Heat (1995)

I am alone, I am not lonely, says Robert DeNiro's character around the thirty-minute mark. Thirty minutes out of a hundred and seventy and I already knew I would love Michael Mann's Heat, an astonishing crime masterpiece. 

Set in Los Angeles, the film opens with a heist carried out by Neil McCauley (Robert De Niro) and his crew — his right-hand Chris Shiherlis (Val Kilmer), Michael Cheritto (Tom Sizemore), Trejo (Danny Trejo), and newly hired Waingro (Kevin Gage). While the heist is successful as they rob the $1.6 million worth of bearer bonds they set out to rob, Waingro loses his temper and kills the guards.

Now a multiple homicides case, the robbery is investigated by LAPD Major Crimes Unit Lieutenant Vincent Hanna (Al Pacino), a dedicated lawman who is put on the trail of the thieves by an informant's tip, and makes it his mission to stop McCauley's crew before they carry out their next big heist, even when it means putting at risk his relationship with his wife (Diane Verona). 

While at first glance it looks like a typical cops-and-robbers chase story, Heat is so much more than that. It indeed goes beyond the good guy vs bad guy trope as it is a rich, complex, dynamic and thoroughly engaging tale of human tragedy. It is the story of two men who lead very different and yet incredibly similar lives. Although they are on opposite sides of the law, both men are driven by what they do best which in both cases result in neglecting and destroying the other aspects of their lives, and they have tremendous respect for each other — the scene in the restaurant when Hanna and McCauley meet over a cup of coffee and discuss their professions, their unregular lives, the lack of healthy relationships, and what they would do to each other when the time comes, is simply poetic as well as one of the tensest scenes in the film.

In addition to the main storyline, Michael Mann's film is filled with subplots, and they all are equally compelling, whether it's the one following William Fichtner's Van Sant as he tries to get his bonds back, the relationship between McCauley and the beautiful and lonely Eady (Amy Brenneman), or Hanna's step-daughter's (Natalie Portman) series of cries for attention and love. 

The film is effortlessly carried by De Niro and Pacino's flawless performances as they add so much nuance and depth to the characters, and make you sympathize with both the smart, stern and wary high-profile criminal and the worn-out obsessive, workaholic cop. It's not just them though as the supporting cast, among which Val Kilmer stands out with his cool and yet layered performance, is just brilliant.  

Just as impressive are the several action sequences spread throughout the film as they are extremely creative, intense, captivating and well-staged — the shootout after the bank robbery in broad daylight is easily the best action sequence in history, a fast-paced, perfectly executed and authentic scene that keeps you on the edge of your seat for its entire duration; as for the final sequence, it is less spectacular but just as tense and electrifying and closes the film with quite a touching final shot. 

Every single other aspect of Michael Mann's film is just perfect. The cinematography by Dante Spinotti is gorgeous, the colours alone being able to set the film's mood and atmosphere; the editing is masterful; the music just brings the film to another level as Mann makes skilful use of it — the epic shootout not having music is one of its strengths. 

Ultimately, Heat is an extremely well-done film that balances action, drama, and wry humour, and delivers it with top-notch acting. It is a perfect crime film as well as the biggest Oscar snub of all time. 


  1. Film epico, monumentale. Come (quasi) tutti quelli di Michael Mann. Condivido al 100% il tuo giudizio. Me lo rivedo almeno una volta l'anno, per stare bene :)

  2. This is definitely one of the best films I had ever seen though it shocked me years ago to realize that it's a remake of a TV movie Michael Mann did six years before in L.A. Takedown which is a really hard film to find.

    1. I'm not surprised he remade it since it was supposed to be the pilot to a series but was turned into a TV movie.

  3. I really need to watch this one day. It seems to get universal praise.