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Overall Rating

Worth A Look: 19.61%
Average: 15.69%
Pretty Bad: 3.92%
Total Crap: 2.94%

3 reviews, 84 user ratings

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Heat (1995)
[] Buy posters from this movie
by Rob Gonsalves

"Total waste of De Niro and Pacino."
3 stars

Moviegoers who want to see Robert De Niro and Al Pacino share the screen will have to wait another few decades, I guess.

They appeared as father (De Niro) and son (Pacino) in 1974's The Godfather Part II, but, since De Niro appeared in the flashback sequences and Pacino in the modern ones, they didn't actually work together. The same is true of Heat, the long and confusing cops-and-robbers drama from Michael Mann (Manhunter, The Last of the Mohicans). Pacino's Vincent Hanna, a detective, spends the movie chasing De Niro's Neil McCauley, a criminal mastermind. Midway through the film, Hanna pulls McCauley over and suggests they go get coffee, and I settled back hoping for the fireworks of two modern movie legends sparking off one another. But Mann never gives us what we want: a clear shot of both of them in the same frame. He keeps cutting to De Niro or Pacino talking to someone filmed from the back -- who could actually be the other star or could, for all we know, be a stand-in. They have one other (climactic) scene together, and Mann blows that, too.

Heat has gotten some heavy-duty reviews, as if it weren't just a cop drama but the cop drama. Michael Mann seems to cast a spell of blindness over otherwise intelligent (male) reviewers, who dutifully praise his handling of violence, his understanding of alienation, blah blah blah. But the Heat I saw clocks in at two hours and 51 minutes, and I felt every minute. In outline, the movie isn't about anything but a guy who robs banks and a guy who wants to catch him, but Mann pumps it up, throws in characters and subplots that could have been left out with absolutely no adverse effect, holds his camera on the men staring at the Los Angeles city lights .... Heat isn't a terrible movie; it has some fleeting pleasures. But it's a jumble. Mann can't come up with a compelling narrative, so he piles narratives on top of each other, and each scene has identical dramatic weight. You can't tell what's important and what isn't, and some may mistake the movie's incoherence for profundity.

This is as much as I could make out. Some banks get robbed, some cops get killed, and some thieves get killed. Except for Hanna and McCauley, nobody seems to have a name; characters with names like Van Zant are referred to, but I still don't know who Van Zant is. Heat isn't complex; it's just complicated. People like Jon Voight (looking like Gregg Allman in Rush) and Tom Sizemore (I remember his short gray hair) drift in and out of the movie, doing things I never quite understood; if they register at all, they only register visually. If you'd never seen Wes Studi before, you'd never know from his flunky role in Heat that he can be a powerfully scary actor (in Last of the Mohicans). Mann resorts to giving hip cameos to Henry Rollins and Tone-Loc, who are as blurry as everyone else on the screen -- except the two Godfathers.

Val Kilmer is in it, too, giving a non-performance that makes me afraid that his mesmerizing work in Tombstone was a fluke. He has a wife (or is she a girlfriend?), played by Ashley Judd, who has nothing to do except bitch at Kilmer and hold a baby. (Is it hers? Is it theirs? Is it a Rent-a-Baby?) Pacino also has a wife, played by Diane Venora, who gives the same jaded performance she gave in Bird, only without the humor. She gets the worst lines, too: Defending a fling with some loser, she spits at Pacino, "I had to degrade myself with Ralph so I could get closure with you." Take that. Venora's depressed daughter is played by Natalie Portman, and, again, if you hadn't seen this young actress in The Professional you'd never know she had any spirit. Finally, De Niro finds love with NYPD Blue's Amy Brenneman, as some sort of innocent bookstore clerk and aspiring graphic designer. (Do we ever see her working on anything? No. Does she ever show De Niro her portfolio? No.) These are gifted actresses, but the women they're playing are made of paper -- old paper, too. (They all deliver some variation of "Be careful" to their men.) Heat has been acclaimed for its compassionate treatment of non-stereotypical female characters. That's a joke, right?

