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Michael Mann
Al Pacino, Robert De Niro, Val Kilmer, Jon Voight , Ashley Judd, Natalie Portman, Tom Sizemore
Writing Credits:
Michael Mann

An epic tale of crime and obsession and two men on opposite sides of the law.

Robert De Niro and Al Pacino are finally together on screen in this riveting story about an intense rivalry between expert thief Neil McCauley (De Niro) and volatile cop Vincent Hanna (Pacino). McCauley will stop at nothing to do what he does best and neither will Hanna, even though it means destroying everything around them, including the people they love. With a solid supporting cast that includes Val Kilmer, Jon Voight, Ashley Judd, and Natalie Portman, Heat is a truly epic crime story.

Box Office:
$60 million.
Domestic Gross
$67.436 million.

Rated R

Widescreen 2.35:1/16x9
English Dolby Digital 5.1
French Dolby Digital 5.1

Runtime: 172 min.
Price: $26.99
Release Date: 2/22/2005

Disc One
• Audio Commentary with Director Michael Mann
• Trailers
Disc Two
• 11 Additional Scenes
• “The Making of Heat” Documentary
• “Pacino and De Niro: The Conversation” Documentary
• “Return to the Scene of the Crime” Documentary


Sony 36" WEGA KV-36FS12 Monitor; Sony DA333ES Processor/Receiver; Panasonic CV-50 DVD Player using component outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Sony SA-WM40 Subwoofer.


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Heat: Special Edition (1995)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (February 11, 2005)

Talk about high expectations! In 1995, a movie paired Al Pacino and Robert De Niro for the first time since 1974's Godfather II. The publicists for Michael Mann’s Heat really pushed this angle and marketed the movie with a "when actors collide" angle. The ads also indicated that this was the first time the two actors appeared in together, which was technically correct; while Pacino and De Niro both starred in the second Godfather, their stories were told independently and the two never crossed paths.

Unfortunately, Heat didn't offer much more "interactive time" for the two than the zilch we'd seen in Godfather II. While the characters Pacino and De Niro play are clearly intertwined - basically, Pacino's Vincent spends the whole movie trying to arrest De Niro's Neil - they spend very little time on screen together. There's one sequence in the middle of the film, and one at the end, and that's it; other than those ten minutes or so, the two never share a frame.

When I saw Heat during its theatrical run, I didn't much care for it. The expectations about the whole De Niro/Pacino thing, the great reviews – it all built the picture up too much and I just never connected to it. To be frank, I can't remember what exactly I didn't like about it, but I chalked it up as just another disappointing piece of work from Michael Mann. 1986’s Manhunter was okay, but I couldn't stand Last of the Mohicans.

Now that it's out on DVD and I've heard all of the raves about it one more time, I decided to give Heat another shot. I'm happy I did. The film's not perfect by any stretch of the imagination, but it's a good sight more exciting and provocative than I'd recalled from my initial screening.

Of course, the acting gets most of the attention here, and most of that notice falls upon the two leads. Both are solid, although Pacino tends to fall back upon his loud, hammy mode too often; too many of his lines are delivered too broadly. De Niro, on the other hand, offers one of his most nicely understated performances. He doesn't rely on broad gestures or volume to deliver the strength of his character, and ultimately this makes him much more memorable and effective. It also nicely balances the excessive bravado of Pacino.

One fact that tends to get lost along the way is the stellar nature of the supporting cast. Even though Val Kilmer was a pretty decent star at the time, he couldn’t muster above third billing here. The cast also features notables like Tom Sizemore, Ashley Judd, Ted Levine, Jon Voight, Natalie Portman, and many others. That's a strong group. I can't really say that any member stands out, but they make for a tremendously solid ensemble.

As far as the movie itself goes, much of the fan focus sticks on the action scenes, and they definitely make a strong mark. However, what most impresses me is the emotional depth of the film. Outwardly, Heat seems to be little more than an exciting game of cops and robbers, but it really is concerned with viewing how the decisions we make affect our lives. These are extreme cases, since so many of them literally are life and death, but they nonetheless can be generalized toward those of us with less frightening - or exciting, depending on your interpretation - existences.

