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Warner Home Video presents

Heat: SE (1995)

Vincent Hanna: You know, we're sitting and I are like a couple of regular fellas. I mean, you do what you do, and I do what I gotta do. And now that we've been face to face...if I'm there and I gotta put you away, I won't like it. But, I'll tell ya...if it's between you and some poor bastard whose wife you're gonna turn into a widow, brother, you are going down.
Neil McCauley: There's a flip side to that coin. What if you do got me boxed in and I gotta put you down? Because, no matter what, you will not get in my way. We've been face to face, yeah. But, I will not hesitate. Not for a second.- Al Pacino, Robert De Niro

Stars: Al Pacino, Robert De Niro
Other Stars: Val Kilmer, Jon Voight, Tom Sizemore, Diane Venora, Amy Brenneman, Ashley Judd, Mykelti Williamson, Wes Studi, Ted Levine, Dennis Haysbert, William Fichtner, Natalie Portman, Tom Noonan, Kevin Gage, Hank Azaria, Kim Staunton, Jerry Trimble, Danny Trejo, Jeremy Piven, Xander Berkeley, Ricky Harris, Tone Loc
Director: Michael Mann

MPAA Rating: R for violence, language
Run Time: 02h:50m:20s
Release Date: 2005-02-22
Genre: crime

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer


DVD Review

An armored truck comes to a halt in Los Angeles due to an ambulance blocking its path. As the men inside that truck wait patiently for the paramedics to finish their business, a semi-truck T-bones them. Instantaneously the men inside know they are being robbed. A highly skilled crew of thieves successfully steals 1.6 million dollars in bearer bonds and escapes the scene before the police even arrive. However, before it's finished, a loose cannon on the crew executes one of the guards, causing the other crew members to finish the job and execute all of them.

Thus begins Michael Mann's masterful Heat. Audiences looked forward to this picture with anticipation at the chance to see two of the screen's best actors, Robert De Niro and Al Pacino, face off for the first time. Over the years, the film has become a sort of classic, with its epic scope and intimate heart, delivering one of the most riveting and intelligent cops-and-robbers dramas ever made.

Neil McCauley (Robert De Niro) is a self-educated criminal, with a rigid code of life. He lives in near isolation, with a gorgeous house on the ocean that lacks any furniture. Despite his ascetic lifestyle, McCauley's crew does not follow suit. Chris Shiherlis (Val Kilmer) is a degenerate gambler with a wife, Charlene (Ashley Judd), and child. Neil warns him to avoid these kinds of commitments, holding that a thief cannot allow himself to be attached to anything he won't walk out on within 30 seconds at the sign of heat. Yet while celebrating with their other crewmember, Michael Cherito (Tom Sizemore), and his family, Neil becomes aware of his great loneliness. His rigid code of abstinence begins to crumble as he starts up a relationship with a graphic designer, Eady (Amy Brenneman).

While McCauley's crew prepares for their next score, a bank with a $12 million payoff, LAPD Lieutenant Vincent Hanna (Al Pacino) and his entourage of detectives begin to investigate their activities. Hanna's skill at tracking down criminals rivals McCauley's skill at avoiding the police. While Hanna eventually succeeds in tracking McCauley's crew down, his personal life is in shambles. His third wife, Justine (Diane Venora), is fed-up with his constant neglect and her daughter, Lauren (Natalie Portman), is deeply depressed. Hanna cares for the two of them, but his addiction to police work creates an emotional cleft that cannot be bridged.

The crux of the script, written by director Mann, is the parallel between McCauley and Hanna. The two men become aware of one another as the story unfolds, each one holding remarkable respect for his adversary. Yet at no time is there any doubt that this professional admiration will not affect their behavior, for both men are dedicated to their jobs first and foremost. There are several other stories that run alongside the main conflict between Neil and Vincent, including the re-emergence of Waingro (Kevin Gage), McCauley's loose cannon from the armored truck heist. I won't delve into any of those stories here because part of the brilliance of the film is how it takes seemingly unimportant events and brings them into the McCauley-Hanna dynamic. It's a tribute to Michael Mann's direction that he is able to have such a large cast of characters and a truly dense plot that makes perfect sense and never once feels overly serendipitous. Perhaps the major action sequence between McCauley and Hanna's crews would not play out in real life exactly the way it does on screen, but it feels right when you're watching it. Mann's assured direction never takes a wrong step, cinematically speaking. The climactic showdown between Hanna and McCauley is a tour-de-force in filmmaking, with Elliot Goldenthal's highly original score (Moby and others also contributed music) adding to the immensely beautiful staging. In this scene, there's emotional tension because we're invested in these characters and what is going to happen is truly unknown.

