WHAT I LIKED: Michael Mann's masterpiece 'Heat' might well be one of the best crime movies ever made, but most of all it's actually a film about the affects of addiction on both those falling prey to it, and those around them. Yes with Robert De Niro's mastermind-theif Neil addicted to committing crime and Al Pacino's brilliant Luitenant Hanna addicted to fighting it, we get to see the tragic toll that obsessions takes on everyone involved here, and the result is a story that slowly rips itself apart as everything begins to slowly implode and these two obsessives are drawn closer and closer to their inevitably destructive ends.
Now sure, that idea of addiction is a common thread in a number of these genre movies, but few give quite the kind of room that this one does to seriously develop all of that, and most of all we have Michael Mann's script and direction to thank there as he allows so much time to examine these guys so that you properly connect and begin to feel for them as victims of their own compulsions rather than simply functionalist masterminds. That humanity is also helped to the screen of course by the two central performances, but in the end, the that way the plot puts these two sides of the same coin on the tracks heading straight for each other is a genius move and it makes for one pretty epic character drama in which the points that they physically meet feel like gold dust.
But whilst all that famous stuff about Heat is great, it wouldn't be half the film that it is without all of the characters left behind by the central duo, as Mann arguably devotes an equal amount of time to developing those around Neil and Hanna to paint the tragedy even darker. We get to see the affects on their two partners Eady and Justine and the deeply upsetting toll on Hanna's daughter, and even both of the two's loyal teams fall victim to their willingness to go to extremes to come out on top of the other. There are countless scenes in houses where Mann cuts between Hanna's difficult home-life and Neil's lonely one, and the overall result isn't really a high-octane crime-thriller at all - more an epically tragic and melancholic character-study.
Couple all of that with Mann's typically unique ability to build all-consuming atmosphere with his beautiful visuals and soundscape - as well as lashings of humour and badassery - and what you've got is one of the best films of its genre. It's not take a high-octane crime thriller this; it's more a deeply engaging and tragic character-exploration with an awful lot of pathos and soul.
WHAT I DIDN'T LIKE: The slightly grandstanding dialogue does let things down in places.
VERDICT: A crime film more about the affects of addiction than the gripping plot that binds everything together, Michael Mann's 'Heat' effectively winds up a deeply melancholic and tragic character-study. It's undoubtedly his best film as a result, and it's also one of the best of its genre.