Heat really tries to posit the balances we have to make between our hearts and our heads, and how we deal with that. It's not the most exhaustive study you could want to see, but it's a surprise from this kind of a film, and it's very effective.

The DVD Grades: Picture B-/ Audio B/ Bonus B+

Heat appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.35:1 on this single-sided, double-layered DVD; the widescreen image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. The disc offered a disappointingly inconsistent picture, which came as a surprise since I maintained positive impressions of the original movie-only DVD from 1999.

Comparisons to that release will come later. What went wrong with the 2005 edition? Print flaws created the biggest distractions, with a particular emphasis on white specks. Those popped up quite frequently throughout the film, and I also saw occasional examples of black grit and other small marks.

While the source defects caused the most serious issues, other parts of the transfer seemed less than exemplary as well. Sharpness varied. For the most part, the movie came across as reasonably distinctive and well-defined. However, notable exceptions occurred, particularly in wider establishing shots; those could appear rather blurry. Some minor instances of jagged edges and moiré effects also presented themselves along with mild to moderate edge enhancement.

The movie might be called Heat, but the color scheme went for a decidedly cool look. The flick favored a bluish-green tint that kept things subdued. The DVD replicated the tones appropriately; the tones never came across as particularly rich, but they seemed satisfactory within the constraints of the visual design.

Blacks were less satisfying. They usually stayed reasonably deep, but they occasionally tended to lean toward moderate inkiness. Low-light shots were also a bit murky and bland. Enough of the transfer seemed solid to merit a “B-“, but I thought it had a lot of room for improvement.

Although the Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack of Heat didn’t suffer from the obvious flaws of its visuals, it also wasn’t terribly effective. With a few notable exceptions, the soundfield maintained a strong emphasis toward the front. Matters opened up fairly well for the more action-oriented sequences, and those managed to create a decent sense of life.

Otherwise, the mix stayed stuck in the front, and somewhat awkwardly at that. Elements occasionally appeared a bit “speaker-specific” and they didn’t blend as naturally as I’d like. Nonetheless, they usually combined adequately to form a satisfactory feeling of place. The score added good stereo imaging as well.

Most of the audio sounded good, as my only complaint came from the way the mix balanced dialogue. During a few scenes, I found it tough to hear the lines. Despite those periodic obstacles, speech otherwise sounded concise and distinctive. Music showed good range and definition, while effects were crisp and detailed. As I mentioned during my discussion of the soundfield, the track didn’t present a lot of opportunities to blast, but the audio kicked into gear well when necessary. Overall, this was a good but unexceptional mix.

Both audio and picture didn’t live up to my memories of the original DVD from 1999, so I revisited that one to compare the two. I thought both discs demonstrated identical audio, but the visuals differed. Though each one earned a “B-“, they did so in different ways. The 1999 disc was sharper than this one, but it came with a more digital, edgy look and some artifacts. This one lacked as many problems in that domain but also seemed softer. I couldn’t pick one as superior to the other; they’re both decent but flawed.

Once upon a time, director Michael Mann apparently objected to the inclusion of supplements on DVDs for his movies. Apparently he changed his mind, and we see that via the extras on this new two-disc version of Heat.

Most of the pieces show up on disc two. DVD One includes three trailers for Heat, all of which are fairly similar. These also appeared on the original DVD; indeed, they were its only bonus feature.

In addition to the ads, we get an audio commentary from Mann. He provides a running, screen-specific chat. Don’t expect a firm focus on filmmaking here. As with Mann’s chat for Ali, he often prefers to discuss background and facts behind the flick. However, Mann balances things better here than during Ali, as he pulls back the curtain on a number of production elements.

A moderate amount of dead air pops up during the track, and that makes it sputter at times. Nonetheless, much of the information Mann provides digs into matters well. He chats a lot about research and the facts behind the film.

When he gets into aspects of the production, Mann tosses out some good nuggets. He delves into those issues more heavily during the flick’s second and third acts. We get notes about the actors and their approaches to their roles, some visual design choices, technical aspects of the shoot such as the camerawork in the big coffee shop scene, locations, and some storytelling issues. Mann starts to fade during the movie’s third act and often does little more than narrate the flick, but he presents enough good material to make this a worthwhile - if spotty - commentary.

