Heat: Director's Definitive EditionOverview -
When Al Pacino and Robert De Niro square off, Heat sizzles. Written and directed by Michael Mann, Heat includes dazzling set pieces and a bank heist that USA Today's Mike Clark calls "the greatest action scene of recent times." It also offers "the most impressive collection of actors in one movie this year" (Newsweek). Val Kilmer, Jon Voight, Tom Sizemore and Ashley Judd are among the memorable supporting players in this tale of a brilliant L.A. cop (Pacino) following the trail from a deadly armed robbery to a crew headed by an equally brilliant master thief (De Niro).
Heat goes way beyond the expectations of the cops-and-criminals genre and into the realm of movie masterpiece.
Storyline: Our Reviewer's Take
After giving writer/director Michael Mann's Heat a spin again for this Blu-ray review, I stand by my claim that if it isn't the greatest heist genre flick ever made, it easily ranks as one of the most entertaining action movies to come out of the nineties. Not only is the film infused with razor-sharp writing, a stellar cast, and stylish direction, to this very day it still delivers what is widely regarded as the best gunfight in cinematic history. This sequence really is a true marvel of modern filmmaking.
Neil McCauley (Robert De Niro) is a professional thief. He runs a very tight crew, which always includes his loyal best friend Chris Shiherlis (Val Kilmer), and he methodically plans out every job with tactical precision. Maintaining a cool head is the key to McCauley's success, and if he even senses a rise in temperature by a mere half a degree, he'll do whatever is necessary to avoid getting burnt. But as McCauley and his gang plunder the City of Angels and work their way towards the score of a lifetime, their trail is picked up by a skilled detective, Lt. Vincent Hanna (Al Pacino). Now with the police force hot on his trail, McCauley finds himself thrust into a citywide chess match with Hanna -- and neither man plans to be outwitted by his worthy opponent.
The casting for Heat is simply phenomenal. This was the first film to finally unite Al Pacino and Robert De Niro on screen together (they were in different timelines in The Godfather: Part II), and having them as opposing dominant forces is pure genius. Pacino is the more animated of the two, strutting around in his typical cocky persona with the occasional frantic outburst. Sure he milks it to the extreme, but in all fairness Hanna was originally meant to have a cocaine habit and that definitely seeps through on camera. De Niro, on the other hand, is just as fun to watch. McCauley works hard at trying to appear calm, cool, and collected, but it's really all a façade. This guy is a sociopath at the core and he doesn't always mask it as well as he thinks. Both men clearly have issues, and the actors' riveting performances complement each other brilliantly. Then there's the unprecedented list of colorful supporting roles: Val Kilmer, Jon Voight, Tom Sizemore, Ashley Judd, Natalie Portman, Ted Levine, Dennis Haysbert, Amy Brenneman, Wes Studi, Hank Azaria, Xander Berkeley, and Danny Trejo. Top that off with cameos by Henry Rollins, Tõn Lõc, and Jeremy Piven -- and pretty much every speaking part is a familiar face.
Clocking in at nearly three hours, it's impressive how Heat flows along at such a smooth and brisk pace. On the visual end, Mann makes excellent use of interesting locales, and he treats each scene with the respect it deserves. It also helps that the more leisurely interludes run on snappy dialogue that never feels forced at all. A number of lines and conversations were either ad-libbed or unrehearsed, too. This can often derail a film, but in this case, it gives the movie that extra bit of magic as it ramps up to the intense and thrilling action sequences.
Of course, this segues us into what has made Heat legendary -- the bank heist (inspiring Christopher Nolan's prologue in The Dark Knight) and the mother of all shootouts. Beethoven has his symphonies, Hendrix has his guitar riffs, and Michael Mann has his opus of three guys with full auto assault rifles laying waste to half the LAPD and an entire city block. I could watch this thing over and over, it's just too bad Warner doesn't have Universal's "My Scenes" -- as this would be the one time I'd actually use the feature.
In the years since its release, it's easy to see why Michael Mann's arguably best film has risen to become the ultimate fan favorite of crime dramas. The story is compelling, the characters are engaging, and the blazing action cooks up a storm -- and then some.
Vital Disc Stats: The Blu-ray
Heat returns to Blu-ray courtesy of 20th Century Fox in a two-disc Director's Definitive Edition. The region-free release arrives in a typical two-disc Blu-ray case with a stylish, jet black slip cover. The Blu-ray boots up directly to a Main Menu screen and most of the bonus features are included on the second disc. A digital copy of the film is also provided.
It has been nearly eight years since Warners first released Heat on Blu-ray which, at the time, featured a newly-restored transfer supervised by Michael Mann that for the most part was a very faithful and respectable presentation. The director has apparently returned to the studio to supervise this new "remastered in 4K" transfer for 20th Century Fox, and while it doesn't offer a night and day type of difference, there is still some general improvement over the original release to make this a true "definitive" edition.
As before, the image has a rather nice filmic appearance with a fine layer of grain throughout. The picture also still has a somewhat cool and subdued color palette with deep black levels contrasted by bright and clean whites, although this transfer appears to be a tad darker overall than its predecessor. Clarity is improved here too, as textures in clothing as well as facial detailing -- skin pores, fine stubble, De Niro's mole, and even Kilmer's scar -- are sharply defined and more revealing than ever.
