Heat on DVD
Michael Mann is good at what he does.
Hes definitely a talented filmmaker, and always chooses
talented actors and gives them good roles, but theres nary a Michael Mann
film out there that deserves more than a pretty good.
Heat is a three-hour, epic crime saga that pairs Al Pacino and
Robert De Niro, and puts them onscreen together for the first (and so far,
last) time in Hollywood history. It features a great number of characters with
flaws, who are so obsessed with their work that it has a negative effect of
their personal lives.
De Niro plays Neil McCauley, the head of the gang. Hes a
criminal, but hes not a bad guy. Hes very into his work, so much so
that his catchphrase is: Allow nothing in your life that you cannot walk
out on in thirty seconds flat if you spot the heat around the corner. But
even he sometimes longs for the joy of a personal relationship with someone. On
the other end is Vincent Hanna (Pacino). Hes a tough cop, but hes
not a bad guy. His relationship with his wife is a little rocky, but he has a
soft spot for his stepdaughter. When an armed robbery and multiple murder
occurs on his beat, hes forced to up his tough cop ante and start with
the yelling we all know Pacino so well for.
Then theres Chris (Val Kilmer), friend and co-worker to
McCauley. His marriage is also a little rocky, what with his being a criminal
and all. But hes not a bad guy. His part in the story is not as
imperative, but other movies have had two flawed not-so-bad guys in them, so
why not up it to three?
Basically, McCauley and his gang of thugs want to steal stuff, and
Hanna wants to prevent them from doing so. Thus we have the basis for Heat, a
film that is revered to this day for being one of the best in its genre.
And its pretty good. Its not the mind-blowing
cinematic experience many would have you believe, but its pretty good.
Its main problem is that its quite a bit longer than it needs to be. Some
scenes could have been shorter, and others could have been cut altogether,
without taking anything away from the end result. Theres too much
character stuff going on, when what we really want to see is the action, which
is where Heat really shines. Everything is perfectly planned and executed,
creating some of the finest heist action scenes ever put on film.
You can never argue with having three great actors in a movie
together, but when they dont get to do what they do best its almost
a waste. Pacino is great as a criminal (Scarface anyone?), but all he does here
is yell (which hes done for a large portion of the latter part of his
career). De Niro is far too reserved, and while its appropriate for his
character, we keep wanting him to really do something. Finally, Kilmer is one
of the best character actors out there (The Doors anyone?), but roles like this
remind us more of The Saint than Jim Morrison.
Despite all that, Heat ends up being a fine film, with excellent
action and a great cast. The three-hour runtime is a hard one to get through,
but if youre willing to be in it for the long haul, its a pretty
good ride. Just be ready to hit the road in thirty seconds flat if you see the
heat around the corner.
Originally a bare-bones DVD release, this new version features two
discs, brand new transfers, and some pretty good supplemental material.
Preserving its original aspect ratio of 2.35:1, the picture
quality has improved from the old version, but still has some flaws. Overall
its a bit soft, and you can notice patches of dust during some of the
darker scenes, but considering how much happens in the dark, most of the scenes
are just fine. Occasional bits of color register well, detail and fleshtones
look good, and there are no halos.
The Dolby Digital 5.1 audio track is absolutely splendid, however.
All five channels are given a great workout, with all of them working almost
constantly. Dialogue is perfectly clear, and it meshes well with the sound
effects and music. During the action scenes, gunshots whiz past you in all
directions, people shout at each other from all corners of the room, and the
bangs and crashes make you think something fell down in your living room. While
the video is average, the audio track is arguably reference quality.
On disc one, Michael Mann has included an audio commentary. For
the first half, hes constantly going, talking about the development of
the project and commenting on his work. During the second half, he seems to get
bored and only pops up here and there (and thats about where we lost
Disc two has quite a few goodies, starting off with 11 additional
scenes. Considering the film is already too long and these total less than ten
minutes and dont really add anything, its easy to justify their
deletion. Next is a making-of documentary that adds up to less than fifteen
minutes and is split into three parts (with a Play All option).
True Crime focuses on the real-life cop and criminal who inspired
the film; Crime Stories discusses the screenplays 20-year
history and how the movie finally got made; Into the Fire crams
filming, cast training, shooting the downtown heist, and post-production into
its few minutes.
Pacino and De Niro: The Conversation is a ten-minute
featurette on the creation of the now-famous scene between the two actors, and
Return to the Scene of the Crime follows location manager Janice
Polley and associate producer Gusmano Cesaretti as they head back to certain
places that were used in the filming of Heat.
The DVD presentation is better than the previous version, but
its pretty piddly for a special edition of such a popular film.
Heat, from Warner Bros. Home Entertainment
anamorphic widescreen (2.35:1) 16x9 enhanced, Dolby Digital 5.1
Pacino, Robert De Niro, Tom Sizemore, Diane Venora, Amy Brenneman, Ashley Judd,
Mykelti Williamson, Wes Studi, Ted Levine, Jon Voight and Val Kilmer
Produced by Michael Mann, Art Linson, Written and directed by Michael Mann
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