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"Don't let yourself get attached to anything you are not willing to walk out on in 30 seconds flat if you feel the heat around the corner."
The first movie billed almost entirely on featuring Al Pacino and Robert De Niro together. Heat is a 1995 Michael Mann film about the relationship between a cop and the criminal he's investigating. Pacino plays Lieutenant Vincent Hanna, of Robbery and Homicide, on the trail of master thief Neil McCauley (De Niro). Neil lives by one rule: when you feel the heat, you walk away. Never become attached to anything you can't leave behind in 30 seconds.
Both men are masters of their professions, but struggle with their personal lives. Hanna wrestles with his family, while Neil is forced to admit (to himself rather than anyone else) he may have feelings for the woman he's been seeing. The tangles of their personal and professional lives become messier as Neil reunites his crew for one last gig, a retirement send-off.
Despite the action trappings, the drama of the film comes from the internal strife of the two characters. On one hand, Vincent is obsessive about his job and oblivious to his failing marriage. On the other, Neil is successful and has nearly everything he wants, but is still painfully lonely. Neither man is happy or fulfilled, and each is looking in all the wrong places to find those missing pieces.
This film contains examples of:
- Action Film Quiet Drama Scene: Lots, actually, but the scene where Vincent and Neil have a coffee and discuss their lives is probably one of the most iconic in cinema. It helps that it's the first time Robert De Niro and Al Pacino appeared in the same scene together in a film.
- Actor Allusion: In both this movie and True Lies, Max Daniels plays a thug wielding a Steyr TMP who is shot and wildly fires his gun into the air as he goes down.
- Agitated Item Stomping : The poor television set did NOT deserve it.
- All-Star Cast: Robert De Niro, Al Pacino, Val Kilmer, Tom Sizemore, Danny Trejo, Jon Voight, Ashley Judd, Wes Studi and Tone-Loc. Even Hanna's stepdaughter, who appears in all of three scenes, is played by Natalie Portman (although that one might only be a retroactive example).
- All There in the Script: In the original draft, Hanna was explained to have been a habitual cocaine user, thus enabling him to keep his "edge" at all times. This is never mentioned in the film, but Pacino used it in his performance anyway, thus offering some justification for his at times rather hammy performance.
- Arc Words: The quote on top of this page; it's McCauley's credo in regards to his line of work. Disregarding it has disastrous consequences for any who pull it.
- Asshole Victim: Waingro and Roger Van Zant are both killed by Neil in revenge. Waingro is particularly deserving, since he is a real piece of work on his own.
- Bank Robbery - the last job Neil plans is a bank heist, meant to be a pre-retirement gig. It doesn't go well.
- Bittersweet Ending - Vincent gets his man...at the expense of Neil's life. Bosko, Cheritto and Breaden are killed during the botched heist. Trejo and his wife are brutally tortured, the latter succumbing to her injuries and the former mercy-killed by Neil. Chris survives but has to abandon his family. Vincent is also very close to a divorce but it's left somewhat ambiguous.
- Big Bad Ensemble: In Neil’s storyline the Big Bads are Hanna and Van Zant.
- Big Bad Wannabe: Van Zant is not really depicted as a threat on his own, and is not nearly as untouchable as he thinks he is, considering how easily Hanna forces him to work with him.
- Beard of Evil: It is no coincidence that Neil has a natty little goatee while Hanna is clean shaven. Waingro, who is clearly evil, has the bigger beard.
- Black Dude Dies First: Both played straight and subverted - Breaden is the first of the crooks to die during the shootout after the bank heist, but Drucker is one of the cops left standing.
- Bottomless Magazines: During the heist scene, the villains reload exactly once, despite having only 30-round clips. If you look carefully, however, you can see see them partway through the motions of reloading a few times.
- Cool Guns - in the bank heist scene, Neil and Chris are using Colt M733s, Michael (Tom Sizemore) is using an IMI Galil, and Vincent uses a FN Herstal FNC-80.
- Cradling Your Kill - Hanna does something like this to Neil after the short gunfight at the airport; he doesn't exactly cradle him, but he does hold his hand and comfort him as he dies.
