Fred and Yasser’s Film Club: Week Nineteen, Part One: ‘Heat’ (1995)

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The Premise
Film fanatics and friends
 Fred Sullivan and Yasser Akram are on a mission to watch 25 of one another’s favourite movies. Each week they will watch one movie each and then get together to discuss what they have seen. So far the films have received scores ranging from 10s to 3s, with both men’s choices hitting the highs and the lows. As we head towards the top of the lists, Fred and Yasser will both be hoping their favourites don’t get slated.

This week, we start with a modern crime classic that is at number seven in Yasser’s list. Starring two of the biggest names working today it’s sure to get a good score from Fred… surely.

You can read the entries from previous week by checking out the archives on the left of the screen.

To have a look at what Fred has picked so far, click here.

Likewise, for Yasser’s choices, click here.

Yasser: Okay so, I made you watch ‘Heat’. To me, this is the best crime movie ever

Fred: Why?

YA: It’s beautifully shot, realistic… it’s just spectacular. In the red corner you have Bobby D, and in the blue corner, you have Pacino, all refereed by one of my favourites, Michael Mann, who also wrote the movie, as well as directed

FS: James Cameron does that too, you know. Look how his films turn out.

1995 – USA
Director: Michael Mann
Starring: Al Pacino, Robert De Niro, Val Kilmer, Tom Sizemore, Ashley Judd

FS: So is it the star power that makes the film so good?

YA: Not just the star power – it’s got a brilliant script, fantastic direction, the REALISM!!! It just blows me away every time I watch it

FS: What’s so real about it? I don’t get that

YA: Here’s the best example. There’s a scene where McCauley (De Niro) is selling the bonds back to Van Zant (William Fichtner) and there is a gunfight where Sizemore‘s Cheritto sticks it to a guy driving a car. The car doesn’t speed up, it slows down. It dings the concrete slab, it doesn’t go flying over. There’s not a massive explosion

FS: So you are praising that Mann can keep a lid on his action scenes

YA: Yes, in a sense

FS: He’s got a pretty good reputation, Mann, but he’s never really wowed me, though I accept he makes quite good films

YA: What do you think of this one? Were you blown away?

FS: No. It’s good and it’s very exciting in parts – the bank job and the ending in particular. I think it is the star power that drags it through, though. Pacino is let a bit too loose in a few scenes, but without him and De Niro it wouldn’t be thought of as anything special, in my opinion. Those two sharing the screen was so hyped when this came out that it’s added luster to the film that isn’t really deserved

YA: So what are the flaws?

FS: The first half is the weakest. We start off with a heist on an armoured vehicle. It makes for quite a thrilling start, but then Mann throws in the old ‘one of the gang’s a bit mental‘ cliché

YA: Waingro (Kevin Gage). The replacement – the extra man

FS: McCauley is supposed to be meticulous. Why would he take a chance on someone he didn’t know was absolutely trustworthy?

YA: I’ve always assumed that Waingro was recommended by Nate (Jon Voight)

FS: You assumed that, but it’s not in the film. I can’t read your mind (laughs)

FS: Early on, we also witness several times that whilst Mann can script an action scene and keep decent dialogue in the mouths of policemen and criminals, he’s not do good at domestic human drama. The scenes involving Pacino and his wife (Diane Venora), and Kilmer and Judd were cringe worthy

YA: Venora is probably the weakest of the cast

FS: I found a lot of the supporting cast were poor

YA: Want to elaborate on that?

FS: Venora was wooden. Gage was a cardboard, moustache-twirling villain. Judd is someone I think can be quite good, but she is weak in this. I think she suffers from Mann’s inability to write for women…

YA: She’s the best woman in ‘Heat’. I like her in this

FS: That first scene with Judd and Val Kilmer, who is appalling… Jesus! I laughed!

YA: There was a period when I thought he was a good actor

FS: Yeah… how did that therapy go?

YA: (laughs)

FS: Final bad point is Pacino. For 90% of the film he’s brilliant, but that other 10%, he’s SO over the top

YA: I know he is, but I LOVE that. Absolutely love it

FS: Sometimes he goes beyond the realm of reality. What is he playing at?

YA: He isn’t like that throughout, only when he’s talking to one of his snitches

FS: Like I said – 90% brilliant, 10% bad. He’s better than De Niro for most of the film, but whether Mann didn’t control him, or encouraged him the be like that, it spoils the performance

YA: Let’s talk about the good things, starting with the famous coffee shop scene, my favourite scene in the movie

FS: The build up of De Niro and Pacino ‘facing off’ has added to the movie’s reputation. Before this scene they are skirting around one another but never meet

YA: Does the scene disappoint?

FS: They are both excellent actors and they play the scene perfectly, but did I feel like I was watching one of the seminal scenes in cinema history? No

YA: Hmmmmm……

FS: It’s a well written, well acted scene from a very enjoyable action movie

YA: It’s one of MY seminal scenes, that’s what counts (laughs)

FS: What I love about it is it’s utterly meaningless

YA: As in, it’s not iconic?

