Top 365 Films – #004 – Heat (1995)

Top 365 Films - HeatDIRECTED BY: Michael Mann

STARRING: Robert De Niro, Al Pacino, Val Kilmer, Diane Venora, Jon Voight, Tom Sizemore, Mykelti Williamson, Ashley Judd, Amy Brenneman, Wes Studi, William Fichtner, Ted Levine, Dennis Haysbert, Hank Azaria, Natalie Portman, Tom Noonan, Jerry Trimble, Danny Trejo, Henry Rollins, Kevin Gage, Ricky Harris, Tone Lōc, Jeremy Piven and Xander Berkeley

BUDGET: $60m

EARNED (Worldwide): $187.4m




A group of professional bank robbers start to feel the heat from police when they unknowingly leave a clue at their latest heist.


Heat takes us to Los Angeles, California, where we follow a group of armed thieves led by Neil McCauley, hitting targets such as major banks to armoured cars. When one of their operations doesn’t go as smoothly as McCauley would like, it places them on the radar of LAPD’s Lieutenant Vincent Hanna, who leads the investigation of the incident.


A crime epic which clocks in just under the three hour mark that closes off to the sound of Moby’s ‘God moving over the face of the waters’, after multiple viewings I have to believe in the claim that Michael Mann’s Heat is a perfect film. True, it’s a bold claim and while films are subjective and many will be on either side of the fence here in regards to the films quality (great/overrated) I still can’t help but agree with the fact that this film is perfect and can’t nitpick a single frame or motivation about it. Even Dennis Haysbert’s character Donald Breedan, while a minor character, has a perfect arc that is true to the character with a simple payoff that makes sense. I’ll begin with mentioning how great the support cast are in their roles and how they’re even more layered than what they appear, with the arc that Val Kilmer and Ashley Judd go through as husband and wife Chris and Charlene, to Tom Sizemore’s as the relentless and loyal friend to Neil, Michael Cheritto, to Kevin Gage’s performance in what on paper could potentially be a throwaway role as Waingro. With a great supporting cast, it’s great that the leads follow suit here in Robert De Niro and Al Pacino, especially in the one scene where they finally share screen time with each other, face to face, for the first time ever. It works as a great character study between a cop and a criminal, where they share a moment in their conversation where they are on a mutual level of respect, being more intimate with each other than their friends or wives and girlfriends. We see Vincent in his third marriage with Justine and how that deteriorates as his job obsesses him, particularly with the case of taking down Neil McCauley, while Neil himself finds himself in love with a woman he meets at a restaurant named Eady and puts into question his own code of business which is to not ‘let yourself get attached to anything you are not willing to walk out on in 30 seconds flat if you feel the heat around the corner.’ The performances from the acting legends are terrific, with Pacino more traditionally theatrical than his counterpart De Niro who oozes calculated smoothness as Neil and Diane Verona is terrific as the unforgiving Justine, The directing from Michael Mann is terrific as the look and feel of the film feels so authentic that makes you feel like you’re within each frame, from the lighting used on the sets to the films money scene in the shootout sequence.


FAVOURITE SCENE: The film’s buildup to the heist finally comes around with Neil MacAuley and company robbing the bank and Vincent Hanna and his men arrive just in time for them to come outside. The Shootout that occurs is one of the best action sequences in cinema.

FAVOURITE QUOTE: ‘Roger Van Zant: What are you doing?

Neil McCauley: What am I doing? I’m talking to an empty telephone.

Roger Van Zant: I don’t understand.

Neil McCauley: ‘Cause there is a dead man on the other end of this fuckin’ line’

DID YOU KNOW?: In an interview with Al Pacino on the DVD Special Edition, Pacino revealed that for the scene in the restaurant between Hanna and McCauley, Robert De Niro felt that the scene should not be rehearsed so that the unfamiliarity between the two characters would seem more genuine. Michael Mann agreed, and shot the scene with no practice rehearsals. In June of 2002, the scene involving the shootout after the bank robbery was shown to United States Marine recruits at MCRD San Diego as an example of the proper way to retreat while under fire. Michael Mann visited inmates in Folsom prison to gain some insight into prison life to aid his depiction of Neil. Mann later commented that Neil’s collars were always perfectly starched, as they would have been in prison. Ted Levine was originally offered the part of Waingro but turned it down because he felt that he was being typecast. He asked to play the part of Bosko instead. Dennis Farina, a former Chicago police officer, was a consultant on the film since the story was based on a Chicago police officer and criminal.


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