Heat (1995) Revisited

Heat (1995)It’s about time that I took the time to re-evaluate the epic crime drama that finally brought together two of the biggest actors of the last twenty years together. You can’t really count The Godfather Part II (1974) as the first time that Al Pacino and Robert De Niro were on-screen together. As I write this I have watched just under half of Heat (1995) which was first brought to my attention in a lecture at university, where I saw that famous scene where see  the two actors finally meet on-screen. You have to realise that its more than an opportunity for these two to clash on-screen. WE have a view of Los Angeles that we don’t usually see. Of course there are hundreds of films that involve the infamous LAPD, just as famous as the NYPD.

The point I’m trying to make just under half way into the film is that we don’t see any of he glamour of the great city that is easily accessible to Hollywood, the epicentre of the American dream, where here anything can go wrong. As criminals lead by Neil McCauley (De Niro) are living the life of luxury, carefully planning robberies whilst the police are living a life of misery. It’s a complete reversal of fortunes so far.

The good life versus the bad life juxtaposed against the bright lights of LA that never seem to switch off. Emphasise by the lighting on the film by Dante Spinotti who maintains that sunny glow of the day through the night. From the opening titles we are bathed in light, little is left in the shadows, no where to hide. It’s as if the city is too big and vast to even need to hide. As McCauley and his gang are almost asking for it. Getting away so far based on technology and bribes, power goes along way up from the bottom. And on both sides too as we find with Lt. Vincent Hanna (Al Pacino) who uses his connections to get what he wants. Knowing all the time that McCauley is one step ahead. So far they have looked down the barrel of a camera lens twice before they finally do meet.

We are looking at not just an investigation into a gang, but the lives on both sides and how it affects their private lives. As one is fighting to keep hold of his lover whilst he is torn between his messed up job. Another is discovering someone and enjoying the fortune that comes with that. I do feel that things are played more in the favour of the criminals who we spend slightly (I say that lightly) more time with, looking in Val Kilmer‘s direction who’s own marriage is breaking down. With that one criticism, I am looking forward to completing the film and my re-assessment that was once just a few paragraphs previously about a film that has more to offer than the cops chasing the bad guys, the emphasis of character reversed, the city of LA becomes a character itself, not just a backdrop. What else will I discover?

The first think was the wealth of camera glare that you just cannot shake. Most film-makers try and avoid such mistakes. Here they are embraced, using them as part of the fabric of the film, a city filled with light its part of the environment that can’t be ignored, dancing around the screen, the only element that cannot be controlled beyond an understanding of movement and angling. Before switch back to the reality of the film where we finally bring both Hanna and McCauley for that coffee, a scene that only lasts a few minutes and feels like an hour as they both say their piece, each with their jobs to do, not willing to give them up. Theres a mutual respect which you don’t find in crime dramas. Respecting the enemy in order to understand them, getting closer to them,

Both of their worlds are crumbling down, modern life in the city is not what most film make it out to be. As the last bank-robbery gets under way we are treated to an onslaught on violence that begins to numb you to the sound of bullets as they go back and forth at an incredible rate. Blurring who the good guys and cops are. Each taking casualties it’s a costly battle that cannot be given up as the gang are have to split and go their own ways, it seems all is lost for Lt Hanna and his team who invested so much time.

We have to wait longer before the finale which we thought was never coming. Its tense and momentous as both men are brought together in a final shoot-out after all the mayhem they leave at a hotel as a standard diversion. On the airfield we find promises being kept, to break them would to not be true to yourself. I had completely forgotten this final scene that has aged well with the passing of time. If we were to have two younger leads this would be a completely different beast, it wouldn’t be a beast at all, just another standard cop film.

You have a wealth of film history  on-the screen that culminates in this post modern film that has all the hallmarks of the cop-genre which has grown up if only for a moment. Modern life creeps into the private lives far deeper than other films making Heat stand out and up amongst the others. I decided to re-watch Heat as it had been a while, my first review only scratched the surface, here I have made a deeper cut that has given me a better understanding and another chance to see the film for what it really is.

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2 responses

  1. Pretty good movie.
    I wish RD had got away though. He was surely a crook, but somehow DeNiro pulls him off as a sympathetic – though tragic character.
    I don’t believe either Pacino or DeNiro ever made any Westerns. ??

    May 8, 2015 at 8:09 am

    • Definitely. I was thinking the same, if only he got away it would be completely different. Then again law and order would not have been restored.

      May 8, 2015 at 6:00 pm

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