Thursday, September 14, 2017

Movie #423: Heat

Heat is a crime drama directed by Michael Mann and starring (deeeeep breath) Robert de Niro, Al Pacino, Val Kilmer, Danny Trejo, Tom Sizemore, Ashley Judd, Dennis Haysbert, Jon Voight, Diane Venora, Amy Brenneman, Wes Studi, Ted Levine, Mykelti Williamson, and Natalie Portman, plus a bunch of other fairly famous people.

There are a bunch of storylines going on, here, but the main thing is: Neil (de Niro) runs a crew of highly skilled thieves. On a job sticking up an armored car, new recruit Waingro (Kevin Gage) gets squirrely and shoots a guard, prompting the others to shoot the rest. Neil is pissed - they don't need any heat, and killing people brings that. He goes to shoot Waingro, but he manages to escape. File that away for now.

They start working on their next job, but Detective Hannah (Pacino) and his crew are in pursuit. They play a bunch of cat and mouse, and Hannah and Neil meet and express respect for each other. Neil, meanwhile, meets a woman (Brenneman) and falls in love, and when the last score goes south he looks to take her with him out of the country. At the last minute, he goes off plan to kill Waingro, and winds up getting pursued, and shot, by Hannah.

Into this mix, there are at least a half-dozen subplots. Chris (Kilmer) has a gambling problem that's pushing his wife Charlene (Judd) to canoodle with a Las Vegas bookie (Hank Azaria). Waingro is actually a serial killer knocking off prostitutes, which is something I missed the first time I saw this, somehow. Hannah's wife Justine (Venora) is deeply unhappy in their marriage, and her daughter (Portman) ultimately attempts suicide because of depression brought on in part by her own absentee father. Breedan (Haysbert) is just out of jail and trying to make ends meet, and winds up in the crew when Trejo (Danny Trejo) has to back out because he can't shake the cops, and winds up getting shot for his trouble.

Michael Mann sure knows how to put this kind of movie together, though, I'll tell you what. The characters each have strong motivations, and they're professional and competent, and the chemistry between the crews is great. The criminals are utterly ruthless - they're the bad guys, and they're not afraid to gun down cops and civilians to show it. There's no question about morality, here, it's a question of motivation and what someone is willing to risk - or abandon - for one's own interests. Hannah is absent from his family and it costs him his marriage very nearly his stepdaughter. Neil risks and loses for the chance for revenge after he loses his crew. They're very similar characters, and casting Pacino and de Niro just underlines that.

My Grade: A-
Rewatch value: Medium-low (long but well paced)

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