Quick Hit: A great script and great performances end up bogged down by the movie’s run time.
Heat is a 1995 thriller starring (and I am chopping this list substantially down – EVERYONE is in this movie) Al Pacino, Robert DeNiro, Ashley Judd, Val Kilmer, and Amy Brenneman. Pacino is a cop married to his job, and DeNiro is a thief who is in love with his work. It’s a pretty typical nineties movie, and both sink perfectly into their roles – it’s ones they have played both sides of, and they know the roles so well that it has to be second nature at this point for them. And while the movie is a pretty typical example of a cops and robbers movie, it’s also a good example of why Hollywood keeps making them – when done well, they can be really enjoyable.
Almost none of the characters feel wasted, and there are a lot of them. This movie weighs in at roughly three hours, and writer/director Michael Mann attempts to give almost every single one of these characters a small moment to manage. On one hand, I appreciate that – it keeps characters from feeling wasted. On another, some characters matter a lot more than others, and I think the movie might have been better served to focus on its highlight actors. Both DeNiro and Pacino are so good (Pacino especially nails it here with his trademark energetic deliveries) that the movie suffers a bit to go away from them.
It also would have helped rein in the story a bit. I’m no stranger to long movies, but nearly three hours for an extended heist movie was a bit too long. There are multiple points you feel the movie could have wrapped it up, but it just keeps going. The ending, while achieving a certain level of suspense, is a prime example of that. DeNiro and Pacino stalk each other through an entire airfield, in a scene that lasts nearly fifteen minutes. Multiple shots of them running and hiding are shown, only to be punctuated immediately with even more… shots of running and hiding. When the end finally comes for one of the characters, it’s pretty anti-climatic.
One of the best compliments I can give a movie is a talented script. And despite what I feel about the length, this script is very good. The number of one-liners that stand as zingers in the film is something I’ve been reflecting on throughout the entire day. From Hanna’s exasperated “We let em walk” to his “not my television set”, to McCauley’s “empty telephone” bit, this movie lands from scary to funny and back instantly. All the characters have a particular cadence that runs throughout, and Mann’s script is confident enough in the actors to give them lines that actually portray what they may be thinking and feeling instead of just stupid machoisms.
There’s also some truly great shoot out scenes. They’re believable, the gore is done efficiently but not overly so (aka, people actually look like they’re hurt, but not like zombies), and they are sprinkled throughout enough of the movie to keep it from dragging. You can see the fingerprints on this movie all over more recent heist films, even including the opening from The Dark Knight.
Heat is a great movie for a night in with fellow cinephiles, especially those that enjoy good cop movies. Check it out if you have time. I’m giving it a “B”.
For more on this film, check out IMDB.
"All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy"