Movies That Settle – Heat

Posted: December 7, 2016 in Movies That Settle, Uncategorized

I am maybe playing with fire here, because I haven’t actually seen this movie in years. In fact, I think the last time I watched it, it was my VHS copy. Remember that? It was one of those two-tape monsters.

Yes, Michael Mann’s Heat, starring Al Pacino and Robert DeNiro was long. Or it seemed like it at the time. With a run time of two hours and fifty minutes, it is actually a half-hour shorter than the last Lord of the Rings movie, and about as long as the first Hobbit movie, and yet those movies seemed to go on forever and I would probably never be able to sit through them again, but I’ve seen Heat several times. It’s either a shortening of the collective attention-span or the fact that Heat just had fewer characters to keep track of, but it seems like a quick, little crime movie to kill an afternoon compared to anything Peter Jackson has ever done. Maybe the whole two-tape VHS thing just seemed daunting in retrospect.

Or maybe Heat just seems long because not a whole lot happens in it. Basically, the movie is one long acting duel between two of the greats just before their total descent into the land of Phoning It In.

(In fact, I think they made that skit based on this movie. And it’s hilariously on target.)

The funny thing is that Heat was actually marketed on being a Pacino-DeNiro slugfest, but which is enough for most people, but when you strip that away, it’s a very basic heist movie. Like, extremely basic. We are told that DeNiro and his crew are super-thieves, and Pacino is a super-cop, but other than that, it’s basically an over-acted episode of Law and Order. The logline on IMDB says that it’s about , “A group of professional bank robbers start to feel the heat from police when they unknowingly leave a clue at their latest heist.” Now, I don’t doubt that happened, but it seems like a minor plot detail to me, and yet that quick synopsis makes it seem like that’s the driving action. Maybe this is just my faulty memory again and that was the big moment, but I suppose that the people at IMDB have to say something that describes it better than, “Two aging legends ham it up one more time!”

Basically, there’s a whole lot of talking for two hours of the two hours and fifty minutes, but what it boils down to is that Pacino knows that DeNiro is pulling a heist (because they sit down and have a little chat. Standard police procedure for all super-cops), but DeNiro has to pull it anyway, because this is, of course, the big “retirement” score. DeNiro has also gone against his Jedi training by falling in love with Judging Amy (Amy Brenneman), and therein lies the rub. DeNiro’s mentor told him,”Never have anything in your life that you can’t walk out on in thirty seconds flat if you spot the heat coming around the corner.” Not only does it make for a great title for the movie, but some prisoner somewhere probably has that tattooed on his back.

In the movie’s one great scene, DeNiro and his crew pull off the heist, sort of. There is all sorts of ratting out and stuff, but basically, it’s DeNiro and Pacino and their various colleagues shooting at each other, and eventually DeNiro gets away with some of the money, and Val Kilmer, and Pacino kills everyone else in DeNiro’s crew. So, it’s win-win.

After wasting all the rats, DeNiro asks Judging Amy if she’s down to make a getaway to New Zealand with his stolen money. They plan to meet, but acting on another tip (these are the worst criminals ever), Pacino shows up, as well. DeNiro spots him and decides that it’s time to invoke his 30-Second Rule, but it’s too late. Pacino spots him and the chase is on. Well, “chase” may be exaggerating a little. Both of these guys were in their fifties, so they kind of waddled.

The big finale comes on an airport runway, just for dramatic effect, and Pacino shoots DeNiro in the chest multiple times after seeing his shadow in the in the bright lights of an oncoming plane. DeNiro is happy to not have to go back to prison, and Pacino is happy because, well, he got paid to do this. The two men share a nice moment as DeNiro  lay dying, holding each other’s di- uh, I mean, hands.

I guess we’re supposed to understand that the two were more alike than they seemed to be. That they both had struggles in their personal lives that made them eerily similar, but their professional lives kept them from being pals. I think in the end, though, you’re kind of happy that it’s over, and that you got to see this:


I do love my gifs.

The thing that struck me as I was looking around the interwebs for information about this movie, was that it actually has a pretty good/famous supporting cast. Other than Kilmer (who is completely crazy but will always have a special place in my heart for his role in Kiss, Kiss, Bang, Bang), we have Jon Voight, Tom Sizemore, Ashley Judd, Dennis Haysbert, Natalie Portman, Hank Azaria, Henry Rollins, Jeremy Piven and the great Danny Trejo, who actually plays “Trejo.” And yet, all of them play second fiddle to the two aging stars who basically just mumbled for 90% of the movie.

The real problem with this movie, though, was that it was incredibly slow and bland. You’ve heard people use the saying “All sizzle and no steak,” right? Well, this movie was just steak. And slightly over-cooked, if you ask me. I know it seems strange to say this, given the two mega-stars known for chewing the scenery, but that’s what I think. I would have expected Mann, the creator of Miami Vice, to have something with a little more pop than this. Yes, the heist scene is amazing, and there’s a little bit of drama with the two guys leading similar lives, and Kilmer as the guy that DeNiro sees as the son he never had, but mostly it’s a lot of talking leading up to one cool gunfight, and then some more talking, and then the good guys win. And maybe in the hands of younger, hungrier actors, and a filmmaker who was a little more daring, that would be enough (In fact, See The Town for a similar movie done way better.). But here, we’re stuck with this:


Never gets old.

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