11 January, 2009

Movie Review: Heat (1995)

Number 354 on the TSPDT? list is, I assume, what self-stylized "thinking men" consider their kind of crime caper: writer/director Michael Mann's Heat, a trite, overlong, dull thriller heavy on quiet scenes of obvious reflection, with a splattering of explosive, implausible weapons extravaganzas blended in, all set to the drippy, foggy synthesizers of an early nineties musical score.

Mann bloats almost three hours of screen time with a heavy-handed, terribly unmeaningful exploration of Good Vs. Evil. Al Pacino is Detective Vincent Hanna, the Good, and Robert DeNiro is Neil McCauley, one amongst the bad, a high stakes bank robber and trigger happy murderer. But, wouldn't you know it, they've got a lot in common! They both have relationship problems with obnoxious, poorly conceived women--on the one hand is a dreadfully stiff Diane Venora, whose character as Vincent's wife spends all of her scenes accusing her husband of having affairs and yelling at him for being too committed to the nonsense of his career. She apparently doesn't watch the news; after a lengthy shootout in the middle of the highway involving hundreds of bullets, millions of dollars, and several police, criminal, and civilian casualties, she decides to confront him about how lonely and pissed she is that he's been working (i.e. dodging rifle bullets in traffic and aiming past hostages) all day, confessing to marijuana use and a meaningless affair.

On the other hand is Eady (Amy Brenneman), a pushy, twangy bookseller-cum-graphic artist who lives in a "rundown" house overlooking LA (aka: in the movie world, an estate much larger and more beautiful than any house you've ever lived in). She's all alone, having migrated from Appalachia to New York to the West Coast, looking for companionship and her big break in the art world. She strikes up an awkward chat with Macauley in a diner, and soon they're having deep, late night conversation about goals and family, and next they're having sex, and eventually they're soul mates. They know each other for all of maybe two weeks (probably less) when Eady, previously convinced that Macauley was a steel salesman, realizes that he has in fact orchestrated the biggest, bloodiest shootout of all time. She contemplates fleeing but is soon convinced that she loves him so much she should run away with him to Brazil with all the loot, making her the stupidest, most implausible female in the history of cinema.

Both Macauley and Hanna are committed to their ambitions. Both are swallowed by their respective callings (as well as each other's conflicting callings). Both are prepared to kill or die when the time is right. Both are horribly boring (though Al Pacino rises slightly above on the interest meter) and surround themselves with lame people.

And on top of their problems (which, in a wiser movie, would've been more interestingly paralleled, with greater juxtaposition between what the characters were doing, feeling, thinking, with sharp editing highlighting their chiaroscuro dance... but instead we get slow pacing, plodding direction, weak acting, a convoluted plot, and that goddamn droopy score), we get the problems of two dozen other pencil-sketched ensemble actors... man with mustache, skinny gangbanger, gambling-addicted explosives expert, infidelitous police officer, black man with loving wife, and hysteric teenage Natalie Portman, who (despite only having four minutes of prior screen time) arbitrarily attempts suicide in the middle of the film's climax, in the strangest of locations, for the vaguest of reasons.

I really don't feel like writing about this obese film anymore. Usually I try to list any film's redemptive qualities, but here the two shining moments are so minor and specific that I won't even bother.

What a disappointment.

d/w: Michael Mann
(Al Pacino, Robert DeNiro)
TSPDT? #354

1 comment:

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