Heat – Ten Years later, a DVD Review

Posted on January 3rd, 2010 at 2:59 pm by Tom Jones


This movie, considered a masterpiece by many, perhaps is. At this point in my review, I’m not sure I agree; but what I’m sure of, is that the two main protagonists in the movie have managed to convince the viewer to root for the criminal. Because Al Pacino, playing the cop, Lt. Vincent Hanna, and the master criminal portrayed by Robert De Niro, as Neil McCauley, have twisted the characters into the opposites of their archetypes.

The film’s director, Michael Mann, totally and completely obliterated and demolished the notion of what a cops and robbers "shoot out" is–in one of the movie’s most notorious episodes. Indeed, it’s the ultimate show of firepower in a Hollywood film.


Yet it’s his depth of exploration into each character’s personal life and credos, is what makes this movie not uninteresting–I’m not jaded, but I wonder if the movie’s creators are–because as they examine the fine line between the criminal and the law, the ugly truth is that that issue is debatable. While Pacino’s character in the film destroys people in his own personal life; De Niro’s character is protective of his own and his crew’s.

But Heat’s most beautiful scene and ode to Los Angeles , was in the dialogue in the brief lover’s exchange between De Niro’s character and his new found love, Eady, at her house where the bamboo shades were partly raised, revealing the Los Angeles Basin—the City of Light:

Los Angeles Basin

In this movie cops and robbers caper, the alleged "bad guy" didn’t go down; it was the opposite. The viewer is rooting for De Niro’s character at the end of the film because he risked his credo of “not walking away from anything or anybody within 30 seconds” because he found love and perhaps a shot at redemption.   And on the other hand, we have a professional hunter, Pacino’s character, Hanna–coked up–and only living for the high of the chase destroying everything that’s close to him, and in his personal life. At this moment of final denouement, De Niro’s character lives forever; while Pacino’s is disposable.

As Shakespearean in his downfall, with De Niro’s character’s ultimate destruction; a fine line divides love and hate, truth and fiction, and of course, crime and punishment in the guise of the role of “good guys” and “bad guys.” A criminal can think like a cop and a cop can think like a criminal—on which side of the law, at times, is tricky business, because in reality if not fact, the roles are frequently shades of gray, if not opposites from what we’ve been led to believe. For that-Michael Mann, created a complex web of psychological and emotional drama, so complete and thorough, that that “Fine Line” may not be a line at all. Mann managed to destroy that time honored given as well.

You can rent or purchase Heat, the (Two-Disc Special Edition) at Amazon, or rent it at your local Blockbuster or other video store. For a more detailed review of Heat’s Two-Disc Special Edition, The DVD Journal Review did a great write-up.

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