Derek Winnert

Heat ***** (1995, Al Pacino, Robert De Niro, Val Kilmer) – Classic Movie Review 225


Al Pacino’s LA cop Lieutenant Vincent Hanna and Robert De Niro’s master thief Neil McCauley battle it out for survival and supremacy in a brilliant, riveting, cat-and-mouse epic gangster thriller. It’s one of the top 20 best crime films of all time.


Long but totally involving, this electrifying 1995 Los Angeles crime saga is directed with the greatest of pace, style and energy by Michael Mann, delivering a great lowlife crime atmosphere, a flavoursome sense of the mean streets, some amazing heist sequences and awesome shootout action set pieces.


Unusually, Mann, who hadn’t intended to direct it too, is also solely responsible for the lovingly honed and crafted original screenplay. It’s not based on a novel and he had no actual writing collaborators, though the story is inspired by the real-life clash between Chicago cop Chuck Adamson and the real Neil McCauley. Mann first started working with the by then retired cop Adamson on his 1981 James Caan thriller Thief (aka Violent Streets).


Keeping entirely out of the film studios, it’s all filmed under some very difficult circumstances on location – 65 of them, actually, in LA. This is one of the main reasons is so scaldingly realistic and thrilling.


There’s notable cinematography by Dante Spinotti too, and a great cast includes Val Kilmer, Jon Voight, Tom Sizemore, Diane Venora, Amy Brenneman, Ashley Judd, Mykhelti Williamson, Wes Studi, Ted Levine, Dennis Haysbert and Natalie Portman.


But the final triumph belongs, as it should, to Pacino and De Niro. It was the first movie to feature them acting together, though of course they’re both in different sections of The Godfather: Part II. Unfortunately, and frustratingly, they share hardly any screen time in Heat, but their historical meeting in the coffee shop and the final showdown provide the main attraction and emotional climax here.

The 1995 release print runs 171 minutes but the Director’s Cut is 188 minutes.

Kilmer was also busy filming Batman Forever at the time.

© Derek Winnert 2013 Classic Movie Review 225

Check out more reviews on

Comments are closed.

Recent articles

Recent comments