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Blu-Ray : Worth a Look
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Release Date: April 25th, 2023 Movie Release Year: 1986

Heat (1986)

Overview -

He’s not a violent man… he’s just good at it, Burt Reynolds headlines the action thriller Heat - not that one, the 1986 one. Almost directed by Robert Altman, the film is a middling mismanaged adaptation of William Goldman’s slick crime novel. Burt gives it his all and a fun turn from Peter MacNicol adds some flavor but the movie is a bit of a mess. Now on Blu-ray from KLSC, the film picks up a decent A/V presentation with a very fun audio commentary. Worth A Look

Ex-mercenary Nick Escalante isn’t a violent man by nature. He’s just good at it. And when things get very, very bad, he’s naturally at his best. Las Vegas is the backdrop for all the torrid action of Heat, as screen legend Burt Reynolds (Hustle, Stick) plays the softhearted bodyguard who’s out to protect his friends. When a gangster’s son brutally beats an old flame, it ignites a tightly wound thriller that pits Burt against the mob and culminates in a vicious cat-and-mouse climax. Written by Hollywood’s master craftsman, William Goldman (Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, Marathon Man, Misery), directed by Dick Richards (Farewell, My Lovely) and co-starring Karen Young (Criminal Law), Peter MacNicol (Ghostbusters II), Neill Barry (O.C. and Stiggs), Howard Hesseman (Honky Tonk Freeway) and Diana Scarwid (Inside Moves).


• NEW Audio Commentary by Action Film Historians Brandon Bentley and Mike Leeder
Alternate Ending (2:37)
• Theatrical Trailer
• Limited Edition O-Card Slipcase
• Optional English Subtitles

Worth a Look
Rating Breakdown
Tech Specs & Release Details
Technical Specs:
Blu-ray Disc
Video Resolution/Codec:
1080p AVC/MPEG-4
Aspect Ratio(s):
Audio Formats:
English: DTS-HD MA 2.0
English SDH
Release Date:
April 25th, 2023

Storyline: Our Reviewer's Take


Soldier of fortune. Master of edged weapons. Brave without compromise. Hero and friend to a fault. He’s Nick Escalante (Burt Reynolds). He’s also a raging gambling addict. That’s why he’s stuck in Vegas taking odd jobs as a “Chaperone” for rich do-wells like Cyrus Kinnick (Peter MacNicol) so maybe one day he can get out to Venice and live out his days in peace. But when his friend Holly (Karen Young) is beaten to a pulp by the sniveling son of a mobster, Nick gets angry, and mean, and will settle the score his way. 

Before Michael Mann repurposed the title for his epic crime saga, famed writer William Goldman punched out his 1985 pulpy crime thriller Heat. A hit at release, the novel was quickly scooped up for a feature film adaptation with Burt Reynolds attached with Robert Altman ready to direct. Then it all fell apart. Without the screenplay where he wanted it, Altman left the project just before filming was set to start. Dick Richards (credited at R.M. Richards) picked up the job, but the film was turning out bad, he hated working with Burt Reynolds, he quit, returned, and quit again while Jerry Jameson (Airport ‘77 and Raise the Titanic) - along with a few other directors - finally finished the film. It took DGA arbitration to decide who got credit; Richards took 41% of the blame with Jameson getting 31%, that last 28% is anyone’s guess.

Over eight million dollars later and a complete box office bust, Heat is one of those oddities that should have worked on paper but never came together on film. Remade in 2015 with Jason Statham as the even more unimpressive Wild Card - the story proves to be a worthwhile cinematic enterprise but no one has been able to figure out what the hell to do with it. The plot is there. The characters are there. Something just goes wrong every time this gets in front of a camera.

Having read through the book, my issue with both versions but this 1986 one especially is they don’t have any sense of timing or pace. This version is especially problematic at the outset burning nearly 20 minutes of valuable screentime just to let the audience know what Nick does for a living. It’s a fun scene, and endearing of the character, but it drags way too long and is bizarrely intercut with a bloody Karen Young dragging herself to the emergency room. And then it’s another twenty-plus minutes before we even get to anything resembling an inciting incident to actually push the plot forward. By comparison, I remember that the book moves fast and easily and is a fun quick read. Both Heat and Wild Card take too damn long to get anywhere interesting and when they do they rush through some of the most entertaining and fun characters to speed towards their respective endings.

All problems aside, Heat is still a fun little flick - even if it’s fairly mediocre and unremarkable. Reynolds is in great form deftly balancing the simmering violence of his turn in something like Sharky’s Machine with his natural comedic charms. Peter MacNicol is delightful as the nervous nerd Cyrus and often steals the show. Karen Young also earns her dues as the wronged woman out for revenge with Neill Barry turning a slimy 80s villain. There’s still a good movie to be made out of this story and characters, it just hasn’t happened yet. 

Vital Disc Stats: The Blu-ray
Thanks to the partnership with Lionsgate, Kino Lorber Studio Classics is able to deliver Heat to Blu-ray for the first time. Pressed on a Region A BD-50 disc, the disc is housed in a standard case with identical slipcover artwork. The disc loads to a static image main menu with standard navigation options.

Video Review


Heat makes its way to Blu-ray with a rather respectable 1.78:1 1080p transfer. This wasn’t a big film upon release and mostly survived thanks to runs on cable and VHS. Probably not the freshest scan or restoration effort, the master sourced for this release is in solid shape without any severe speckling or damage. Details are strong, maybe not as crisp as something we’d see in a newer transfer but still very good, and film grain can be a little clumpy, but nothing too serious or distracting. Colors are robust with healthy primaries and skin tones for 1980s Las Vegas scenery. Black levels are decent, and there’s some decent depth, but they don’t quite come in full inky black for a lot of the film. Thankfully that improves in time for the shadowy climax. All around a solid transfer for this '80s gem. 

Audio Review


This disc arrives with a respectable DTS-HD MA 2.0 track. Throughout dialog is clean and clear without issue. There’s plenty of background action and activity to set a nice soundscape for the film to work in. Between bars, casinos, and the film’s climactic chase scene. Michael Gibbs’ score doesn’t get too much attention but it sets the mood nicely. Some sound effects can sound pretty canned and off-kilter, but I wonder if that was more of a case of quick and dirty audio editing just to get the film finished and done with considering all of the production issues.

Special Features


Bonus features aren’t the biggest batch ever assembled but there’s a great audio commentary leading the way with action film historians Brandon Bentley and Mike Leeder chatting through the film. They’ve got a lot of fun insights into the show and all of the director changeups dissecting where they thought the whole thing went wrong while also highlighting its strengths. After that we get the happy alternate ending - which is the one I remembered from TV viewings - but it’s also not really needed and more than a little improbable considering all that happens to a certain character. From there we get the standard KLSC collection of related trailers. 

  • Audio Commentary featuring Brandon  Bentley and Mike Leeder
  • Alternate Ending (HD 4:51)
  • Trailer
  • KLSC Trailer Gallery

Heat (again this 1986 version) isn’t a great movie. It could have been. With a little more script development and Altman at the helm, it potentially could have been something. But with multiple directors and production setbacks, it’s a flawed mediocre semi-entertaining Burt Reynolds vehicle. Easily the film’s best asset, Reynolds holds the screen with Peter MacNicol turning in a fun supporting performance. At long last Kino Lorber Studio Classics through their partnership with Lionsgate delivers this Heat to Blu-ray. While the A/V presentation may not win any awards, it’s strong on its own and a welcome upgrade to the format. Bonus features are slim, but that audio commentary is certainly worth a listen if for nothing else it’ll help you understand all of the crazy behind-the-scenes happenings. Worth A Look