Heat ★★★★

Bringing two icons of yesteryears face to face in a deftly scripted & expertly directed crime drama, Michael Mann's Heat is a defining work of its genre that's envisioned, executed & presented with finesse, is led by compelling performances from both Al Pacino & Robert De Niro and, despite its daunting 3 hours runtime, it manages to be a thoroughly engrossing cinema that's as smart as it is satisfying.

The story follows a career criminal whose latest heist mission goes wrong when his team's hired help impulsively kills an unarmed guard, thus turning their planned robbery into a homicide, which brings veteran LAPD Lieutenant & his crew into the picture who then take over the case and hunt for the perpetrators. What unfolds next is a series of close encounters where each team tries to outdo the other.

Written, produced & directed by Michael Mann, the film opens with a thrilling segment that sets up the premise and puts the story into motion. Mann's direction is absolutely top-notch, for he offers ample screen time to all the characters that inhabit this tale, and his script is just as accomplished as every character is embedded with a well-defined arc and the consistent flow between its events keeps the interest alive & kicking.

From the technical standpoint, Heat is a masterwork of first-rate craftsmanship as almost all the element work in tandem with the rest to significantly uplift the whole look & feel of the story. The decision to shoot everything on location gives it a realistic vibe, Camerawork is controlled and its handling is smooth & flexible in both close-up and wide panning. Editing moves the plot forward at a steady pace while Sound is skilfully utilised.

Coming to the performances, the film features a fabulous ensemble in Al Pacino, Robert De Niro, Val Kilmer, Tom Sizemore, Jon Voight, Ted Levine, Tom Noonan, Natalie Portman etc, and although the supporting cast play their part well, all of them are overshadowed by the stellar inputs of Pacino & De Niro, and the moments between the two are the highlights of this feature. Pacino definitely has the upper hand here but De Niro isn't far behind.

However, despite plethora of positives, Heat isn't without its shortcomings. Its 170 minutes runtime carries a lot of fat and could've been trimmed into a leaner narrative by editing out nearly everything that doesn't play a key role in the final outcome. The numerous subplots dealing with the turmoil of our relevant characters' personal lives do help in adding more depth to their arcs but most of them are unnecessary and should've ended up on the editing room floor.

On an overall scale, Heat scores high marks in both storytelling & technical departments, and has played an influential role in the world of filmmaking over the years. The magnetic screen presence of Al Pacino & Robert De Niro as well as their strong chemistry alone makes it worth a watch but it is Michael Mann who cements his own legacy with this crime drama, for Heat is one of his finest directional efforts, if not the finest, and presents the notable filmmaker in complete control of his craft. Highly recommended.

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