Dispatch from the Razor's Edge, the Blog of Michael Stephen Fuchs
20 Years of Heat

Today marks the 20th anniversary of the theatrical release of the second greatest motion picture of all time (okay, in my canon): Heat, written and directed by Michael Mann.

I can still vividly recall seeing this on opening weekend – at the old Seminole in Charlottesville (yeah, I know, bastardization omitted) – and then not being able to relax until I ran out and saw it again a couple of days later. It was that powerful – and, to me at least, it remains that powerful today. (If you’ve never seen it, run don’t walk.)

As often happens, trailers seem to age worse than films (the art of the trailer has come a long way fast), so instead here are, by far, the two most famous and iconic (and memorable and asskicking) scenes in the film. Enjoy them – seriously! Amazing stuff.

The first was a piece of history – the first time Robert De Niro and Al Pacino had ever shared the screen together. They’d been in films together, notably The Godfather, Part II – but these two titans of the screen had never squared off against each other before. The resulting low-key, slow-motion, nerve-shredding collision did nothing like disappoint. (The opening sequence on the highway also features the entirely wonderful song “New Dawn Fades” by Moby.)

I remember reading that they did around a dozen takes of this scene – but about 80% of the footage they ultimately used all came from a single take, I think the second one. And almost all of the rest came from a single other take. And it was all shot with two cameras each time, so every subtlety of the legendary actors’ minute reactions to each other would be captured as they actually happened. And I think it may be the case that both actors were at the height of their physical beauty. (That is one chiseled Bob De Niro.) Of course, as always, it’s the spectacular writing that turns the scene. But people still go into that diner and ask to sit at that table.

The second scene is the street shoot-out after the bank heist – supremely gritty, dramatic, and thrilling, it is widely regarded as one of the most realistic gunfights ever shot. Miltech-consulted on by former SAS soldier (and Bravo Two Zero survivor) Chris Ryan, it goes on for a full ten minutes, each more breath-stealing than the last. (It too has some entirely decent music: “Force Marker” by Brian Eno. I wrote huge chunks of my first novel to the Heat soundtrack…)

Perhaps apocryphally, a Marine Corps drill instructor (or else a Special Forces Q-Course cadre instructor, depending on which version of the story you hear) was said to show the clip of Val Kilmer ducking down and changing magazines – and then tell his students: "Execute your mag changes as fast and efficiently as this Hollywood actor, or get the hell out of my unit."

The equally magisterial and indispensable IMFDB (Internet Movie Firearms Database) has, as always, the skinny on the wide range of sexy hardware used in the film, as well as (again, as usual) some fascinating trivia and minutiae.

The Usual Suspects also came out in 1995, as did a wide variety of truly kickass and immortal music. It’s very hard indeed to believe that those twenty years have truly gone by. But, as the mists descend, it increasingly feels like 1995 was a conspicuously excellent year.


  film     music  
about
close photo of Michael Stephen Fuchs

Fuchs is the author of the novels The Manuscript and Pandora's Sisters, both published worldwide by Macmillan in hardback, paperback and all e-book formats (and in translation); the D-Boys series of high-tech, high-concept, spec-ops military adventure novels – D-Boys, Counter-Assault, and Close Quarters Battle (coming in 2016); and is co-author, with Glynn James, of the bestselling Arisen series of special-operations military ZA novels. The second nicest thing anyone has ever said about his work was: "Fuchs seems to operate on the narrative principle of 'when in doubt put in a firefight'." (Kirkus Reviews, more here.)

Fuchs was born in New York; schooled in Virginia (UVa); and later emigrated to the San Francisco Bay Area, where he lived through the dot-com boom. Subsequently he decamped for an extended period of tramping before finally rocking up in London, where he now makes his home. He does a lot of travel blogging, most recently of some very  long  walks around the British Isles. He's been writing and developing for the web since 1994 and shows no particularly hopeful signs of stopping.

You can reach him on .

THE MANUSCRIPT by Michael Stephen Fuchs
PANDORA'S SISTERS by Michael Stephen Fuchs
DON'T SHOOT ME IN THE ASS, AND OTHER STORIES by Michael Stephen Fuchs
D-BOYS by Michael Stephen Fuchs
COUNTER-ASSAULT by Michael Stephen Fuchs
ARISEN, Book One - Fortress Britain, by Glynn James & Michael Stephen Fuchs
ARISEN, Book Two - Mogadishu of the Dead, by Glynn James & Michael Stephen Fuchs
ARISEN : Genesis, by Michael Stephen Fuchs
ARISEN Book Three - Three Parts Dead, by Glynn James & Michael Stephen Fuchs
ARISEN Book Four - Maximum Violence, by Glynn James & Michael Stephen Fuchs

ARISEN Book Five - EXODUS, by Glynn James & Michael Stephen Fuchs
ARISEN Book Six - The Horizon, by Glynn James & Michael Stephen Fuchs
ARISEN, Book Seven - Death of Empires, by Glynn James & Michael Stephen Fuchs
ARISEN, Book Eight - Empire of the Dead by Glynn James & Michael Stephen Fuchs
ARISEN : NEMESIS by Michael Stephen Fuchs
ARISEN, Book Nine - Cataclysm by Michael Stephen Fuchs
ARISEN, Book Ten - The Flood by Michael Stephen Fuchs
ARISEN, Book Eleven - Deathmatch by Michael Stephen Fuchs
ARISEN, Book Twelve - Carnage by Michael Stephen Fuchs
ARISEN, Book Thirteen - The Siege by Michael Stephen Fuchs
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