Heat ★★★★½

Michael Mann's HEAT is an absolute classic. HEAT dissects the nature of both an advanced heist and the high-level investigations that bring them down through the minutiae of the details in the planning. But further, HEAT hones in on the characters involved in an almost Altman-esque fashion. Subplots and events in the lives of minor characters are all important and add to the Mann's mosaic.

HEAT also features a master craftsmanship with its blend of music, sound, and cinematography in bringing a realism, intensity, and first-person perspective to many of the film's fantastic action setpieces. There is no bank robbery scene in cinema that parallels this film's bank heist.

De Niro is outstanding in HEAT as the practically OCD heist-planning perfectionist. But Pacino's performance comes from a completely different planet. Pacino at times is the consummate showman, elevating both mundane and interesting dialog with bizarrely and beautifully memorable deliveries ("What've we got?" "She's got a great ass!" "I mean is this guy something, or is this guy something!" "You can ball my wife is she wants you to"). Pacino, a short man, walks shoulder to shoulder with other taller and amazing actors (Wes Studi, Ted Levine) but he towers above them with an unparalleled fervor and charisma. And then, he gives us a deep, caring soul when he shares scenes with Natalie Portman. The more I think about Pacino here, the more I consider his Oscar snub.

It is too bad that the final act loses a touch of its realism-plausibility in the mano-a-mano, hotel-fire-alarm and airstrip-running-around finale. Even though this is a pre-9/11 world, the security scenario around LAX in the final act feels a bit thin. But aside from this beef, HEAT stands out as Mann's masterpiece, juggling the beauty of sound, score, and cityscapes with brilliant performances and a fascinatingly detailed cops vs. robbers character study.

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