Michael Mann specializes in hip abstractions. The difference between him and Quentin Tarantino, another hipster abstractionist working in the crime genre, is that Mann takes himself seriously. He gives the impression of being a deep thinker with a colorful palette, but all he has is the colorful palette (which is easy when you have an ace cinematographer like Dante Spinotti, who does the honors here). Mann isn't satisfied with simple entertainment. He wants to give you the definitive cop show (Miami Vice, Crime Story), the definitive safe-cracker movie (Thief), the definitive serial-killer movie (Manhunter), the definitive historical saga (Mohicans). Heat is his definitive macho-showdown movie, and the proof is in the casting. Would any of us be the least bit interested in Heat if it starred, say, Michael J. Fox and James Belushi? Mann uses Al Pacino and Robert De Niro for the great-American-actor gravitas they can bring to the shallow characters. The only real drama in the movie is our collective memory of all the classic movies De Niro and Pacino have done over the last three decades, and this is the dream match: De Niro versus Pacino, like Ali versus Tyson in Madison Square Garden -- this is it, this is the big one.

About Mann's script, the best I can say is that there's always something going on, even if we're never sure what. I guess if I try real hard I can justify the serial-killer subplot: one of De Niro's henchmen goes nuts, escapes, and starts picking off prostitutes. But really the psycho is in the movie to give Pacino more corpses to find. There's a scene in which Kilmer gets around a roadblock by flashing fake ID; doesn't he have a criminal record, and are the LAPD that easily fooled by Kilmer's new haircut? As a director, Mann has always been overrated. Every scene has at least one image that calls attention to itself, like De Niro's car momentarily turning white when it passes under tunnel lights. Except for the way De Niro softens towards Amy Brenneman when they first meet, the movie has no real feeling, just Mann's intellectualized concept of feeling. And since the character are so hollow there's no context for the few heated emotions there are.

The movie doesn't really insult your intelligence (except for a moment when Al Pacino roughs up Henry Rollins -- Pacino's whole body is maybe the size of Rollins' neck); it does test your patience, though. It's no mystery why Heat scored with critics. They were all psyched for Casino -- so psyched that no movie could have lived up to the anticipation -- and they were let down, and so they latched onto Heat, pretending that it's what they desperately want it to be: the big American masterpiece of the fall. Will the movie connect with a large audience? I doubt it -- not after word-of-mouth gets out and the critics' emperor Michael Mann is revealed to have no clothes.

Heat boils down to Pacino, De Niro, and Mann's pretentious direction. I honestly don't know why the stars committed to Mann's script. Was it the chance to play large, empty characters they could then fill with acting flourishes? Given nothing new or specific to express, De Niro and Pacino fall back on familiar mannerisms. Vincent Hanna is a synthesis of Pacino's flamboyant turns in Scent of a Woman and Dog Day Afternoon, with a dash of Serpico; Neil McCauley is pretty much De Niro's efficient boss in Casino with a goatee and a gun. Both men have exciting or amusing moments, but they're not playing people. Michael Mann doesn't do people; he does icons. Heat is an almost completely abstract cops-and-robbers movie about The Cop and The Robber. Some may enjoy the abstraction itself, the decorative images, the masculine brooding, the elaborate planning of heists; they may even float lazily in the nearly three-hour length and not worry about following the plot. But the movie, like Pacino and De Niro, never truly comes together. It's the De Niro-Pacino movie for De Niro-Pacino fans who don't care that it makes no sense; it's like those lame crossover comic books where Superman and Spider-Man team up -- the idea of them being in the same story is meant to be so thrilling that we'll overlook the flaws out of gratitude. Sorry.

Michael Mann is an ambitious but cold director, and this film, like his other work, has size without shape, incident without meaning, ideas without focus, artistry without personality, fire without heat.

