Sunday, June 1, 2008

Let’s Play Cops and Robbers - Heat

I revisited Michael Mann's crime epic, "Heat" and found it to be a little less enthralling than I remembered it being. It's still a top notch crime film, with great acting and one of the most intense shoot out sequences I've seen. As usual Mann makes the city (Los Angeles in this case) look incredibly cool, both in style and in atmosphere. "Heat" also has a great score and soundtrack that really lends to it's overall aesthetic and mood, something that Mann does really well in all his movies.

What I actually found to be a bit lacking was the basic construction of the story and more important the subplots. The character that Val Kilmer plays gets a solid share of screen time but in the end it doesn't really amount to much more than what we are already seeing in both De Niro's and Pacino's characters. While the subplot does end up affecting the investigation by Pacino's detective team, the emotional thrust of that subplot duplicates De Niro's story arc and not as interesting. Kilmer's scenes are well acted and written but seem to slow down the film a bit too much. This ends up being a problem since "Heat" clocks in at around 140 minutes.

A little research revealed that "Heat" is actually a revamp (or remake if you prefer) of a movie that Michael Mann did for television called "LA Takedown". In the television version the story is streamlined to the main conflict between the criminal mastermind and the detective after him. I think this simplicity would have worked for the theatrical film. Of course, when you hire Val Kilmer, you've got to give him a juicy part, right?

Still, I enjoy the film. So much of it works so well that of all of Mann's recent crime features ("Heat", "Collateral" and "Miami Vice") this is the best. Great cast, good script, excellent direction, great music and superior sound work (half the reason the shootout works so well is the sound used in it). I think "Heat" is one of the best modern crime dramas.

What do you think of "Heat"? Was it too long and too slow? Do you think I'm out of line on this one? Have you seen a better crime drama that works on all levels?

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