with his job, who’s currently in his third marriage which is slowly falling apart as his wife, Justine feels that he doesn’t open up enough to her. When Vincent stumbles upon this case, he gets together with his team to bring down Neil and his crew. Problems arise for Neil when it turns out that the cash he thought he was making for this job doesn’t pan out. At the same time, he meets a woman named Eady who he convinces that he’s a salesman and the two embark on a new and passionate relationship. When McCauley’s fence proposes a new job to him, he speaks over with his crew consisting of Chris Cheherlis, a man whose gambling addiction has left him with little money, Michael Cherrito, an ex-con who is the start point of Hanna’s investigation, and Trejo, a Mexican who seems to have very little lines in the film. McCauley’s team start doing the prep work but one night realise they’ve been rumbled and begin to look into the team that’s pursuing them. This culminates in a meeting between Hanna and McCauley who have an odd admiration for one another but ultimately understand that their roles are ultimately set in stone. When McCauley and his team take down a bank, a showdown is clearly in the cards for both teams. Can Vincent Hanna and his LAPD squad take down McCauley? And are they the only ones that Neil and his team have to watch out for?
Now I know that I say I’m a film buff, but the truth is I don’t think I’ve seen any films in which De Niro and Pacino are acting against each other. The Godfather Part II obviously doesn’t count because they played characters in different times. That doesn’t matter. The only thing that matters is that these two were born to act and more importantly born to act together. De Niro plays Neil McCauley and he’s slick in a way that just oozes calm and collected. Not to mention that he’s clearly a charmer. The entire film through, you’re rooting for him, even though you know you shouldn’t be. Pacino plays Vincent Hanna, and his personal eccentricities leak out onto the screen. He’s by far one of the coolest officers of the law I’ve seen in film and seeing him playing the good guy was certainly an interesting experience because I think his acting style is more suited to a villain. There is one scene in a diner when the two face off against each other for the first time, which I think I’ll always remember as one of the best pieces of film I’ve ever seen. No action, just words but phenomenal work. The craziest thing is that the supporting cast are also some excellent actors. Val Kilmer plays Chris Cheherlis and his performance was extremely unnerving because the character himself is unnerved. Jon Voight plays Nate, Neil’s fence, and he too remains this elusive character that had me wondering the entire time, whose side he was on. Shoutout definitely to Danny Trejo who played, unsurprisingly, Trejo. The man plays one role, but he plays it so well! Top quality acting all-round!
So ironically, I’d recently heard about Michael Mann’s plans for a Heat sequel and/or re-boot. There was a decent level of interest/outrage from the internet, which I usually don’t listen to, but it played at the back of my mind. When my brother said they were watching ‘Heat’, I thought it was the perfect opportunity to see it. Although the length of the film could be criticised, I don’t think there was any point at which I was bored or felt that I was watching unnecessary scenes. In hindsight, if I had to give some criticism, I’d say there were moments where several sub-plots were going on and although all of them were tied up in the end, it did feel like a lot. However, the criticism is minor. I’ve seen and heard of films and TV shows where protagonist and antagonist have this respectful but intense obsession with each other but there have been few where I struggled to take a side. Whereas Hanna is morally right, there is certainly a fascination viewers take with McCauley’s life and desire to build a future for himself away from the world that he thrives within. That constant balance between the two means that the film is an excellent watch that keeps tension and action high whilst also showing us acting masterclasses from both leads. I’m not sure how many other films there are where these two play opposing characters, but I’d be interested to see what more they can give!
The film came out in 1995 and the cinematography has a classic 90’s feel to it. There are some very interesting camera shots, especially those focusing on the characters' facial expressions. The colour tone of the film is also quite basic but plays well into the diametric differences of the characters. The soundtrack didn’t feature particularly, but I did think some of the songs used during the more action-packed scenes complimented them well. Overall, I enjoyed this film a lot more than I thought I would, given the genre. Both leads steal the film and I’m looking forward to seeing more of them!