The names of the characters are hardly consequential, as they are used to further storylines more than develop character. But Pacino plays a cop who is tracking a group of robbers, among them Val Kilmer (Wonderland) and Tom Sizemore (Saving Private Ryan), a group headed by DeNiro. The group receives offers for work from Jon Voight (Runaway Train), and they rob anything from gold, to coins, to bearer bonds. They are all ex-cons, and know all the ropes. They are a highly professional crew, which you see in the opening moments of the movie, despite the addition of a new man to the crew. What also helps to differentiate this from a usual cops and robbers movie are the secondary plotlines of the families involved. Pacino’s is clearly distant and breaking (played by Diane Venora and Natalie Portman), while DeNiro doesn’t have one to speak of, despite an emerging romance with Edy (Amy Brenneman, Judging Amy). At 3 hours, there are some unnecessary scenes involving a banker (played by William Fichtner), but the underlying message is that almost all of the actions in the movie do not involve just the primary characters, but also friends and loved ones of those characters. Kilmer’s wife in the film, played by Ashley Judd, desperately wants to get him out of his line of work, as she wants to start a new life for her family. An ex-con (Dennis Haysbert, 24) is stumbled upon working in a greasy spoon, and offered a chance to work by DeNiro. Haysbert’s character wants to be right, but runs into so many obstacles from it that he takes the job, only to wind up perishing in what results in a massive gunfight in the heart of Los Angeles while a bank robbery is being pulled.
With other solid supporting performances by Ted Levine (Monk), Mykelti Williamson (Forrest Gump), and appearances by Bud Cort (Harold and Maude), Jeremy Piven (PCU), Hank Azaria (The Simpsons) and Henry Rollins (The Chase), the movie is certainly not without its star power. The director behind this work is Michael Mann, who also wrote a much better than expected story. The man responsible for such striking visuals in films such as Manhunter, Ali and The Insider contributes more outstanding work here, and while it’s been out for awhile now, Warner Brothers finally gives it a high definition Blu-ray release
Heat is presented in its original aspect ratio of 2.35:1. The 1080p image is arrived at with a VC-1 codec at an average bit rate of about 23 mbps. It’s a very dark film, and fortunately the black levels are at least fair. Nothing really pops on this high definition release. Detail is great, but I don’t see superior sharpness or color anywhere on this film. It’s a very average image presentation for a high definition release.
The Dolby Digital-HD 5.1 track is as average as the image. Most of the sound is really pretty much front and center. Mann uses contemplative scenes where people talk softly while synth rock and roll plays. It’s a boring music video effect that isn’t enhanced here at all. You do hear all of the dialog, and that is really the most important part of the film. There are occasional moments of aggressive surrounds, most notably in the street firefight that starts the last hour of the 3 hour film.
There is a commentary by Mann that goes into a great amount of detail on the characters, along with some minor production detail. In all it’s not a bad commentary.
The extras were ported over from the DVD release. These include a 3 part making of featurette that you can play individually or as one big piece (total runtime is about an hour). It covers the real Neil McCauley (yes, there was one), along with the cop who pursued him, and it covers both the inspiration for the movie and various parts of the movie, including the production, research by the cast, and other aspects. Aside from DeNiro, every major cast member shows up in what appears to be new interview footage, discussing their thoughts on the film and the story, and some minor scene breakdowns are included. While there are a few production stills, there’s very little production footage, so that was mildly disappointing, but all in all this is a very good piece.
A smaller 10 minute look at the scene with Pacino and DeNiro is next, covering everyone’s thoughts on it, along with a lot of substance to dispel the myth that they were never together in the diner scene.
Next is a 12 minute look at the locations in the film, and how they look today, which is cool for the people who are part of those locations now (homeowners, etc.), talking about their thoughts of their famous location. The homeowner of the house where Neil kills his crewmember Trejo evens says the bloodstain is under their floorboards, which is pretty cool.
Rounding out the set are about 10 minutes of deleted scenes, including one alternate take, the scenes are basically filler and understandably trimmed from the film.
Those who are completists are happy now that the Special Edition is out on shelves, and might even like the slightly tweaked picture. Comparing it against the sound though, the first disc may be a better selection, but either way, Heat should be on everyone’s shelves.
This review contains material written by Ryan Keefer for his review on the special edition DVD release of the film.