USA 1995, dir. Michael Mann, 163m

Heat is famous as the movie that finally brought together, on screen at the same time, those twin pocket giants of American screen acting, Al Pacino and Robert De Niro. But it’s clear from the outset that both of them have to play second fiddle behind the two real stars of the movie: director Michael Mann, and his real subject matter, the city of Los Angeles. Heat functions supremely well as an all-action thriller – it’s paced so well that it flies by in what seems like two hours – but the actual plot, with supercop Pacino matching wits with supercriminal De Niro, is really just an excuse for bravura sequences of overwhelming directorial power. Mann somehow manage to combines the painstakingly rigorous planning of a Kubrick with the freewheeling organic flow of an Altman, and in millennial Los Angeles he’s found the perfect match for his talents. This is a film about architecture and environment, a film of bright surfaces, sharp colours, the dazzling glows of nocturnal neons. And Mann pays just as much attention to the sound of his film – the terrific soundtrack used Moby years before the rest of Hollywood got wise to him – as to its look, which is really saying something. From time to time, Mann may be guilty of going too far – he occasionally slips into self-indulgence – but we’re only talking three or four minutes out of 160 plus. Heat is, by any standards, a masterpiece.

by Neil Young
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