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.
“No, I do not.”
“Right. I am never going back.”