You probably already know a lot about one of the best heist movies ever made, Heat, but I simply cannot resist writing about it. After all, it’s been almost thirty fucking years since it saw the light of day. This means that there are probably several generations of young men and women who know nothing about Hanna and Neil. And they need to know about them and this movie. Gritty, realistic, and suspenseful, with superb character development, it’s a fucking masterpiece.
Granted, the whole macho lonely man focused solely on his work angle may be a deal-breaker for some but this is not the only thing Heat has to offer. In that regard, it reminds me of some of the best John Woo movies. They also feature a good guy and a bad guy locked in mortal combat. And while we don’t learn much about the cop side of things, we get to know our bad guys pretty well. This is where that ensemble cast comes into the picture.
And not just them. We also have young Natalie Portman, always dependable Jon Voight, and Danny Trejo, plus William Fichtner. And who could forget motherfucking Waingro? Now, the real Waingro, after snitching out some influential Chicago mobster, ended up dead in Mexico. Oddly enough, the actor playing him, Kevin Gage, ended up in prison a couple of years later, where everyone just called him Waingro. I won’t talk about our lead trio of Pacino, De Niro, and Kilmer. You know they were simply stellar.
Heat is a no-bullshit heist movie that does tend to get bogged down in some exposition dumps. I think a couple of sub-plots could have been sacrificed for better pacing but what do I know? This is without a doubt, Michael Mann’s best movie. I mean, Manhunter was solid but it’s not nearly as good as this one. As I say so often when I’m talking about these so-called perfect movies, stars just align. This means that every department gives its best and creates something for eternity.
And from a technical standpoint, Heat is a fucking flawless movie. Did you know that the scene where Val Kilmer runs out of bullets and has to change the magazine quickly is regularly shown to Marines? I fucking timed him and he did it in just five seconds! The same goes for the whole shootout as it is a perfect example of proper retreat under fire. Additionally, Mann used microphones to record gunshots from different positions so he could avoid using sound effects. So, this is one of the rare gunfights where you can hear how it might actually sound.
Of course, most of the bullet holes on cars are real as they took them to a shooting range to make the damage look realistic. And there will be a lot of bullet holes. Mostly because Neil’s crew is shooting on full auto while the cops keep it on semi to protect the civilians. This is probably the juiciest shootout of the decade and it lasts for quite a while.
This is not where the realism ends as the entire movie is based on one Chicago PD cop and his quest to capture the real Neil McCauley. Actual bank robbers were consulted to get everything right and the cast spent months with prisoners and criminals to get into their characters. After its release, Heat inspired several real-life robberies. You probably heard about the North Hollywood shootout, where two guys actually improved on Neil’s plans. Check out the movie 44 Minutes: The North Hollywood Shoot-Out to learn more about it.
And if you want to see how the European criminals go about this, check out Nokas, also based on real events. With a runtime of almost three hours, Heat almost never gets boring. It’s an engaging crime epic oozing with style and passion. I could go on and on, telling you how great it is. I watch it almost every two or three years and every time I enjoy it more and more. It reminds me of the late seventies French noir movies as it’s very immersive and goes straight for the jugular.
Finally, I know that this recommendation feels more like a list of fun facts than a regular review but I think we all see the same things. And if you’ve seen them enough times, you will find reading about them boring. So, I thought I should spice things up and possibly entice new viewers to check out this masterpiece. If you’re looking for similar movies take a look at our Rabbit Reviews selection of Heist Movies.
Director: Michael Mann
Writer: Michael Mann
Cast: Al Pacino, Robert De Niro, Val Kilmer, Jon Voight, Tom Sizemore, Diane Venora, Wes Studi
Fun Facts: Al Pacino improvised the line “because she’s got a great ass” scaring the shit out of Hank Azaria.