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A riveting story about an intense rivalry between expert thief Neil McCauley and volatile cop Vincent Hanna. McCauley will stop at nothing to do what he does best and neither will Hanna, even though it means destroying everything around them, including the people they love.
For more about Heat and the Heat Blu-ray release, see Heat Blu-ray Review published by Kenneth Brown on November 4, 2009 where this Blu-ray release scored 4.0 out of 5.
Director: Michael Mann (I)
Writer: Michael Mann (I)
Starring: Al Pacino, Robert De Niro, Val Kilmer, Jon Voight, Tom Sizemore, Diane Venora
» See full cast & crew
Heat Blu-ray Review
Michael Mann's magnum opus finally gets a Blu-ray release...
Reviewed by Kenneth Brown, November 4, 2009
We writers are an easily distracted lot. Put Al Pacino and Robert De Niro together in a film and we'll wax poetic for 1500 words on their pairing alone. Unfortunately, that means we're quick to shortchange the finer points of a gritty cops-n-robbers masterpiece like writer/director Michael Mann's Heat. Don't get me wrong, Pacino and De Niro deliver the performances of their post-Godfather careers, and their two, scene-chewing confrontations singe the screen, but it's the strength and nuance of their individual performances, the exceedingly impressive work of their supporting castmates, the film's blood-spattered realism, its Shakesperean screenplay, and the impeccably crafted mechanics of Mann's mix that make Heat such a riveting tour de force. How it slipped by the Academy unnoticed is a mystery; a tragic oversight that has thankfully had little impact on its ongoing success. Cinephiles continue to mine its depths, newcomers continue to marvel at its raw power, and cranky critics like myself continue to celebrate its character-driven complexities.
Pacino plays Lieutenant Vincent Hanna, an accomplished, hot-tempered LAPD Robbery-Homicide Division detective on the trail of a master thief named Neil McCauley (Robert De Niro). McCauley and his crew -- gunman Chris Shiherlis (Val Kilmer), muscle Michael Cheritto (Tom Sizemore), and driver Trejo (Danny Trejo) -- are as cautious and meticulous as they come, planning every aspect of their heists down to the last detail, and their next score is one of their most challenging yet. However, Hanna is a formidable adversary; a man willing to invest whatever hours, manpower, and tactics it takes to bring the criminals to justice, even if it means sacrificing time with his wife (Diane Venora) and step-daughter (a young Natalie Portman). Nothing is as simple as it seems though, and traditional good and evil have little bearing in the world of Heat. Mann is more concerned with Hanna and McCauley's inner conflicts and their pursuit of the unobtainable; their adherence to self-ascribed laws and the tremendous consequences those they love suffer as a result of their devotion to their careers. Their confrontations are as unexpected as they are inevitable -- in a now-iconic, incredibly intense scene, Hanna invites McCauley into a diner where they proceed to talk about their personal lives and philosophies -- and their quiet, climactic clash is as heartwrenching as it is mesmerizing.
Pacino and De Niro are magnificent. Both of their performances are so deliberate and measured that even the most explosive reaction and violent outburst seems plausible. Pacino infuses Hanna with frightening volatility, crafting a madman with a badge, yet balances his character's unkempt rage with sudden stillness, sadness, and restlessness. In contrast, De Niro presents McCauley as a collected career criminal who values his code above all else; a man willing to do anything to ensure his freedom rather than his survival. Neither actor takes a step, even when firing at each other in a crowded street, without considering their character's poise, posture, and attitude. They transform Hanna and McCauley into opposing forces of nature; antagonistic expressions of a city consumed by greed and mammon. Their supporting actors are up to the task as well. Kilmer and Sizemore deliver loyal but corruptible characters, flanking McCauley with men worthy of his professional respect and friendship. Jon Voight, Dennis Haysbert, Wes Studi, Mykelti Williamson, and many others forgo indulgent scene stealing, populating Heat with a slew of believable policemen and criminals. Venora, Portman, Amy Brenneman, and Ashley Judd bring integrity and authority to the film's female characters as well. Between the testosterone fueled rivalries and thunder-clapped gunfire, their raw and vulnerable performances are a welcome addition that lends warmth to the film's oft-times chilly atmosphere.
Mann's vision, whether achieved through direction or screenwriting, bleeds through every scene, making Heat as much a compelling procedural as it is a fascinating multi-character study. He brings a frankness to the film's action, stripping each bullet and wound of Hollywood's patented nonsense. Deaths carry weight, mistakes bring consequences, and conflict changes the course of lives. Even at three hours, watching his film never feels like a chore. There's a confidence in Mann's visuals and a purpose in his pacing, heft to his drama and heartache in his various tragedies. Interestingly, his characters seem to understand how fragile and temporary their existences actually are. A serene anguish dominates their affairs, entrenching each one in hopelessness and despair. Even scenes of relative happiness are haunted by dread; a prescient knowledge that any respite or relief will be short-lived at best. Mann's flair for subtle storytelling and character nuance is on full display, rendering even his most inconsequential subplots -- beats other filmmakers would have cut -- sharply written, wonderfully conceived glimpses into the lives of men and women on the periphery of Hanna and McCauley's encounters.
