Heat (1995)

Director: Michael Mann
Writer: Michael Mann
Cast: Al Pacino, Robert De Niro, Val Kilmer, Jon Voight, Tom Sizemore, Diane Venora, Amy Brenneman, Ashley Judd, Mykelti Williamson, Wes Studi, Ted Levine, Dennis Haysbert, William Fichtner, Natalie Portman, Tom Noonan, Kevin Gage, Hank Azaria, Susan Traylor, Kim Staunton, Danny Trejo, Henry Rollins
Seen on: 2.8.2021

Neil McCauley (Robert De Niro) is a professional bank robber and he is very good at running things. But at his latest job, one of his men lost control, turning the job into a bloodbath that puts Lt Vincent Hanna (Al Pacino) on the scene. And Vincent is just as good at his job as Neil. When he actually picks up Neil’s trail, Neil has to decide if he can walk away from the heat – or if he needs to take his chances with it.

Heat is the kind of film that regularly shows up on The Best Movies lists, so I decided to give it a try despite the fact I knew that it sounded like a whole lot of “not my cup of tea”. Well, I guess it wasn’t even enough of my tea for me to see why it comes so highly recommended. It just didn’t work for me.

The film poster showing Vincent (Al Pacino), Neil (Robert De Niro) and Chris (Val Kilmer) in black and blue, above an image of a train at night.

At its heart, Heat is about two men who are the opposites of each other, and yet much more similar than might appear at first. Opposites don’t just attract here, they rely on each other desperately. They can only function if the other is there. It’s an interesting characterization, but one that feels a little old. Maybe by now, maybe there were too many films that modelled themselves after Heat.

In any case, I think I would have liked the film a lot better if it had been the quiet kind of psychological film. The lengthy action scenes that interrupt this psychological core were boring and tiring to me. If they were supposed to show how exciting playing cops and robbers is, and how this excitement keeps all those men from just walking away, they achieved the complete opposite for me. They almost made me quit the film.

A masked man aiming an automated weapon.

The other thing that almost made me quit was the treatment of women in the film. While they aren’t completely without character or their own agenda, they only have enough character as they need to be an appropriate counterweight to the men in their lives and their exciting lives. Ultimately they only exist in relation to the men, and to highlight the tragedy of their existence. They could have had a good life, if only they were able to quit their (legal and illegal) jobs. Whether the life of the women would be made better by those man being more present is irrelevant.

It all boils down to the film, the characters, their central conflict being just plain uninteresting to me. It’s not that the film is superbad, but I don’t get why its supposedly all that good either. I guess, if you’re more into exploring the complexities of assholes than I am, you might want to go for it – and then you’ll maybe even see the appeal that I didn’t.

Vincent (Al Pacino) and Neil (Robert De Niro) facing off over coffee.

Summarizing: now confirmed that it’s absolutely not my thing.

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