revisiting heat 2

Jacob: I think De Niro acts as a great contrast to Pacino here. He’s a killer, but he’s soft spoken and smart and seems to think about each and every word that comes out of his mouth. He’s as composed as Pacino is unhinged. De Niro is infamous for his extensive character preparation and I feel like it pays off here. Everything about this guy feels carefully considered. He feels totally complete even as he remains an enigma. Watching him here, I can’t help but imagine the alternate reality where De Niro pulled a Liam Neeson and started contributing his chops to more straightforward action movies. In fact, this may be one of his last great performances. He’s only a few years away from stepping into his self-parody phase.

Jack: I think he’s done a lot of great work post-Heat – Wag the Dog, Ronin, Analyze This, and Meet the Parents – but he feels incredibly in-control of his performance here, with what he does or doesn’t show us about the character. Like with Mann’s filmmaking, his silences speak volumes.

revisiting heat 1

That Big Gun Battle

Jacob: You told me a little while back that you wrote a paper in college about the realism in Heat. I know that the big bank robbery shootout is used as a training tool for U.S. soldiers now and that the gunfire was all recorded live, instead of added in post. I’ve never been unfortunate enough to be in a gunfight, but this movie certainly looks and sounds more real than most, and therefore, it’s more terrifying. It’s rare for action scenes to be, well, scary.

Jack: I wish my memory was better than it was, because I don’t remember as much as I’d like to about that criminology paper (besides it probably being very pretentious). I remember thinking he was very faithful to that lifestyle, speaking of both the cops and crooks.

Jacob: Let’s talk about that shootout, because it’s rightfully famous. It has that awful, stomach-churning effect where you don’t want either side to hurt the other. You’ve gotten to know each of them so well. It’s almost a shock when Tom Sizemore uses that little girl as a human shield. You’ve forgotten that these guys are ice cold.

Jack: Your stomach churns seeing Val Kilmer get shot almost as much as it does when Ted Levine’s character is killed. It’s messy, chaotic, and loud as hell. Death is so present, too. Mann doesn’t ever have a news anchor say what the body count is, but you feel every death in that scene, every cop that goes down. And when Pacino takes Sizemore down, you can finally exhale.

Jacob: I don’t always have the ear for sound mixes, but this new Blu-ray gave my sound system quite the workout. My entire living room was shaking, but I feel like that’s the only way to watch this movie. Turning it down would be crime. The volume of it immerses you into the scene as much as Mann’s camera does. And speaking of his camera, what it does here is quietly remarkable. Much of the scene is shot in close-ups and medium shots, but when he does go long, there tends to be a specific purpose: to present distinct point of view, to showcase an out-of-place element, to relay the geography of a scene to the audience. You’re never lost in the chaos. You’re really thrown into this hell.

Jack: Those long shots in his action always blow me away, like when Kilmer is on the roof firing off rounds from a distance while De Niro is in the car. There’s always a sense of where all the players are in relation to one another.

heat pacino and deniro

A Los Angeles Movie

Jacob: Jack, as someone who lies in Los Angeles, what do you think of Mann’s depiction of the city? Is this a great L.A. movie? What do you think of his depiction of the city?

Jack: Mann captures the sprawl of the city. There’s many shots, including those spectacular aerial shots and the scenes with Neil and Eady on the balcony, where the city looks and feels never-ending. He captures the nighttime sky – the deep blues, purples, and smog – better than most. L.A. has a distinct atmosphere, sometimes that feels both real and fantastical, and Mann nails that mood. The vastness of the city makes Vincent and Neil, in some ways, feel more alone.

***

The new Heat Blu-ray is available now.

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