Heat remains one of my favorite films of all time; an enthralling, multi-faceted triumph that, despite being almost fifteen years old, still has the ability to engross and engage. If you've never had the opportunity to experience everything it has to offer, be sure to take full advantage of its low-priced high definition debut.
Heat Blu-ray, Video Quality
Your appreciation of Warner's 1080p/VC-1 transfer will largely come down to the nature of your expectations. Anyone hoping for a faithful rendering of Mann's grim-n-gritty aesthetics, bleached palette, and oppressive shadows will be enamored with the results, while those looking for the latest and greatest high definition presentation will be slightly underwhelmed. I, for one, am more than happy with how it turned out. Colors and skintones are consistent with Mann's intentions, blacks are suitably deep, and dimensionality, though spotty at times, is altogether convincing. Detail is just as strong, especially when comparing the Blu-ray transfer to its standard DVD counterparts. Fine textures don't exactly pop, but they're more refined and revealing than ever; some minor edge enhancement is visible in high-contrast shots, but rarely becomes a distraction; and overall clarity should satisfy anyone who doesn't think every film needs to look like G.I. Joe to earn a high score. Sure, some scattered establishing shots are soft -- a few are downright blurry -- but such shortcomings should be attributed to the original print, not Warner's technical transfer. While a filmic veneer of grain permeates the proceedings, the image isn't undermined by any significant artifacting, unintentional noise, debilitating ringing or crush, or DNR.
You probably won't see the Blu-ray edition of Heat being used as a demo disc in your local electronics superstore, but that doesn't mean it boasts a lesser transfer. On the contrary, its presentation throughly outclasses Warner's previously released DVDs, renders Mann's stark imagery with care and respect, and represents another impressive catalog transfer worthy of a spot in your collection.
Heat Blu-ray, Audio Quality
Heat is also packing an excellent Dolby TrueHD 5.1 surround track; one that makes Warner's previously released DVD mixes sound like relics of a bygone age. Dialogue is crisp and nicely prioritized, leaving little to the imagination. Some lines are lost in the chaos of Mann's firefights, but it's always a product of intention, never an issue with the lossless track itself. LFE output is staggering, lending gunshots immense weight and other soundscape elements natural presence. Hanna and McCauley's mid-LA shootout proves itself to be a rousing, jaw-dropping experience, and other key scenes are just as strong. Likewise, rear speaker activity is aggressive and involving, enhancing the already immersive soundfield, the believability of interior acoustics, and the quality of ambient effects. Alas, the track isn't perfect. Low-end tones are sometimes frothy, directionality is a tad inconsistent amongst the film's quieter scenes, and I found myself bumping my volume up and down a bit too often. Still, these are minor issues that are easy to overlook. Fans and audiophiles will be most pleased.
Heat Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Heat's supplemental package doesn't offer the usual bells and whistles afforded such highly anticipated releases, but it is a strong one, granting viewers welcome access to Mann's mind and filmmaking process. Unfortunately, its video content is presented in standard definition. Hardly what I would expect for one of Warner's premiere films.
Heat Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
Heat's long-awaited high definition release is finally here and, to Warner's credit, it's an impressive one. The film itself is powerful, its performances Oscar worthy, and its script an unforgettable, character-driven treat. The Blu-ray edition features a faithful video transfer, a commendable TrueHD surround track, and a generous supplemental package. At such a reasonable price, be sure to add this one to your cart post haste.
Heat: Other Editions
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Heat Blu-ray, News and Updates
• Heat, Logan's Run, Negotiator Delayed One Week - August 27, 2009
Warner Home Video has announced that three of the catalog titles it had announced on Blu-ray for November 3 –'Heat', 'Logan's Run' and 'The Negotiator'- have been delayed a week and thus will be released on November 10. On the other hand, 'North by Northwest' isn't ...
• Michael Mann Recuts Heat for Blu-ray - August 17, 2009
Warner Home Video has revealed the full details for its Blu-ray release of 'Heat'. As expected, the special features include all the content available on the 2005 two-disc edition, but there is something new. The Blu-ray will feature "New content changes supervised ...
• Heat, Logan's Run, and The Negotiator Announced for Blu-ray - July 20, 2009
Warner Home Video has announced that they will bring 'Heat', 'Logan's Run', and 'The Negotiator' to Blu-ray on November 3rd. Technical specs have not been announced at this time, though you can expect a 1080p VC-1 video presentation accompanied by a Dolby TrueHD ...
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