Dimensionality is often strong, especially in exterior shots, but certain scenes remain a bit soft and there's occasional blurring just from the way the movie was filmed and not a flaw with the transfer. The minor edge enhancement that I mentioned in my prior review seems to be gone or at least diminished enough so that it isn't as noticeable, and I didn't see any other problems like excessive digital noise, macroblocking or unsightly DNR, either.
Of the two transfers, this 1080p/AVC MPEG-4 encode is definitely the superior one, however as noted it's not a significant upgrade that screams for an immediate double dip if it's already in your collection.
20th Century Fox replaces Warners' 5.1 Dolby TrueHD soundtrack with a 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio mix for this Definitive Edition, although to be honest there doesn't seem to be much of a difference between the two tracks. If there are any tweaks, they are negligible at best.
If you're hoping for a very immersive experience, well then Heat delivers in spades. Dynamics and spatial movement are amazingly energetic here. Seamless pans are everywhere--the train during the opening credits, the helicopter flybys, the airplanes landing and taking off at the airport--and adding extra punch to these scenes are extremely powerful bass frequencies. The rears are highly active with a variety of effects, from subtle ambiance in the restaurants and hotel lobby, to of course the heavy gunfire. The "ting" of shell casings hitting the ground is very distinguishable and bullets whiz by and burrow into the sides of vehicles with clarity. The multiple windshields shattering simultaneously during the armored car assault will likely make some OCD viewers vacuum their floor once the movie is finished. Tying it all together is Elliot Goldenthal's original score that pleasingly weaves its way through the sound field.
The only issue preventing me from giving the soundtrack a higher score is that I found the dialogue to be awfully quiet in places. This is a movie with plenty of soft speech and whispers, and even if the volume is cranked then the really loud scenes can be almost deafening. If the vocals had only been turned up just a bit, this mix would be outstanding.
The Blu-ray also includes DTS 5.1 tracks in Spanish, French, and German, a Japanese DTS 2.0 track, and a pair of DTS-HD Master Audio Mono tracks in Japanese and Portuguese. Subtitle options include: English SDH, French, German, Japanese, Portuguese, Spanish, Bulgarian, Danish, Dutch, Finnish, Korean, Mandarin (Simplified), Mandarin (Traditional), Norwegian, Romanian, Swedish, Thai.
All of the supplements found on Warner's previous Blu-ray edition of Heat are included on this release. (See below for the Definitive Edition exclusives.)
- Audio Commentary – Disc one includes a feature commentary helmed by writer/director Michael Mann. Although the track can be a bit dry in places and does have periodic dead spots, the bulk of it is actually highly informative. He covers the production and numerous performances in great detail, and also tells many interesting little facts about the real people certain characters are based around. If you're a fan of the film, it's worth your time for sure.
- The Making of HEAT: True Crime (SD, 14 Min) – The first of three "making-of" featurettes focuses primarily on the real-life pursuit of master criminal Neil McCauley by Chicago Detective Chuck Adamson in the 1960s that served as the inspiration for the film. The best part is that the former police officer is on hand to share some of his experiences from his days on the job.
- The Making of HEAT: Crime Stories (SD, 20 Min) – Michael Mann talks about the background of the story and how it evolved into the 1989 made-for-TV movie 'L.A. Takedown' before eventually becoming 'Heat.' Numerous cast interviews are also present discussing the quirks of their characters, their motivations for taking the roles, what it's like working for the director, and more.
- The Making of HEAT: Into the Fire (SD, 24 Min) – The last segment provides a thorough look at the vast amount of preparation that went into the production. The cast and crew conducted a ton of research by spending time with real cops and criminals, undergoing weapons training, and even visiting a bank to case the joint!
- Pacino and De Niro: The Conversation (SD, 10 Min) – A detailed analysis of Pacino and De Niro's characters, their powerhouse performances, and the filming of their restaurant scene.
- Return to the Scene of the Crime (SD, 12 Min) – Location manager Janice Polley and associate producer Gusmano Cesaretti revisit a handful of the locations used in the film and reveal a few secrets behind them.
- Deleted Scenes (SD, 9 Min) – A collection of eleven deleted and extended scenes.
- Theatrical Trailers (SD, 7 Min) – Rounding out the bonus features are three theatrical trailers for the film: 'Surprise of a Lifetime,' 'Two Actors Collide,' and 'Closing In.'
With a stellar cast, masterful direction, and the shootout-of-all-shootouts, Heat remains one of the best 1990s crime dramas and is a modern cinema masterpiece. 20th Century Fox's Blu-ray doesn't quite put Warner's to shame, but it does offer a few improvements that should make any diehard fans happy. If you've never owned Heat on Blu-ray, this Director's Definitive Edition comes Highly Recommended.
That said, while the new video transfer is certainly better, it isn't exactly a huge step up from before either, so if the inclusion of retrospective panels and/or digital copies aren't your thing then an upgrade may not be necessary for those who already own the first Blu-ray.
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