Warner Bros. // 1995 // 172 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Judge Sean Fitzgibbons (Retired) // August 1st, 1999
An epic tale of crime and obsession and two men on opposite sides of the law.
Michael Mann's modern day crime classic finally comes to DVD with an outstanding transfer, but little else.
When Heat came out four years ago its big selling point was the fact that Al Pacino and Robert De Niro would be squaring off on-screen. While this is definitely one of Heat's greatest attributes, the supporting cast in this film is certainly not to be overlooked. Watching this film is almost like a treat while you try to spot the numerous great actors; including Val Kilmer, Jon Voight, Tom Sizemore, Ashley Judd, Mykelti Williamson, Dennis Haysbert, Natalie Portman, Hank Azaria, Henry Rollins, Tone Loc, Jeremy Piven, and William Fichtner.
So what could attract so many great actors to one film? Heat is a true epic tale of cops and robbers that revolves around two men. Detective Vincent Hanna (Pacino) is an obsessed member of the LAPD who constantly places his family second as he is called in to investigate crimes. Neil McCauley (De Niro) is a career criminal who lives on one rule, "Do not have any attachments, do not have anything in your life you are not willing to walk out on in 30 seconds flat if you spot the heat around the corner." Both men are stretched to their limits as McCauley plots a bank heist that will set him up for the rest of his life. As the heist approaches, McCauley, Hanna, and McCauley's partner in crime, Chris Shiherlis (Kilmer), must confront problems in their personal lives. McCauley and Shiherlis soon learn they might be too close to their personal lives this time to be willing to evade the "heat." Once the heist begins, lives are destroyed and renewed as McCauley and Hanna head towards one final confrontation on the streets of Los Angeles.
Heat is an extremely intricate film with many fine plot points involving many of the film's supporting characters. Some supporting characters are more well-developed than others, but when the action goes down you begin to feel attached to all the characters, as the film has shown a human side to each of them. Never before have I seen a film that so well develops the two opposite sides of a crime that you wish for both sides to succeed. To fully engross the viewer in the plot, Heat runs almost three hours long, but once you're sucked into the film you cannot stop watching. Heat is, by far, Michael Mann's greatest film to date.
Since the onset of the DVD format consumers have been craving a Heat
DVD. The laserdisc version of this film proved to be a great showcase for Dolby Digital surround sound and an instant classic. Thankfully, the DVD version of Heat can be considered a classic in its own rite.
Spread over two layers, the 2.35:1 anamorphic transfer on the Heat
DVD is pristine. I thank God every time I look at this disc because it is anamorphically enhanced, which will allow me to enjoy the film for a long time to come (hopefully) on my future widescreen TV. Throughout its three hour run there are no compression artifacts visible on the transfer. Both day and night sequences look stunning on this disc with great flesh tones and a black level that is dead on.
What has always set Heat apart as a film, in a technical sense, has been its outstanding audio track. The action sequences in this film are brought to life by gunfire and explosions, which are heard loud and clear on this disc's Dolby Digital 5.1 track. The dialogue is intentionally quieter than the gunfire for action sequences, tricking you into turning up the volume to hear what the characters are saying, then turning around to blow your eardrums away during a shootout. This track rivals my other favorite audio track from Terminator 2: Judgment Day, which only holds up better because of the many more instances of action in that film.
Putting a great anamorphic transfer of a three-hour film (along with an equally stunning audio track) on a dual layered DVD is not going to leave much room for anything else. Therefore the extra content on this DVD is rather sparse, limited to three theatrical trailers
No matter what the film, moviegoers are always reserved about those films that run three hours in length. It takes a truly outstanding film to succeed in holding the attention of an audience for three hours. If a film is decent, but runs for three hours, audiences will hate it (take The Postman for example). The length of Heat is daunting but pays off in a big way. Heat demands to be watched at once, not an hour here and an hour there, to fully engross you in its complex storyline. Therefore, all those who are considering watching this film (whether on DVD or any other format) should be prepared to set aside a three-hour block of time.
As I said before, there is not much extra content on this disc, but I think there really wasn't much room for it either. A commentary by Michael Mann would definitely make for a better disc, along with some production notes, possibly a behind the scenes featurette, or interviews with some of the actors involved in this film.
At an MSRP of $20 (which you can translate into $15 on the street) Heat is a good enough film to make this DVD, without a lack of extra content, definitely worth a purchase. You'll be buying a DVD that has such a great transfer it will be able to stand the test of time and still look good for many years down the road.
Acquitted on all counts. The Heat is on! (Oh, come on! I had to say it!)
Review content copyright © 1999 Sean Fitzgibbons; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2014 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
Studio: Warner Bros.
* 2.35:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (French)
Running Time: 172 Minutes
Release Year: 1995
MPAA Rating: Rated R
* Theatrical Trailers