Heat ★★★

The opening moments of this film offer another Mann motif that has become apparent to me in viewing several of his films: the link between criminality and celebrity. After a couple of beautiful shots that set up the arrival of a Los Angeles subway train, we begin to see people getting off the train. They are the kind of people one sees every day in a large metropolis. Anonymous. Nondescript. Normal. And then the camera closes in on one man as he steps off the train: Robert De Niro. He moves among the other people unnoticed, but clearly we know he's different. He's a movie star! One of the biggest movie stars of all time! Mann would later pull a similar trick with Collateral and Tom Cruise.

Wandering unnoticed among us are people who do not live normal lives. They don't keep the same schedules we do, don't practice the same skills or have quite the same anxieties. Even if, as Val Kilmer's character does, they live in the same neighborhoods we do. This isn't a revelation or anything, but the way that Mann introduces this concept through framing, editing, and our own meta awareness of who Robert De Niro feels sly, and subtle, and rather brilliant. We are fascinated by the lives of these people. We want to see where they're headed when they step off that train. How they live. How they do what they do. It's a weird fascination, and I appreciate Mann's willingness to delve into that weirdness. Even if, in this case at least, a lot of that delving is somewhat superficial.

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