So, tired of those "feel good" movies that come fast and furious during the holiday season? Tired of little smiling faces that surround the grand old Yuletide log, as characters that you couldn't even remotely begin to care about drone on about their useless suburban existances? If so, then "Miami Vice" creator Michael Mann's new film "Heat" is the perfect cure-all for your saccharine sweetened movie maladies.
"Heat" is a throwback to the days when directors tried to force as much sweaty, leering machismo on you as you could stand. You know, those wonderful Reagan eighties. Of course, Michael Mann perfected this style of filmmaking with stuff like the aforementioned Don Johnson vehicle, as well as several other pretty cool crime films, like "Manhunter" and "Thief". "Heat" tops them all, as Mann has assembled a great tough guy cast and stuck them into an edge of your seat thriller that just never stops.
Al Pacino and Robert DeNiro are the co-stars of "Heat", and the two of them approach their roles from opposite ends of the big screen spectrum. DeNiro plays Neal, a professional criminal that heads up a crew of family men who also just happen to be cold blooded killers. These guys just don't care if so called "innocent" bystanders get in their way, and they use automatic assault type weapons to knock off armored cars, banks, and the like. As Neal, DeNiro is very cool and calm, almost understated. His performance brings out all the subtle intelligence of his character, but is also filled with a kind of "machismo angst" that makes Neal somewhat of a sympathetic case study.
And then there's mister "Hoo-Hahh!" himself, Al Pacino, who plays Vincent, the head of the Violent Crimes Unit who must take Neal and his crew down at all costs. Vincent also has a crew behind him, and these are guys who've basically thrown away their private lives in favor of the twenty-four-hour-a-day jobs they've chosen. Vincent is on his third failed marriage, has an adolescent step-daughter that's almost manically depressed, and worst of all, he's "Hoo-Hahh"-ing all the time. Yes, Pacino is over the top as Vincent, gawking and preening for the camera, acting like a crazy man, and annoying and intimidating both friends and enemies alike. Is it a good performance? Uhhh, yeah, if you dig the kind of over-acting that only guys like Rod Steiger have ever attempted.
And if you mix in extremely strong supporting performances by people like Val Kilmer and Ashley Judd, explosive action sequences that are downright frightening, and enough peeks into the secret mindset of both criminals and the police to thrill the Dick Tracy in all of us, what you get is my kind of Christmas movie. Long live Michael Mann.
Copyright 1995 John A. Lavin
"Movie Magazine International" Movie Review Index
"Movie Magazine International" Home Page