Los Angeles has rarely looked as beautiful and exciting as it does in Michael Mann's 1995 crime thriller masterpiece HEAT.
From its opening shot to its last, this is nearly three hours of great cops and robbers storytelling, packed with suspense and violence. It's easily in my Top 50 films of all time.
Robert DeNiro is McCauley, leading a sophisticated team of criminals who use precise planning and perfect timing to execute an escalating series of daring robberies.
McCauley's inner circle includes Chris (Val Kilmer in fine form) Cherito (Tom Sizemore oozing trouble) and Trejo (Danny Trejo in an early role).
On their trial is Detective Vince Hanna, perfectly played by Al Pacino.
Hanna is devoted to the job, alienating his wife at home (Diana Venora) and her daughter Lauren (a VERY young Natalie Portman).
As the two men's paths touch and then crossover, the film explores the fact that they are more similar than either might imagine, doing what they love and laser focused.
There are three key robbery sequences that play out with incredible tension and Mann's signature style. Along with "Miami Vice" and "Manhunter" Mann established his unique film style with HEAT, all cool blues and deep blacks and the City of Angels providing plenty of cool diners, city views and massive freeways for brutal escapes and quiet moments.
The daytime bank robbery sequence near the end of the film is one of Mann's all-time best, with McCauley's team trapped and trying to escape in an unending hail of bullets and firepower. The entire sequence is perfect and keeps you on the edge of your seat.
Pacino and DeNiro are two of our best actors and that's on full display here. The center of the film includes a ten minute sequence in which the two meet in a diner and have an open conversation.
The dialogue by Mann, simple direction and two great performances make this conversation one of film's all time best.
These two men, in different occupations would clearly be friends. Thankfully for us, they are on opposite sides of the law, setting up the final act perfectly.
The supporting cast is flawless, from Jon Voight, Amy Brennerman (NYPD Blue), Ted Levine (Silence of the Lambs), Dennis Haysbert (24), Tom Noonan (Manhunter) to William Fichtner (Contact) as a wealthy money launderer who regrets crossing McCauley.
In my top 100 films of all time, HEAT is a modern classic, pulsing to the beat of a Tangerine Dream-like score by Elliot Goldenthal and immersing you deep into a world caught between both sides of the law.
HEAT burns with an A+.
We watched the Definitive Director's Edition now on iTunes, Blu-Ray with additional footage and some editing tweaks just done by Mann himself on the film's 22nd Anniversary. It's a 4K redo and looks fantastic.