23 June 2000 | aboriginee
The best character film of all time.
Sound like a bold statement? Devotees of classic cops and robbers flicks of old will no doubt take exception, but I believe that Michael Mann achieved some measure of perfection with Heat. To break this three-hour gem of a film down to its core, this is a film about men - strong men - and the supporting role that he women of the film have on them for better or worse. Take Pacino as good cop Vincent Hanna: one of the most intense characterizations of the tragic hero that I have ever witnessed, as he laments the demise of his third marriage to a pill-junkie wife. A fact which he discusses with his archnemesis (De Niro) in what history will regard as one of the most frenetic scenes in the history of film. The dialogue in this scene (at the very end of the first tape, if you own the VHS version) sets up the last half of the film beautifully, as our two rivals come to the joint realization that they have no hand in choosing the paths that will lead them to their ultimate confrontation: their very natures so define their respective actions that any attempt to do otherwise would simply be a waste of time. While I have heard others (who I am ashamed at times to call close friends) say that Heat drags in places, I will concede that there are moments in the film that require more than the cursory attention that they give to the movie they happen to be watching at any given time (I'm sorry not every director is Jerry Bruckheimer), there are poignant developments of character in Heat that many would casually disregard. I am thinking of the interaction between the ex-con who finds conditional employment in a diner with an opportunistic scum of a boss, and whose girlfriend is so proud of him for swallowing his pride and not simply giving the sonofabitch a good pummeling. But there is a catharsis that I felt for that same ex-con when De Niro's character presents him with the opportunity to take just one more score, for old time's sake. Who doesn't feel for this guy - this minor character in a film with big-time heavyweights who gets to shine for a few brief moments. That's what Heat is really: a series of brief moments, some touching, others traumatic, and still others incredibly horrifying in the feelings that they inspire in the romantic who, like me sees not black or white portrayals of protagonist and villain, but a montage of grays that combine to create a vivid spectrum of film characterization that could not be found in hundreds of films combined. One of my five favorite films of all time, Heat is a cinematic banquet of intense imagery and pulse-pounding action. Come hungry.