I’m shocked that it took as long as it did to get these two actors (certainly the two greatest of their generation) to do a scene where they talked to one another. I suppose budgetary constraints and other mundane things got in the way until it landed on De Niro’s desk and he talked his colleague into making it with him.
Honestly i think they should have waited to do “The Insider” together, as the material would have allowed them to stretch their legs a little more. But shall we get on to it?
Since this is a Michael Mann film, the visuals have to be addressed. Mann and his long time DOP Dante Spinotti, create a slick and visually interesting thriller despite all of the gun metal greys and sickly fluorescent greens that surround the movie. Action scenes like the initial armoured car jacking and explosive bank robbery shoot out, make me long for the times when you could actually make out what was happening on screen the first time around.
Good performances are also in plentiful supply here, as even a bit part like Natalie Portman’s hapless step daughter are handled with great care. The three leads of Kilmer, Pacino, and De Niro are clearly all game here and any fan of them will probably end up liking what they see.
Good God this movie is in desperate need of some trimming shears. At almost 3 hours long, the film almost collapses under the weight of its own sense of self importance and unnecessary sub plots. We have secondary characters being introduced out of left field 40 minutes into the film, with no pay off or reason in sight for hours afterword. We have a go nowhere serial killer sub plot that only serves to give me more reasons to be creeped out by Kevin Gage. We have Mann trying to wring the melodrama out of the script with both hands, by giving bit parts overly long and needlessly over emotional scenes.
Characters flood the movie to the point where i had trouble keeping track of everyone’s names. Who’s Anna and why should i care? Oh, she’s the woman who wasn’t terrified of Danny Trejo, that was on screen for all of 45 seconds. It’s not as bad as “Karas” but then again most things would have to try very hard to be.
But lets forget all that and get down to the real reason why most people went to go see the movie, that being De Niro and Pacino finally sharing a scene together. I’ll tell you straight up i wasn’t very impressed the first time i saw it, and i’m still not impressed with it now. I can see that Mann and the actors purposefully did the scene as subtle and subdued as possible, but for all the back and forth about “doing what you gotta do” and dream analysis, the material just isn’t very deep and doesn’t give the actors very much to work with. As the character’s motivations are clear from the very beginning, as their actions speak louder than their words here. This conversation they have wouldn’t be out of place as a vignette in “Coffee and Cigarettes”, and just isn’t worth the amount of time invested in waiting, nor the actor’s respective talents.
As for the actors themselves, i’ll watch Pacino’s movies over De Niro’s any day of the week. While the two are no less talented than the other, De Niro’s frown, furrowed brow, and constantly bored demeanour just doesn’t impress me at all. While its fair to say that Pacino’s cigarette dry delivery and overly loud out bursts, get old after the hundredth time, i just find he has more energy and charisma around him.
“Heat” in the end is a rather frustrating affair. Underneath it’s an effective cops and robbers story, but it’s bogged down by its bloated running length. It’s got Robert De Niro and Al Pacino sharing the screen together, but the material given to them isn’t very challenging. It’s greatness is ham stringed by its crippling faults, and its a shame.
Had Mann had just crafted the film into the tight, slick, and effective cat and mouse thriller that it really wants to be, instead of the over wrought and bloated hum drum character study it is, we would have a great movie. As a result it’s worth a look for anyone curious, but it is by no means a standout piece of work by anyone involved in the making of this film.
** 1/2 OUT OF FIVE