FS: No. What I mean is that after Pacino returns to the police station, eh finds out that whilst he was playing footsie with De Niro, De Niro’s gang have been busy ditching the police. He’s been played

YA: Yeah

FS: You have to say it is iconic, I suppose. Two legends sharing the screen for the first time – that’s the only reason. It would be like if Clint Eastwood and John Wayne had ever made a western together. No matter what happened, it would have been historic

YA: The relationship between the Hanna and McCauley is brilliant, even before they meet

FS: Yes. the film definitely needed actors of equal stature in the roles. They are both driven, both loners, both intelligent, and not risk takers. It’s refreshing to have a cop character who is streetwise, but will not do anything massively against the rules. Sure, he’ll throw a guy through a plate-glass window, but he won’t allow the sniper to shoot Chris (Kilmer) or McCauley when they have the chance

YA: Exactly. They both understood that they had met their match and showed one another respect. The relationship had a great dynamic. They were always pitting themselves against the other without slipping up

FS: They are the best at what they do

YA: De Niro – how does he fare for you in this?

FS: He’s excellent. His performance is the opposite of Pacino’s – very cool, very calm, very clinical – and it’s exactly what’s needed for the character, as well as being a good contrast to Pacino

YA: Agreed. They’re both iconic actors in their own right and there’s always that rivalry, even though they are good friends. I have to ask you who is your favourite? Not just in this. I mean generally

FS: De Niro. I’m not a huge Pacino fan

YA: Why?

FS: The over-acting kills me. He also makes me feel a bit sick when he’s being romantic. De Niro has been in some of my favourite films – ‘Taxi Driver‘, ‘Raging Bull‘, ‘Mean Streets‘…

YA: They are two of my favourite actors, but De Niro takes it for me

FS: In this film, I’m not sure who I prefer. When Pacino is good, he’s the more impressive but De Niro is constantly good. Who do you think is better in the film?

YA: Out of the two? De Niro wins, hands down – both in ‘Heat’ and other movies

FS: Why in ‘Heat’?

YA: It’s tough because there’s moments where I think Pacino is brilliant, but it’s when Pacino is more controlled that I think De Niro takes it

FS: So you prefer him when he’s over-acting?

YA: See, when he’s not over-the-top shouting, Pacino is still loud and he’s good at those points. When he’s too calm or relaxed, I don’t like him as much as I like De Niro because De Niro always has something behind the eyes. I don’t think Pacino wants it as much as De Niro

FS: That’s interesting as I think what makes Pacino great in the film is the feeling of tiredness in him, and behind his eyes there’s almost a smile. In the restaurant scene, there is almost a feeling of resignation within him. At that point you believe De Niro will pull the trigger if it comes down to it. Pacino… you’re not so sure

YA: I want to talk about Mann as director

FS: Okay

YA: This is his magnum opus. What did you think of his direction?

FS: The film’s a bit long, but generally he keeps it going at a really good pace. The action set-pieces were very impressive. The bank job is edge-of-the-seat stuff, for example. He has a good eye for that sort of thing

YA: I love his ability to shoot at night. He’s very technically gifted

FS: That’s true. He kept the quick cuts for the high-octane bits, and then let the dialogue scenes play in longer shots. The use of the airport’s runway lights in the climax is very clever

YA: Filming at night, he’s great. The weird flares of light without it being too harmful. He shoots cities like they’re adverts

YA: I think we’re done so do the honours

FS: I’d watched ‘Heat’ once before, years ago and it didn’t make much of an impression on me, aside from the feeling that I was never going to warm to Al Pacino. His over-the-top acting style can make a film entertaining, like ‘Scent of a Woman‘, but I didn’t enjoy it in ‘Heat’. Watching it now, for the second time, I appreciated him much, much more. I’ve never really been convinced that he’s as good as so many people, especially men of my age, think he is, but there are moments in ‘Heat’ where I understand the fuss. Opposite him is Robert De Niro, one of my favourite actors. He is terrific as the cold, meticulous criminal who is determined to come out on top in the game of cat-and-mouse with Pacino. It’s difficult to choose who is better, but one thing’s for sure – without these two, the film would have really suffered. The supporting cast range from disappointing (Judd, Sizemore, Voight) to plain poor (Gage, Venora, Kilmer), and whilst Mann can write a good story, the scripting of the domestic scenes was very clunky. Thankfully, his direction was much better and he keeps you on the edge of your seat for much of the running time

YA: Okay

FS: As for the score, I thought you were on for your fourth ‘8’ in a row, but taking everything into consideration, i have to be honest with myself and give it 7/10. I like it, I’d watch it again, but I don’t see the modern classic that so many other people seem to see

YA: Ah! That’s slightly disappointing. I see the flaws, but the good things should be enough to push it to an ‘8’

FS: It’s the sort of film that you come away from thinking it’s amazing because all the flaws are in the first 45 minutes, and the last scene is amazing. However, I have to step back and consider the whole

Next time: Fred’s favourite film stars, Laurel & Hardy


3 thoughts on “Fred and Yasser’s Film Club: Week Nineteen, Part One: ‘Heat’ (1995)

    […] Heat […]

    […] Like ‘Heat‘, it has grown on me over the years. I’ve also always been a bit of a sucker for […]

    […] pretty much carries on from ‘Batman Begins’. It starts with a bank heist, and you know I like a good bank job. Were you impressed by the opening […]

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