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originally posted: 01/10/07 08:38:08
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User Comments

10/17/17 danR bank-heist soundtrack (Brian Eno) 1 of the best in action-scene history. 4 stars
9/13/17 morris campbell killer cops & robbers flick 4 stars
10/16/15 David Hollingsworth An action epic with heart, soul and immense complexity 5 stars
7/01/13 The Big D So long and intense that it burns itself out--Ralph was the best character. 2 stars
8/05/12 Silkworm Genius - Michael Mann at his best 5 stars
3/29/11 jeannie santabene What can you really say?? all words are less than in describing this miracle movie called H 5 stars
2/14/11 terror one of the greatest movies ever made 5 stars
11/27/09 Monday Morning Pacino & DeNiro weren't even together for their diner scene. No two-shots. 3 stars
7/16/09 Steven M Not too bad! the best parts are in the middle of film and at end with the chase scene!! 3 stars
3/14/09 Hiroshi All those morons here who gave this classic any negative rating is a retard. 5 stars
2/09/09 Todddi over-hyped, overrated, and overall boring 1 stars
8/31/08 Herbet Superb acting. How I wish the end was different though... McCauley shouldn't have died! 5 stars
8/23/08 pantera what the fuck, this is one of the best films ever 5 stars
8/09/08 Man out 6 bucks Yet more moron psychos amok in the balkanized capitol of fair-weather friends: Los Angeles 3 stars
7/14/08 Renzo Agree with review. 2 stars
12/09/07 Jose Luis One of the best films ever, absolute masterpiece, brilliant perfomances, perfect direction. 5 stars
11/27/07 MP Bartley Prog rock as film. Terrifically directed, but heartless (as usual for Mann) 4 stars
6/18/07 EaSyTiGeR one of the best movies of all time..rewatching makes it even better.. 5 stars
6/11/07 al smith best film of the 90s shootout will never be beaten.great acting and directing 5 stars
1/27/07 action movie fan best cops 'n' robbers shootout great story best film of 1995 5 stars
12/19/06 Charles Tatum Fine film, but Pacino is waaay over the top for this 4 stars
11/26/06 don ketchup the best movie of the 1990s.De Niro n Pacino have their finest moments 5 stars
4/04/06 Dillon One of the greatest and deepest action movie. Mann's the master of the crime genre 5 stars
3/01/06 VMANIC1 A little too much dialogue in first hour and a half, although, Pacino and Deniro are superb 4 stars
1/16/06 ronald one of the greatest films of all time 5 stars
1/05/06 John Dog Awesome. 5 stars
12/14/05 cooler superb,superb,superb 5 stars
11/18/05 Chris Barrett THE GREATEST MOVIE EVER MADE!!!! PACINO AND DE NIROU Guys Rule 5 stars
10/16/05 Moctezuma So-so 4 stars
9/24/05 Anthony G WOW, I mean this movie is pretty much perfect next to pulp fiction. 5 stars
8/31/05 ES "you can get killed walking your doggie!'- nicely said Al 4 stars
6/30/05 Naka Moving, beautifully-shot, clever, NEAR PEFECT...except for Judd. Ah well. 5 stars
6/20/05 Steve Newman That is a fantastic film. 3 hours rooted to the edge of my seat - go see!!! 5 stars
5/27/05 Indrid Cold Great juicy characters, performances, and action. Not quite a classic though. 4 stars
10/23/04 UMER pacino is at his usual best but deniro really takes the cake here 4 stars
9/22/04 Theresa Sas far above excellence 5 stars
8/02/04 Raf Milis De Niro versus Pacino..the logical outcome...remise 5 stars
7/08/04 Denise De Niro and Pacino that says it all 5 stars
4/10/04 IP Freeley this movie is legendary... one of Pacino's best way better than Scarface 5 stars
3/30/04 LusT4DetH Best Urban Gun Fight on film 5 stars
3/26/04 Chuck I think this is a very good movie. Great cast & shootout scene (starts 1:40 into movie) 5 stars
1/26/04 Eric My two favorite actors against each other.It dont get any better than that.A great cast 5 stars
