A preening, self-dramatizing cop pursues a tight-lipped criminal mastermind around L.A. for three hours. Neil McCauley (Robert De Niro) is the cautious leader of a gang that specializes in meticulously planned, high-stakes heists like the explosive robbery of an armored car that opens the film. His gang includes Chris (Val Kilmer), who's struggling to save his marriage to Charlene (Ashley Judd), and family man Michael (Tom Sizemore), apparently the sanest of the bunch. Vincent Hanna (Al Pacino) is a volatile LAPD detective with a special gift for tracking down bad guys and driving away wives — he's on his third marriage. Hanna — who's already too busy to spend time with his wife, Justine (Diane Venora), and his troubled stepdaughter, Lauren (Natalie Portman) — is charged with bringing McCauley and company to justice, and so begins a game of cat-and-mouse between these two outsized personalities. Meanwhile, McCauley, an ascetic loner, suddenly feels compelled to pursue a romance with a bookstore clerk, Eady (Amy Brenneman). It didn't sound like fun to us, either, but we were wrong; HEAT — a remake of Mann's own 1989 TV movie L.A. Takedown — scores on many fronts. It's a gorgeous valentine to its three leads — neither Pacino, De Niro nor Los Angeles has ever looked better — that backs up its style with real substance. The plot, though it seems to ramble, builds suspense with deft precision, and the action set pieces are triumphs. The film also gets us deeply involved in the messy lives of both cops and robbers, via some richly textured domestic scenes only occasionally sabotaged by psychobabble. The result is that we actually care about these characters, which just might make this an Important Movie. Why? It's one of a handful of films since THE GODFATHER to successfully portray a criminal fraternity from within and without at the same time. When a bad guy's loved one risks her future to ensure his freedom, we root for the both of them; but when an ex-con who's been making a valiant effort to go straight gets sucked into the "crew," we're crushed. What more can you ask?
Cast & Details See all »
- Released: 1995
- Rating: R
- Review: A preening, self-dramatizing cop pursues a tight-lipped criminal mastermind around L.A. for three hours. Neil McCauley (Robert De Niro) is the cautious leader of a gang that specializes in meticulously planned, high-stakes heists like the explosive robbery… (more)