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IN SHORT: Al Pacino plays Vincent Hanna, an LAPD detective so obsessed with minute details that he can pull the most perfect of crimes apart and bring the bad guy to justice.
Robert De Niro plays Neil McCauley, a thief with instincts so sharp he doesn't leave those kinds of details behind.
Heat is the story of two crimes. One will bring McCauley to the attention of Hanna. One will bring them face to face, in the first shared scene between two of our greatest actors. Both characters warn each other that, if push comes to shove, only one will walk away.
I have now saved you the full ticket price to Heat.
Heat is, in one word: incomprehensible.
Heat is, in two words: warm Jell-o. Somewhere down the line, this coulda shoulda woulda been a contenda. But it requires that you, the paying audience member, have psychic powers to fill in the gaps between what you see in one scene and what you see two or three or more scenes down the line -- and what is left out entirely.
De Niro's character leaves no trails. This means when he has to "eliminate" a member of his crew, the trunk of the car is already lined with plastic. It also means that, with the distraction of a passing police car, he and the two other members of his crew let the intended Hefty bag stuffee vanish in the midst of a fairly empty parking lot.
Pacino's character, on the other hand, after tracking and LOSING De Niro in the midst of a panicked crowd, has no problem picking up the trail in the expanse of an adjoining airport. At night.
DeNiro's crew, so technologically advanced that they have managed to defeat all security systems at a bank they are to rob, bring armor-piercing bullets with them, just in case. But you don't know that until the following gun battle, in which twenty or more cops SURROUND the four crooks, and STILL can't bring them down.
EXCEPT for Pacino, who is such a deadly shot that he puts a bullet in the forehead of one of the crew, thus saving the little girl taken hostage.
De Niro and Pacino said they took their time to find a script that they could both do together. Does anyone out there have a copy of the script that they read? It can't be what writer/director Michael Mann put up on screen. Can't.
Which brings us to the one scene that the two men share. Technically it's a slice more than two, but the grand "showdown" at the finale has no real interaction, so I'll call it, basically, one. The two men sit and have coffee, late at night. Each, through his own resources, knows the history of the other. Each, in his own way, tosses down a gauntlet, along the lines of:
Pacino: If you do it, I'm going to get you.
De Niro: Well, you can try. But you're not going to be able to.
Every would-be actor out there MUST watch this scene. For all its simplicity, it's staggering. It is the matador stalking the bull. It is fireworks ripping apart a calm summer night.
It is not enough.
There are half a dozen or so other subplots that pop up and down in Heat. There is one major twist towards the end that will leave your head reeling. There are some stunning visual sequences that are nothing more than stunning visual sequences. And, as in the post-bank robbery shoot-out, they are far too many and run far too long and make far too little sense.
For the De Niro/Pacino face-to-face alone, had I a stopwatch to tell you when to enter the theater, I will do as I did when rating The Crossing Guard, and drop two bucks for the five minutes of screen time. It may not seem like much, but it IS offered with great respect for the talents of these two men. As for Heat
On average, a first run movie ticket will run you Eight Bucks. Were Cranky able to set his own price for Heat,he would have paid . . .
Cranky Critic wouldn't pay a penny for Heat.
If you do buy a ticket, and find yourself thinking as I do, pay close note to the names of critics that raved how this nonsense was "A Masterpiece!!!" Think twice before you believe them again.
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