Movies I Love: Heat
When I was sixteen I rented Heat for the first time. It bored me to the point where I didn’t even finish it, and that’s only happened with 3 other movies in my entire life.
Thankfully a friend of mine whose opinions on movies I place a lot of faith in convinced me to take another look at it. I’ve always been a huge fan of crime dramas and I have a soft spot for bank heist flicks, so I realized that Heat should be up my alley.
Years later it is now one of my favorite movies of all time.
Let’s start with the fact that this movie was hyped as the first time De Niro and Pacino appeared together on screen. While they were in The Godfather II they were never on screen at the same time excluding some brief crossfading. Many people have complained that Heat didn’t live up to the hype as the two are hardly ever on screen at the same time. In the wide screen version of the film (yes, I’m one of those people who think wide screen is always superior to full screen) we get a few brief shots as they share some coffee at a diner, a scene widely regarded as the peak moment of the film.
The movie’s title is a reference to a well known street term for cops, but it also extends to how the men on both sides of the fence (cops and crooks) are trying to balance their lives between their professions and home. As the movie opens Al Pacino’s character is struggling through a third failing marriage while De Niro’s character starts his first relationship in an unknown (to the viewer) amount of time. Hell, it could be his first kiss for all we are told.
De Niro’s crook character lives by a simple code: “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.” The conflict between work and home is inevitable even with that simple rule as his character’s new relationship ultimately jeopardizes his final flight from the L.A.P.D.
The technical aspects of Heat are what really solidify it as a classic in my collection. Not a single sound stage was used during filming. Director Michael Mann used sixty five real locations in L.A. instead. Sounds for all the weapons fire were recorded live at the shoot so you end up with a very accurate sounding movie. In fact, if you’ve never heard an action movie recorded this way you probably weren’t even aware of the difference between dubbed weapons fire and live fire. It may sound like a small detail but believe me it makes all the difference in the world.
Ultimately Heat has no grand lessons or moral lessons to learn, other than maybe we should all spend more time at home. If anything, Heat is an homage to the toll one’s professional life can take on a person, and how, if we’re not careful, we can be consumed, no matter which side of the fence we’re on.
You can pick up two versions of Heat, both available at Amazon (and elsewhere of course):
One last thing I forgot to mention: Heat clocks in at 2 hours and 50 minutes, so be prepared.