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HEAT(director/writer/producer: Michael Mann; cinematographer: Dante Spinotti; editors: Pasquale Buba/William Goldenberg/ Dov Hoenig/Tom Rolf; music: Elliot Goldenthal; cast: Robert De Niro (Neil McCauley), Al Pacino (Lt. Vincent Hanna), Val Kilmer (Chris Shiherlis), Jon Voight (Nate), Tom Sizemore (Michael Cheritto), Diane Venora (Justine Hanna), Amy Brenneman (Eady), Wes Studi (Detective Casals), Ted Levine(Bosko), Danny Trejo (Trejo), Kevin Gage (Waingro); Runtime: 188; MPAA Rating: R; producer: Art Linson; Warner Brothers Pictures; 1995)
“Riveting cops-and-robbers tale.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Michael Mann’s (“The Last of the Mohicans”) painstakingly detailed crime epic teams up Robert De Niro and Al Pacino, who prior to this film appeared together in only one other film–The Godfather 11. This is an ambitious movie that takes chances, which most of the time succeeds.

The riveting cops-and-robbers tale is set in modern day LA. Neil McCauley (Robert De Niro) is the ruthless, control freak crime boss of a well-organized gang. The gang likes to leave no loose ends in their well-planned crimes – a perfect method, at least so far. McCauley’s philosophy is summed up in this one-liner “To have nothing which you can’t walk away from within 30 seconds.” The gang assault on an armored truck led by McCauley, includes gang members Chris Shiherlis (Val Kilmer), Michael Cheritto (Tom Sizemore), Trejo (Danny Trejo) and new recruit Waingro (Kevin Gage). In pursuit of bonds they ram the armored truck, blow its door off, grab the guards and successfully flee. The only problem is that Waingro gets jumpy and kills one of the guards. This pisses off McCauley. When he tries to execute Waingro for endangering the operation, Waingro manages to escape.

Lt. Vincent Hanna (Al Pacino) is the homicide cop investigating this bloody robbery. The workaholic cop is less successful at home than he is on the job, as his zeal for work is threatening to breakup his third marriage to wife Justine (Diane Venora). But by his tireless work and through a lucky break, he tracks down a gang member connected with McCauley. This leads the two men, who are similar in nature and both equally as cunning, to eventually confront each other face to face over coffee at a cafe. But Hanna lets McCauley slip out of a trap, and that allows McCauley to attempt one last daring bank robbery that will allow him to retire to an easy life in the Caribbean with much younger new girlfriend Eady (Amy Brenneman)–a graphic designer who’s kept unaware of his criminal activities.

There are many exciting action scenes, though Mann takes the time necessary to focus in on the battle of personalities between these two workaholics. The angle here is that both the criminal and law officer think alike and have interchangeable personalities. Though the two come to respect each other, nevertheless their dedication to their activities leads them to a final bloody showdown.

Spinotti’s fine camerawork captures all the frenzied action with flare. The ensemble cast immeasurably aids the terrific star performances, while Mann’s script and direction is tight. One of the better crime movies of the decade.

REVIEWED ON 4/26/2004 GRADE: B +

Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”