Over on DVD Two, the extras launch with a three-part documentary called The Making of Heat. Taken together, these run 59 minutes and five seconds. They present the usual mix of movie clips, archival materials, and interviews. Those present remarks from Mann, former Chicago police officer Chuck Adamson, author/Chicago historian Richard Lindberg, actor/former Chicago police officer Dennis Farina, LAPD technical advisor Tom Elfmont, first assistant director Michael Waxman, author Eddie Bunker, LA Sheriff’s Department technical advisor Rey Verdugo, producer Art Linson, second unit director Ami Canaan Mann, casting director Bonnie Timmerman, director of photography Dante Spinotti, executive producer Pieter Jan Brugge, technical weapons trainers Mick Gould and Andy McNab, sound mixer Chris Jenkins, production designer Neil Spisak, musician Moby, composer Elliot Goldenthal, and actors Al Pacino, Jon Voight, Robert De Niro (circa 1995), Val Kilmer, Dennis Haysbert, Tom Sizemore, Amy Brenneman, Mykelti Williamson, Tom Noonan, Ashley Judd, Danny Trejo and Diane Venora.

Called “True Crime”, the first segment covers the origins of the movie’s story and the reality behind it, research and preparation, and psychological elements of cops and crooks. In the next one, “Crime Stories” looks at Mann’s approach to the story and early stabs at it, casting and the characters, and thematic notions. Finally, “Into the Fire” discusses more about research and preparation, locations and the film’s depiction of Los Angeles, specifics of the shoot, audio, editing, and the score.

Some of the information repeats from Mann’s commentary, and the show’s focus is the same. As with the commentary, we learn more about the facts behind the flick and preparation than we do the actual shoot, though some decent notes about that topic pop up here. Despite a little repetition and some of the usual generic praise, these programs offer a pretty solid look at the production. I’d still like more about the movie’s shoot, but these programs cover many interesting subjects and consistently entertain.

Next comes a program entitled Pacino and De Niro: The Conversation. It goes for nine minutes, 50 seconds as it presents notes from Voight, Brugge, Linson, Mann, De Niro, Pacino, Judd, Spinotti, Sizemore and film critic James Walcott. We hear about expectations for the movie’s most hyped sequence as well as character elements, story concerns, and actually shooting it. Some nice bits pop up here, but we’ve heard most of it elsewhere, so we don’t learn a lot.

In addition, much of the featurette simply reruns the scene itself. It would’ve been much more interesting to get some unedited takes of the scene focused just on Pacino or De Niro; the old Criterion laserdisc for Se7en did that for a few Gwyneth Paltrow shots and it was fascinating.

Another featurette pops up after this with Return to the Scene of the Crime. This 11-minute and 57-second piece shows location manager Janice Polley and associate producer Gusmano Cesaretti as they head back to many of the sites used in the film. Additional notes come from locals Ted Halsey, Jayme Mazzochi and Lisa Glucksman. We watch this tour while they discuss the filmmakers’ collaboration with Mann and their work on the film as well as some facets of the locations. It’s an informative and cool examination of the various spots.

Finally, the DVD includes 11 Deleted Scenes. These last between 17 seconds and two minutes, 17 seconds for a total of nine minutes, 21 seconds of footage. As you might infer, the brevity of the clips means that they don’t get time to show us much. Some of them simply extend existing bits, while others embellish secondary characters. The longest depicts what happened to the Trejo character. Most are fun to see, but none are terribly illuminating.

Many people don't see any point to rewatching films that they liked, much less ones that they didn't enjoy, but additional viewings of Heat establish the usefulness of doing so. Initially, I didn't like this film, but now I think it's a fairly involving and effective flick. The DVD offers erratic but acceptable picture and sound plus a generally enjoyable and informative package of supplements.

I definitely like Heat, so despite some minor misgivings about the movie’s presentation, I recommend it. Should owners of the prior DVD upgrade to this one? I’d say yes, but only if they’re interested in the extras. I wasn’t any more impressed by the new disc’s visuals or audio when compared with the original, but it added a slew of pretty solid components. If you like that kind of stuff, you’ll want to grab this special edition of Heat.

To rate this film, visit the original review of HEAT