- The Danza: Danny Trejo as... Trejo.
- Death Glare: Cheritto delivers a very cool one to dissuade fellow diners from noticing Waingro getting beaten up.
- Diner Brawl: A really vicious one happens in a diner parking lot between Neil and a thug.
- Disappeared Dad: The unseen father of Vincent's stepdaughter is clearly a selfish jerk not interested in her, but she nevertheless yearns to make a connection with him. His failure to bother with her eventually drives her to attempt suicide. Despite his own obsession with his job, Vincent at least tries to compensate and make some time for her, even as he pursues Neil McCauley.
- Disposable Sex Worker - Waingro is a Serial Killer of prostitutes. This is one of the purest examples of the trope: the killings have precisely zero bearing on the plot, existing solely to establish Waingro's bona fides as a grade-A bastard (gratuitously, at that, since in the armored car robbery at the start, Waingro pistol-whips the first guard and then shoots him in the face at point-blank range, demonstrating his ruthlessness).
- Dramatic Gun Cock - Averted by using the pistol press check instead.
- Driven to Suicide - Vincent's stepdaughter slitting her wrists. Fortunately, Vincent got there in time.
- Dropped a Bridge on Him: Van Zant is abruptly killed by Neil and, aside from a brief mention, forgotten about.
- Dueling Stars Movie - Al Pacino and Robert De Niro.
- Enforced Method Acting - Hanna's line "She's got a... GREAT ASS! And you got your head all the way up it!" was improvised: the surprise on Hank Azaria's face was genuine.
- Foil: Vincent and Neil.
- Go-Karting with Bowser: Coffee with McCauley.
- Grey and Grey Morality - There are no truly good or bad characters. While Neil is ultimately a bad guy, he still has a handful of redeeming qualities, and he's not a Complete Monster. The movie exists to blur the lines between cops and criminals. One Complete Monster, Waingro, exists purely to show how much better Neil is in comparison.
- Gun Porn: Much less typical "Gun Porn" and more like "Proper Firearms Procedure And Close Quarters Battle Porn."
- Gut Feeling: "Neil is still here. I can feel it."
- Hate Sink: Waingro. Oh dear, Waingro.
- Honor Among Thieves - Neil's team of robbers are mostly this: despite some bad habits, they mostly watch out for each other. Except for Waingro, who is too inhumane to count. Neil had to know going after Waingro would leave him exposed to the cops chasing him, but he had to make the bastard pay for what happened to Trejo and Trejo's wife. See Revenge Before Reason below...
- I Cannot Self-Terminate - Trejo begs Neil to put him out of his misery after being beaten to a pulp by Waingro.
- Ironic Echo: "Told you I'm never going back."
- It's Personal - After Trejo dies.
- Karmic Death: Admit it, you cheered when McCauley gave Waingro the Mozambique Drill (two in the chest, one in the head) treatment.
- Large Ham - Al Pacino, of course.
- Married to the Job - Vincent, at the expense of his marriage. And his previous marriage. And the one before that. Neil also, at the expense of any kind of fulfilling personal life whatsoever. It is one of the threads they have in common.
- Mercy Kill: Neil when he kills Trejo.
- Name's the Same: The 80s film with Burt Reynolds and Peter MacNicol is probably best remembered for having the same name as this film.
- Noble Demon: Neil. He is a ruthless, violent criminal willing to commit murder when it is necessary, but he takes no pleasure in it and makes every effort to minimize innocent casualties as much as possible. One gets the idea that he'd be a pretty decent guy in a different profession.
- Not So Different - Arguably the point of the film.
- A memorable scene occurs when Neil and Vincent sit down at a cafe together and reach this very conclusion.
Vincent: I don't know how to do anything else.
Neil: Neither do I.
Vincent: I don't much want to, either.
Neil: Neither do I.
- Hanna also shares a lot with Chris Shiherlis in terms that their marriages are falling apart, with both of their wives cheating on them.
- One scene has the cops go out to dinner with their families at a nice restaurant. Another scene has the criminals go out to dinner with their families.
- One Last Job - The bank job.
