Long before Pacino and De Niro were plastered on bus stops and framed in movie marquee posters (in what is probably one of the worst movie posters in recent history), they starred together in Michael Mann’s incredible Los Angeles cop vs. criminal movies, Heat. If you’ve never seen this film, you owe it to yourself, your parents, and the American people to go out and rent it this weekend. Especially since Righteous Kill is getting panned.
This underrated 1995 film stars Al Pacino, Robert De Niro, Val Kilmer, Jon Voight, Ashley Judd, Natalie Portman, Tom Sizemore, and everyone’s favorite machete-wielding Latino hero, Danny Trejo. It’s actually a remake of L.A. Takedown, a television movie Mann directed and wrote in 1989. Mann had spent ten years trying to get Heat made, and when he couldn’t get it going at a studio he scaled it down and created the tv version.
While not a failure by any means (it grossed over $185 million worldwide), people still have blank stares when I talk about Heat. “What’s that?” they’ll say. This was the first pairing of De Niro and Pacino on screen, and people don’t know about it?! For shame. Heck, the game had such a cult following that in 2006 they announced a video game version of the film would be coming to next-gen consoles. Thankfully (I think it would have been a travesty) that never happened. If you’re itching to play a video game version of Heat, play the bank heist level in GTA IV. It’ll satiate your desire to fight your way out of a bank while fending off heavily armed cops on metropolitan streets.
Although De Niro and Pacino had shared film credits before, having both starred in The Godfather, Part II, they only share two brief scenes together in Heat. However, those two scenes are electric. The plot of the film revolved around De Niro and his crew who “take down scores,” meaning they rob banks and other high-priority targets. Pacino and his own group of cops try to track down these crews and take them into custody by any means necessary. Of course, you know they’re gonna clash.
The film is a beautifully shot love letter to Los Angeles, as it didn’t use any sets, just locations around L.A. There’s a very moving film score here as well, culminating in the Moby song “God Moving Over The Face Of The Water.” If you can manage to maintain a dry eye during that final scene, then you’re a tougher guy than I am. Plus, you have some great comedic lines from a manic Pacino, like the scene where he tells Hank Azaria that Ashley Judd’s character “That’s because she has a GREAT ASS! And you’ve got your head all the way up it!” Excellent stuff.
Go give Heat a rental this weekend, and I promise you won’t be sorry. It has one of the best bank robbery / shootout scenes ever put on film, and it’ll wash the thoughts of Righteous Kill right out of your head.