Hunters and their prey—Neil and his professional criminal crew hunt to score big money targets (banks, vaults, armored cars) and are, in turn, hunted by Lt. Vincent Hanna and his team of cops in the Robbery/Homicide police division…
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Mann is this wildly inspired visual stylist whose main job has always been to make silly godawful movies exceedingly fascinating to look at. This really is peak Mann silly awfulness. The screenplay is maybe kinda smart in terms of basic story mechanics, but I'm certain that at least 75% of the worst dialogue of the 90s is pasted to this sucker. It demonstrates a value system so utterly vile as to provoke calumny.
This is how you make a crime epic. Michael Mann has a special knack for capturing the essence of the criminal underworld and he hit perfection with this masterpiece, especially with two acting titans like DeNiro and Pacino trading blows in one of the best games of cat and mouse ever committed to the cinema.
So my contention was that Pacino was a better actor than DeNiro. The problem was that Pacino lost his mind after his early triumphs and decided to eat the scenery. He calmed down a bit for this movie. At this time DeNiro was actually ahead, but for this movie I think it was a tie. Of course now DeNiro is way overexposed. I still think if you compare the best of both actors Pacino wins. "Attica! Attica!"
Under appreciated in '95, Mann's cat and mouse opus has aged like a very fine wine. Mann's scripting here is aces telling the equally fascinating story of determined detective and equally focused criminal. Dante Spinotti's cinematography was breathtaking and amazingly enough not nominated for the Oscar. Scoring choices exceptional especially the work of Michael Brook, Eno and Moby. Pacino and DeNiro both on fire.
A masterclass in color and motion, a study of macho honor and industrial cityscapes that invests cop movie cliches with shrewd intelligence willing to think through its own high concept. De Niro and Pacino are, of course, great...their meeting on-screen is given the mythic weight it deserves, and I really hope they flipped a coin during pre-production to see who would get to play the villain.
It took exactly one hour for me to come to grips with what Mann is doing here. It's at that point that I began to comprehend the overwhelming sacredness accompanying all of this will to be alone--that is to say, to be alone as a means of hitting at an uncanny, existential sense of cohesion & solidarity. Again, the director's visual and auditory textures tell the story: night, darkening blue, bullets, light, the sea.
"I'm angry. I'm very angry, Ralph. You know, you can ball my wife if she wants you to. You can lounge around here on her sofa, in her ex-husband's dead-tech, post-modernistic bullshit house if you want to. But you do not get to watch my fucking television set!"
****1/2 I liked a lot the first movies directed by Michael Mann but was deeply disappointed by his last efforts like MIAMI VICE or PUBLIC ENEMIES, films which were tragically lacking depth. HEAT, on the contrary, suggests several different interpretations without ceasing to be a flaming modern thriller. Highly, highly recommended.