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Director Michael Mann's crime thriller "Heat" is the story of two men, outlaw Robert DeNiro and good guy Al Pacino. DeNiro plays "Neil". a career criminal who specializes in "scores", big robberies. Pacino is on the other side of the law, as cop "Vince Hanna".
The movie is significantly different than most cops 'n' robber films for the character development that builds throughout the movie, not just for the main characters, but also for the supporting cast. You see the parallel lives of Neil and Vince; both are highly successful in their chosen professions, but their personal lives are in the toilet. Vince is on the downhill slope of a fourth marriage, Neil lives in a colorless, sterile apartment without even furniture, ready to leave the moment he senses the heat around the corner. Neither one tries too seriously to deal with their personal lives however; they are always obsessing about their careers.
The initial sequences show one of Neil's scores, an armored truck robbery that goes off brilliantly, except one of the robbers, obviously a psychotic, shoots one of the guards for no reason. The robbers immediately kill all the guards. Later, Vince comments on this, noting that kill one, kill them all is the sign of a professional. Meanwhile, at the diner, the robbers are making plans for splitting the loot. DeNiro makes a mistake, letting the offending robber escape, instead of killing him. This is the director's way of showing he is losing his grip. This mistake costs Neil in the end.
The supporting cast is excellent, with Val Kilmer, Tom Sizemore, and John Voight on the robbers' side and Wes Studi on the cops'. There are women in the cast, but they do not provide much more than window dressing. This film is about cops and robbers. When Vince and Neil finally meet face to face, we realize they are really pretty much the same.
The gun battles are superb, the action sequences gripping. However, as a con, there was a little too much character development of some of the side characters, particularly Waingro (the psycho), and Vince's wife. The story grew from a tight action thriller to a soap opera-like production. The film could have benefited from some judicious cutting.
Fans of "Heat" will also like "Casino", "Carlito's Way", "Scarface", and the Godfather series, particularly part II. Al Pacino fans will also like "Sea of Love", in which he plays a cop.
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