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If you can't stand the heat

by Nick Holloway

Today's first post is written by film editor and all-round cinema obsessive, Dave Bamford.

“Don’t let yourself get attached to anything you are not willing to walk out on in thirty seconds flat, if you feel the heat around the corner.”

In the past few years I have become involved in a number of ‘heated’ exchanges about a certain movie, one that many regard to be a classic. Keeping in mind it is almost fifteen years old and looking at some of the more recent work of the film's two stars, I thought it was time to do some nostalgia swedgin’ on the film Heat.

Directed by Michael Mann, Heat left a trail of swooning critics when it came thundering onto UK screens in early 1996. Take a quick glance over at IMDB and you'll see phrases like ‘The best character film of all time’, no doubt because the movie contains the first screen pairing of Al ‘most quoted by coke heads’ Pacino and Bobby ‘hero of paro loners everywhere’ De Niro.

The film details some shit about cops and robbers running around Los Angeles, robbing trucks and generally mouthing off in a macho way about ‘the game’, ‘playing by the rules’ and other random abstractions of what it means to kill people and take their money. It's based on a TV movie that Mann made in '89 for NBC, a much shorter version without all the tedious subplots about gambling addiction and family.

Don’t get me wrong, I am a fan of Michael Mann and believe that his blue filter wank fantasies to LA can be well paced and engaging. As a fan of The Silence of the Lambs I was intrigued by Manhunter, so far as to say that Brian Cox plays a more believable if less iconic Lecter than Anthony Hopkins. Again, in terms of visuals, 2004's Collateral is an amazing piece of work, turning LA into a neon maze out of which violence emanates. LA is only a space inside the screen for me as I have never been, but I've stared at its barren streets on and off for most of my life. In many ways, Mann’s LA is my only LA.

Anyway, enough pseudo musing on real and imagined spaces. My point is that ‘Heat’ sucks mega balls. The film is really just one long foreplay to a depressing café scene where De Niro and Pacino's characters say they think the other is pretty cool but they’re still going to mug each other off. It signals the beginning of a downward spiral for both actors and has led to another onscreen atrocity in the shape of Righteous Kill.

Now I know that there are many many people out there who disagree with my abject refusal of Heat as a work of cinematic genius, citing the armoured truck robbery scene as the film's key strength. However, can one set piece really justify the swaths of melodrama we're forced to sit through? It’s like a dead dog floating in a canal. Someone needs to pop that bloated stomach.