Blu-ray Review: HEAT

Warner Home Video
Release date: November 10th, 2009
MSRP: $28.99

Director: Michael Mann
Stars: : Al Pacino, Robert De Niro, Val Kilmer, Amy Brenneman, Tom Sizemore and Mykelti Williamson.

HEAT may be best known as the first film in which Al Pacino and Robert De Niro shared the screen (both were in The GODFATHER II, but were in different storylines) together. Though they do so for only one scene is a truly great one. But that scene is only part of the greatness that is HEAT.

Neil McCauley (De Niro) is the leader of a world-class gang of bank robbers. He is calm, smooth and careful. Among the members of his crew is Chris (Val Kilmer), who is considerably more reckless and has plenty of personal issues. Neil has little time for a personal life of his own and seems to spend an ample amount of energy keeping Chris’ family from falling apart.

Vincent Hanna (Pacino) leads the L.A. detectives on their trail. Hanna becomes intrigued by this crew and finds himself draw to the case, fixated really. Like Neil, He in focused on his job, but he is married and is unable to balance personal and professional. Hanna’s obsession with his job is more than his wife can take.

“You don’t live with me. You live among the remains of dead people.”

Interestingly enough, while Hanna’s personal life is crumbling, Neil strikes up a romance with a graphic designer named Eady (Amy Brenneman). I found it fascinating that it is Neil that is able to separate his personal and professional lives. The relationship between the two of them is as tender as Hanna’s marriage is caustic.

HEAT follows these two men as events slowly build towards a fateful meeting in which only one can come out on top. Each man is careful and methodical, yet unwilling to change course even though they both know somebody will almost certainly die. Mann does an excellent job of bulding towards that showdown, with the stage being set when Vincent and Neil meet in a restaurant to finally meet one another. That scene is truly breathtaking, two pros step up and deliver the kind of performances that has made each a legend.

The actions scenes of HEAT are not gratuitous. Don’t get me wrong, they kick ass, but they also make sense in the context of the film. These scenes are made even better by excellent camera work. Well shot, kick ass, make sense…that is pretty much everything I could ask for in an action scene.

Both De Niro and Pacino deliver excellent performances, though I think De Niro’s performance is more nuanced. They are ably backed by Brenneman, Tom Sizemore, Mykelti Williamson and Kilmer.

Still, it is not without it’s flaws. There is a serial killer storyline adds little to the film and detracts from the tension that is built over the course of the film. Without that, it would have flowed better. Somebody should have told Mann that more is not always better. While Mann is a good director, he tendency towards excess often hampers his films and this is no exception. The film comes in at almost three hours.

The film is presented in 1080p with a VC0-1 transfer and has a 2:40.1 ratio. This looks amazing. This is about as good a Blu-ray as I can remember watching. HEAT has plenty of dark scenes, with quite a bit of black clothing. Those scenes are all crystal clear with amazing contrast and depth. The image is clean and crisp with only a touch of grain. I noticed no signs of DNR. After watching this BD, I don’t know that I could ever go back and watch it on DVD.

HEAT is presented with a Dolby TrueHD 5.1 track that is fully utilized. Right off the bat, we are treated to shattering glass and deep rumbling explosions. A nice balancing act is done between playing up the effects and still keeping the dialogue clear. All channels are used liberally and the sub-woofer rocks in a club scene.
Dolby Digital 5.1 French, Spanish, and German tracks are also available, as is a Dolby Digital 2.0 Portuguese track.

Nothing new has been added since the Special edition from a few years back. A nice collection including a Mann commentary track as well as five featurettes, deleted scenes and trailers.

Visually, HEAT is as strong a case as I can think of for upgrading from DVD to Blu-ray. The film is damn entertaining, if a tad too long. If you like watching films in HD, pick up a copy, you won’t be disappointed.

Order HEAT on Blu-ray.

Jeremy Lynch
For more reviews from myself, and the rest of the Crimespree crew, check out the index of reviews.