Heat (Mann, 1995)


Heat is the apex of the Michael Mann filmography, his masterpiece of crime, mutual respect, and sacrifice. It should be seen on the big screen if possible (all Mann films should) and I had that chance at the New Beverly in Beverly Hills last year. It was a religious experience and brought new found glory to an already revered work, opening up each frame in ways otherwise unseen. Watching so many Mann’s film’s in a row has opened up his view of the world past the surface level of fast cars, gun battles, and professionals at work. HIs films carry a weight with them, often ridden with guilt which his characters constantly attempt to purge through cryptic conversations and hard glances into the night. In Heat, Mann’s benchmark protagonist/antagonist relationship between Neil (Robert De Niro) and Vincent (Al Pacino) shows how each is at war with emotional commitment as well as each other, both battling the desire to settle down into a life of complacency. It’s the be all end all for a Mann hero to be domesticated and Heat seems to be the bible on the complexities which arise when criminals and cops are faced with this decision. Mann’s many supporting characters reveal nuances throughout, given little screen-time but used well within such small spaces of existence. Val Kilmer, Dennis Haysbert, Tom Sizemore, and Jon Voight all give memorable turns as Neil’s group, while Wes Studi, Ted Devine, and Mykelti Williamson make up Vincent’s core of professionals coppers. Spinotti’s crisp cinematography once again highlights Mann’s obsessions with character’s thought processes, specifically his framing of actor’s with their backs to the camera, lost in thought, lost within a world which seems distant and forlorn. In Heat, all of this leads up to a violent, brilliantly staged shootout of stunning efficiency, which finally shows the crippling consequences for playing in Mann’s world. There isn’t a better action sequence ever, and this may be the one instance where hyperbole doesn’t do the work justice. Heat reflects Mann’s impressions of aggression and violence as markers of desperation, men and women cornered by their own mistakes and forced to act accordingly. Survival, in essence, is the only victory imaginable and the greatest currency cops and robbers can take from each other.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s