- One-Scene Wonder: Unusually, it's a one scene pairing. The two lead characters spend the whole movie plotting against one another, but never meet and aren't on screen together except for one great scene where they sit down and have coffee (see Not So Different) and the final showdown. Notable, because it's the first time Pacino and De Niro ever did a scene together.
- Paper-Thin Disguise: Neil does this twice; at the beginning of the film, he wears a paramedic uniform to steal an ambulance. At the climax, he is able to walk through a hotel swarming with police merely by stealing a security guard's jacket and tie. He makes no other attempt to disguise his appearance. He knows enough that he mostly just needs to pretend to belong there.
- Punctuated for Emphasis : BUT YOU DO NOT! GET TO WATCH! MY! FUCKING! TELEVISION SET!"
- Rabid Cop: Vincent's basic routine around criminals is to act like an especially eccentric version of this until he scares/confuses them into telling him something useful. An early script draft showed Hanna as a cocaine addict, explaining his random outbursts. Even though it was removed from the script, Al Pacino still used it as his starting point.
- Rape as Drama - Happens to the wife of Trejo, one of Neil's associates. And to the underage prostitutes that Waingro kills.
- Revenge Before Reason:
- Neil has an opportunity to leave the country with his girlfriend and leave behind his life of crime forever. However, he jeopardizes (and ultimately destroys) that opportunity just so he pay back Waingro for betraying him and killing his friend. It goes against his personal code of dropping everything if the "heat" is on. He can't drop the revenge, and it prevents his escape.
- Roger van Zant would have collected 100% on the insurance for his stolen bearer bonds and made an extra 40% by buying back the bonds from Neil and his crew at a discount. Instead, he tries to have them killed.
- Semper Fi - Hanna and Neil were both in the Marines making the already obvious similarities even more apparent. This is shown through one of Neil's tattoos and through Hanna's Colt .45 sidearm.
- Shown Their Work - Much is attention paid to firearms handling procedures and small arms tactics. This is a trademark of director Michael Mann, who usually insists in putting his stars through combat boot camp if they'll be anywhere near a gun. Examples include:
- A pistol press check, use of a breaching shotgun, room clearing
- Use of cover during the bank shootout. Neil and Chris Shiherlis both stand behind cars facing a police blockade, putting the engine blocks between themselves and gunfire from that direction.
- Aiming through iron sights, even with a shotgun.
- Trigger discipline.
- Even a bounding overwatch: when Neil's crew is split in the bank firefight, they provide suppressive fire for each other in an alternating advance up the street.
- Smug Snake: Waingro certainly seems to think he's badass, but in reality he has no brains and can't overpower anybody unless he's holding a Star Megastar pistol at a deafened and unarmed guard or bashing in the head of an underage prostitute.
- Steel Ear Drums:
- Averted in the armored car robbery scene. Waingro starts yelling at the guards, even pistol-whipping the first guard in frustration, only to have Cheritto point out that there's a reason they have blood coming out of their ears (the guards were deafened from Shiherlis blowing open the back doors; and since Waingro was wearing a hockey mask they couldn't even tell he was talking at all).
- Played straight early in the bank shootout. Neil and company suffer no hearing damage from firing inside the space of their getaway vehicle.
- Title Drop: The Arc Words.
- Tragic Mistake:
- Neil going after Waingro attracts Hanna's attention, which leads to a final, fatal encounter.
- Cheritto opting to stay on the bank job (he didn't need the money at all and was just in it for the "action") didn't really work out for him either.
- Two Lines, No Waiting - The movie shifts between McCauley's and Hanna's separate, intersecting stories, though they are mostly separate for a while.
- Villain Protagonist: Neil is arguably more one of these than he is an Antagonist. Waingro is a polar opposite.
- Villains Out Shopping: Or having dinner with their families, in this case.
- Worthy Opponent - Particularly how Vincent feels about Neil, and sometimes Neil about Vincent.
- Your Cheating Heart - Vincent catches his wife cheating on him as a result of his own obsessive devotion to the job at the expense of his marriage; he takes it badly. Unexpectedly the scene has comedic elements. Charlene also cheats on Chris with Alan Marciano, so Hanna and Shiherlis have something in common.