Movies We Like
Based on a real criminal and inspired by his own TV movie, L.A. Takedown, Michael Mann directs one of the all-time great cop and robber films with Heat. He takes a highly established genre and digs in deeper—finding the truth and parallels between those who enforce the law and those who break it. Heat explores the sacrifices both sides have to make in order to do the job—mainly causing dysfunction at home. You can see years of preproduction that goes into Mann’s vision—building from earlier works as director of Thief (1981) and producer of TV’s Miami Vice.
In Heat, Michael Mann stages one of cinema’s most impressive set pieces—an all out war in the streets of downtown Los Angeles following a bank heist. The action sequence is one of the most exciting and exhilarating that you will find in any movie.
Mann's long time DP, Dante Spinotti, provides sleek cinematography with good camera movement. As with all of Mann’s films, the photography makes great aesthetic use of negative space. And the score by Elliot Goldenthal provides a great pulse to the film’s action.
The film is headlined by two of America’s greatest actors, Robert DeNiro (Taxi Driver) and Al Pacino (Dog Day Afternoon). These two men, who had only been in Godfather II together but never shared a scene, are iconic choices to play the master thief and driven cop, respectively. De Niro is the quiet and cautious criminal “Neal McCauley” and Pacino is the louder than life robbery-homicide detective, "Vincent Hanna," who chases him down. It is great to finally see the two share scenes together after so many years, but it does tend to leave you yearning for more.
The supporting cast around the two legends is very solid on both sides of the law, as well as those trapped in between. Notable performances are given by Val Kilmer (Spartan) as Neil’s right hand man, Ashley Judd (Frida) as his worrisome wife, Jon Voight (Ali) as the criminal’s contract man, Tom Sizemore (Natural Born Killers) as a gung-ho crook, Kevin Cage (Blow) as an “angel of darkness” sort of villain and William Fitcher (The Dark Knight) as the bad guy in a business suit.
Heat was one of the most exciting films of the 1990s and should remain ranked high as one of the best crime dramas from any decade.