Features and Columns · Movies

Anatomy of a Shootout: ‘Heat’ vs. ‘The Matrix’

Freeze, this is a stick up (and a scene comparison between ‘The Matrix’ and ‘Heat’)!
Robert De Niro Heat shootout
By  · Published on March 24th, 2022

Welcome to The Queue — your daily distraction of curated video content sourced from across the web. Today, we’re watching a video essay that compares scenes from the movies Heat and vs.The Matrix to unravel the impact of the cinematic shootout.

Whatever your stance may be on real-world firearms, there’s no denying that the partnership between cinema and gunplay is one of the longest in the medium’s history.

One of the earliest moving images depicting the cinematic potential of guns was 1894’s Annie Oakley, a single reel distributed by the Edison Manufacturing Company in which American sharpshooter and Buffalo Bill’s Wild West show veteran Annie Oakley performed various rifle trick shots with the assistance of her husband. Over Hollywood’s 130 years, cinematic shootouts ensued.

While unpacking the history of gunfights in movies can be a bit daunting, the video essay below offers a helpful paradigm: a sliding scale between realism and stylization with lots of variety in between. Realistic shootouts tend to follow certain stylistic conventions that attempt to put you, the audience, in the middle of the action (with all the horror that entails). They favor eye-level points of view, forgo a score, and treat the camera as though it were a gun itself. This approach can lead to harrowing, tension-filled set pieces that hammer home the violence and chaos of what a full-on gunfight might actually feel like.

On the other side of things, stylized gunfights throw realism (and often physics) out the window in favor of putting on a good show. Gun-fu is just mixed martial arts with bullets, after all. Stylish gunfights take more artistic liberties, altering everything from gravity to time itself to make the sequence hit harder.

Using Michael Mann’s Heat as a representative for a realistic shootout and the Wachowskis’ The Matrix as an example of a stylish one, the following video essay highlights the different effects that can be achieved through a hail of bullets.

Watch “Heat Shootout Scene vs. The Matrix Lobby Shootout — Directing Breakdown”:

Who made this?

This video essay about shootout scenes was created by StudioBinder, a production management software creator that also happens to produce wildly informative video essays. They tend to focus on the mechanics of filmmaking itself, from staging to pitches and directorial techniques. You can check out their YouTube account here.

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Based in the Pacific North West, Meg enjoys long scrambles on cliff faces and cozying up with a good piece of 1960s eurotrash. As a senior contributor at FSR, Meg's objective is to spread the good word about the best of sleaze, genre, and practical effects.