Director: Michael Mann
Starring: Al Pacino and Robert De Niro
You probably (haven't) noticed that I've streamlined the format of the above info. No longer will you be treated to the words "on IMDb Top 250" after the word "ranking." This is of no consequence, but I felt the need to point it out. Anyhow, between late last night and this afternoon, I watched Heat, the longest fucking crime drama ever made. Not to sound impatient, but yeah, this probably didn't need to be three hours long. It was, however, a very good film, and contained the performance of Al Pacino's career (I don't like Scarface, remember) and what might be the last great Robert De Niro role since he's resigned himself to stupid comedies these days. Val Kilmer also manages to be good in spite of the handicap of being Val Kilmer, and a fourteen-year-old Natalie Portman gives a savvy beyond her years performance in the vein of her role in The Professional. Beyond the great ensemble cast, Michael Mann's script is better than one would expect a gunfights-and-heists/cops-and-criminals movie to have, and the pacing is a shockingly not bad given the unnecessary three-hour length. And above all, the criminals' guiding principle that presumably lent the film its title – "Don't let yourself get attached to anything you are not willing to walk out on in 30 seconds flat if you feel the heat around the corner." – is pretty much the coolest goddamn thing any criminal has ever said.
Heat employs a lot of played-out cop movie tropes, but it manages to keep them fresh almost entirely on the strength of the script and the performances. We've seen cops cross the lines of justice to get closer to the criminals they pursue. We've seen the stressful lives of cops put a strain on their relationships at home. We've seen criminals who turn out to have hearts of gold. We've seen masked men pull heists. We've seen gunfights. But Heat gives them to us with such a straight, unwinking face that we're forced to take notice. It doesn't break down any barriers (Except maybe the "how long a crime drama should be" barrier. Okay, I'm done.) but it does what it does so convincingly that you can't help but be impressed. This is an instance of a movie that "descends" into cliché without ever really descending. One could compare it to The Departed in that regard.
I'll keep the conclusion short, especially since I'm very busy tonight and probably shouldn't have taken time away from my real work to write about a movie. If you like crime dramas, you're going to like Heat. There's no reason you should not see this if you loved movies like The Departed and Donnie Brasco. You'll love it.
The Good: Hey, Natalie Portman's in it!
The Bad: Damn, Natalie Portman attempts suicide in it.
The Skinny: #123 would be fine if it shaved off 30 minutes. I'd be more comfortable with it around #200 as it stands.