The success of the film does not belong entirely to Mann, however. Equally important to his work is the editing, headed up by Dov Hoenig and Pasquale Buba (among others) that makes the film's 170-minute running time fly by as if it were only 100. The crosscutting between different storylines and locations gives a life to the film and resembles the sprawling landscape of Los Angeles (a city obviously beloved by these filmmakers). Dante Spinotti gorgeously captures the picture, shot back in the day when Mann predominantly utilized steadicams instead of handheld footage. The mixing of long lenses with wide-angle ones creates a unique visual tone. There's a rough, nearly documentary style to the visuals while being simultaneously atmospheric. Neil Spisak's production design goes a long way in achieving that effect, too.

However, I believe that the true source of strength here are the characters and the performances that realize them. The entire supporting cast magnificently lend credibility to this crime saga, with Diane Venora's turn being the most impressive of the bunch. Her subtle approach to the highly intellectual Justine perfectly contrasts Pacino's sensational, gut-instinct portrayal of Hanna. Vincent Hanna is one of Pacino's best performances this side of Michael Corleone. A few scenes could be misconstrued as over-acting, but it is in the nature of Hanna to almost always be acting as he tries to throw those around him off guard in order to catch McCauley. The awesome performance by Pacino is matched and even bested by De Niro's role as McCauley. It is a shame that De Niro did not take home an Oscar for his work here, since it is one of his best performances. His facial expressions and posture perfectly encapsulate how McCauley is drowning in loneliness. What's even more impressive about De Niro's work is how he makes Neil a three-dimensional character, causing us to both fear and care for him.

Of course, no good review of Heat can fail to mention the conversation McCauley and Hanna have over coffee. It's one of the most famous movie scenes of the 1990s, and with good reason, as it features truly stunning acting. So stunning that the six-minute scene of two men talking calmly with one another is unbelievably profound and enthralling. Rumors aside, this is probably the only time De Niro and Pacino will be seen acting opposite one another in a film and for that reason alone it should be seen. I also have to compliment Michael Mann on this scene; he takes a minimalist approach to it, using only shot-reverse-shot close-ups of the actors (which is why some maintain that the two were never actually on the set together) that strike the right tone for the whole sequence. This is the most important scene of the film, where all of the cards are put on the table, and it delivers.

Michael Mann made an extremely enjoyable and intelligent film last year, Collateral, which in many ways feels like a continuation of his themes here. However, it is tough to imagine that he'll ever assemble a film of this magnitude again. Each time I view it, Heat seems better. Epically human and humanly epic, it's a remarkable achievement in all respects.

Rating for Style: A
Rating for Substance: A


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio2.35:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: All of the information available to me, which includes referencing the previous DVD, leads me to conclude that the anamorphic 2.35:1 transfer for this release is identical with the original version Warner put out several years ago. That means a brief portion of the scene with Vincent speaking to Ralph (Xander Berkeley) still isn't correctly color-timed and the image suffers from minor, frequent print defects. Additionally, there's a grain to the exterior night scenes that could either be by artistic design or as a result of a bad transfer (my inclination is that it's part of the design). Leaving those qualms aside, contrast is solid and blacks primarily come across quite nicely. Skin tones are accurate and detail is strong. If it wasn't for those print defects and that color-timing problem, this would be a first-rate transfer.

Image Transfer Grade: B+

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
Dolby Digital
English, Frenchyes

Audio Transfer Review: Like the image, the Dolby Digital 5.1 mix also is the same as the previous release. Considering the quality of this mix, it's easy to understand why Warner wouldn't have created a new one. The whole sound system really opens up during this listen, with ambient noise and sound effects giving the home theater a nice workout. The sound separation and directionality are extremely effective (particularly during the heist scenes) and during the climax at the airport it actually sounds as though the airplanes are flying right over you. Dialogue is well balanced and always audible. Additionally, the music sounds fantastic in all of the speakers. There's also a French Dolby Digital 5.1 mix available.

