Updated: Feb 16, 2020
Nominee #1 - Heat (1995)
When a group of robbers leave a clue behind them, they must escape from the police who are red hot on their trail.
A gang of professional thieves goes for the big score. A team of professional cops is on their trail. Neither side will give up. Explosive action, intense dialogue, hard choices.
Combine searingly intense performances from Al Pacino, Robert De Niro, Val Kilmer, Jon
Voight, Ashley Judd, Diane Venora and Tom Sizemore with an engrossing screenplay from Michael Mann, who also directs this crime drama with masterful surety, and you get more than just an intelligent cops-and-robbers action flick. You get one of the finest heist films of all time.
You get one of the finest heist films of all time.
Remember, while Robert De Niro and Al Pacino had roles in The Godfather: Part II, they did not appear onscreen at the same time. It took this story (based on a former
Chicago police officer, Chuck Adamson's actual hunt for a criminal named Neil
McCauley) to bring the two stars onscreen for the first time. And do they turn
up the heat!
So compelling and convincing were the heist scenes that the movie
infamously became inspiration for a number of robberies since. But the virtuoso
action set-pieces and the memorable one-liners aside, it is the complex and
believable unravelling of human emotions that takes this movie to the exalted
position it holds today and so richly deserves.
The film is extremely convincing with a complex script, layered characters and one of the most subtle and intense climaxes in the genre. The expected top performances by the giants De Nero and Pacino are matched especially by Diane Venora’s Oscar worthy performance as Hanna’s wife. The magic in this film is in fact in the characterisation, and the gradual unravelling of their motives, values, and inner thoughts.
The entire movie revolves around the juxtaposition of, and tension between the two main characters; they have sworn to stop each other in their tracks but balance this single-minded focus with mutual respect and admiration; setting the stage for an epic emotional drama to unfold against the backdrop of the more expected car chases, shootouts and action.
This is a film you don’t take your eyes off even to look at your popcorn; riveting from start to finish with the understated yet intense style of Michael Mann’s direction and script. There is no let up in either the tension of the plot or the boiling of the emotional cauldron.
Yet there are especially unforgettably scenes …like the immense 10 minute shootout, or the scene when De Nero and Pacino meet each other only to have a coffee together and talk like old friends; even sharing some of the deeper sides of their personality, yet giving each other a warning that when it really comes to it neither would hesitate to do what is needed and axe each other down. It is this complexity, rich paradox and sophistication of treatment that replicates for viewers the hard choices, dilemmas and inconsolable losses of real life.
The climax is as epic as anything the Godfather franchise ever offered audiences. In a final clash the hero and anti-hero (for De Nero’s character can never be seen as a true villain) face off in quiet, slow, and brutally intense scene. De Nero dies, and Pacino holds his hand like a true friend as they share that last silence; for no words can do justice to the unsaid emotional struggle of these two great men.
With an 8.2 on IMDB this can only be called another hugely under-rated masterpiece; a titan not just in the Heists genre but among all of screen art.