12/22/03 M Great acting, tons of great scenes, great atmosphere, great soundtrack.... Great movie! 5 stars
11/28/03 john best crime movie ever made - the shootout is all people say it is and more 5 stars
8/19/03 AD pacino and derniro rule 5 stars
8/16/03 J The gunshout was one of my favorites parts. 4 stars
6/16/03 rory grat shotout scene ever 4 stars
4/11/03 Jack Sommersby Mediocre material enlivened by great direction. De Niro's best perf in years. 3 stars
3/11/03 Estevan Lapena Above average. 4 stars
12/30/02 Femme_Fataleaa Yeah, this one sucked rocks! 1 stars
12/17/02 IP Freely If you didn't like this movie, you are a retard. Plain and simple 5 stars
11/02/02 Monster W. Kung Mann is one of the most overrated directors, ever. That said, this is actually good stuff. 4 stars
7/15/02 R.W. Welch Well scripted and acted cops and robbers pic though not especially original. 4 stars
2/26/02 Butterbean Hands down..the BEST cops and robbers flick. Even better than L.A. Confidential 5 stars
1/28/02 Alan For all you morons who didn't like it, I'm sorry there weren't enough gun battles. 5 stars
1/24/02 Dan Hogan Awe inspiring cast misused by movie without script or director. Sucks rocks. 1 stars
12/09/01 Chris Very good movie worth while seeing 5 stars
12/09/01 Jim DeNiro vs. Pacino: Think "Clash of the Titans" without all that pesky Greek mythology 5 stars
12/03/01 phil m. afficiando Engaging film with action and emotion; last scenes were too "hollywoody" though. 4 stars
11/29/01 KMG I tried to like this movie, but it was just so damn boring 2 stars
10/29/01 Tribe The finest piece of cinema since Debbie Does Dallas 2000 5 stars
10/29/01 Tim Griffin This is one of the best movies ever made! 5 stars
10/29/01 Shams Huque Absolutely awesome film! This is how films SHOULD be made! 5 stars
10/11/01 Scott McKibben hands down, incredible movie 5 stars
9/03/01 Butterbean Definantly the best DeNiro has been on film. A cops and robbers film that wasn't formulatic 5 stars
8/09/01 E-Funk Michael Mann always delivers...this follows the same cool trend. 4 stars
7/28/01 Henry Ginsberg Riveting from start to finish .De Niro is God 5 stars
5/14/01 The Bomb 69 I felt for the bad guys, kudos Mr. Mann!!! 5 stars
3/20/01 vpitman More of an art flick than a gangster movie. Some beautiful shots at the end. Good story. 5 stars
2/13/01 Jake Bank shootout was eerily similar to N. Hollywood incident. 4 stars
1/03/01 Msitrab Excellent Movie 5 stars
12/24/00 bub best de niro film ever 5 stars
12/18/00 Artist Freak An awesome movie, great chemistry, great characters, Al Pacino at his screaminest 5 stars
11/20/00 The EVIL Penguin the shootout looks just like the one in North Hollywood 4 stars
11/01/00 Bill Neal One of the best films of the 90s!! High power energy!Great acting and shootout!! 5 stars
10/29/00 steven hargreaves best acting, best cast, best shoot out sceen ever, a all time classic 5 stars
10/11/00 Gregg Buchanan this film blew me away,Michael Mann clearly caring about the characters majorand minoralike 4 stars
7/13/00 ID Great direction, great performances, great shootout 5 stars
3/10/00 Matthew Bartley Sorry, but this is soooo overrated 2 stars
12/06/99 I killed Kenny Totally origional movie, a must for everyones video library. 5 stars
11/16/99 Don Valdez Deniro and Pacino... greatest duo ever. 5 stars
11/05/99 Anthony Ellis One of the most brilliant thrillers ever. 5 stars
10/28/99 Ralf Behet Superbly crafted and very well acted. Utterly compelling. Not to be missed. 5 stars
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  15-Dec-1995 (R)
  DVD: 22-Feb-2005

  02-Feb-1996 (15)
  DVD: 01-Nov-1999

  15-Feb-1996 (MA)

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