Audio Transfer Grade:

Disc Extras

Full Motion menu with music
Scene Access with 52 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English, French, Spanish with remote access
3 Original Trailer(s)
11 Deleted Scenes
1 Documentaries
2 Featurette(s)
1 Feature/Episode commentary by Michael Mann
Packaging: Amaray Double
Picture Disc
2 Discs
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: RSDL
Layers Switch: 01h:35m:04s

Extras Review: If you're hesitant to double dip on this title due to it containing the same image and sound transfers, fear not because these extras are worth your money. Both discs contain excellent full motion menus with Dolby Digital 5.1 surround sound. The first disc contains the film's three original theatrical trailers. I can still vividly remember the advertising campaign for the movie, so it's great to see all of the trailers presented here in 2.35:1 widescreen. Also available on the first disc is a commentary by Michael Mann. Admittedly, at times he narrates the events on the screen a bit too much, however there's still a lot of good material here. He points out some interesting anecdotes about his own fascination with crime and also gives a vivid telling of the creation of these characters. Some of the information is superfluous, but primarily this is a fine commentary.

The second disc holds even better special features, starting with the documentary, The Making of Heat (59m:11s). The documentary can be played as either one feature, or in three sections. Each section contains interviews with the cast, crew, and actual police officers who helped inspire the story. The first section, True Crime (14m:45s), focuses on the story of the real Neil McCauley, who was a Chicago bank robber, and Chuck Adamson, the police officer who busted him (and Michael Mann's friend). It's an interesting look into the story of these two men and how it inspired the film. There's also a nice amount of information about Mann's career prior to Heat. The second section, Crime Stories (20m:25s), discusses the morals of the story and the intricacies of the characters, as well as how the movie got made. Al Pacino gives an interesting insight into the approach he took to Hanna that never occurred to me, but now seems perfectly obvious. The final portion of the documentary, Into the Fire (24m:01s), contains some nice behind-the-scenes footage of the production and weapons training the actors went through. It's a thorough and concise documentation of the pre-production, shoot, and post-production schedule. When all three are played together, it makes for a very good documentary.

In addition, there are two featurettes. The first, Pacino and De Niro: The Conversation (09m:55s), puts an end once and for all to that silly theory that the two actors never actually worked together. Both still photographs and video footage clearly show the two of them on the set together while shooting the scene. Pacino recalls how De Niro suggested that the two of them not rehearse the scene while Mann discusses the amount of effort that went in to writing it. There are some additional observations about the scene made by other cast members and film critic James Walcott, making this an interesting extra. The second featurette, Return to the Scene of the Crime (12m:02s), is a tour of the locations used during the shooting, conducted by location manager Janice Polley and associate producer Gusmano Cesaretti. It's an interesting look at how they chose the locales and it's nice to see what the places look like a decade later (some of them are virtually unrecognizable). They also discuss Michael Mann's intimate knowledge of L.A. in some detail.

The last of the extras are eleven deleted scenes. For the most part, each is just an extension of scenes already in the cut (running between 30 and 50 seconds), but a few are not. Most notable are the scenes titled Vincent Figuring Out the Leads (01m:28s), Where's Ana? (02m:18s), and Nate Delivers (01m:11s). The first two were rightly cut, but the third maybe should have been included since it clearly ties up some strings that were left ambiguous in the final product. Each scene is shown in nonanamorphic 2.35:1 widescreen and with Dolby Stereo sound. Even though these scenes aren't essential to understanding the movie, it's nice to be able to see them.

Extras Grade: A

Final Comments

Warner continues to deliver with its treasure chest of DVD releases. As the latest installment in their "Two-Disc Special Edition" line, Heat is fantastic. The new bonus material included for this re-issue are well worth the upgrade, despite the sound mix and image transfer being identical to the original DVD. If it weren't for those occasional print defects in the transfer, this release would earn straight As.

Nate Meyers 2005-02-21