Tony Black’s review:
Epic is quite an overused word, along with genius. Epic is often prescribed to many a film, erroneously. It was applied to Heat, one of those films I always intended to but simply never got around to seeing. I can now wholeheartedly say the word is not misused here. Michael Mann delivers here, truly, a crime epic for the last decade of the 20th century that few surely can rival - a lengthy but quite stunning battle between a master cop and master criminal, played by the two great acting masters of the era.
Al Pacino and Robert De Niro, as you might expect, elevate this by their sheer presence. I'm sure Mann would have delivered a perfectly good crime drama without them, but they ascend this to classic status with truly bravura performances. The most celebrated scene of Heat is their conversation midway through - the first time Pacino & De Niro chewed scenery - but they hold the screen despite that and a key to Mann's script & direction beyond their acting lies in the fact you want them BOTH to win. Supported by a truly stunning cast of well-known faces, only perhaps Val Kilmer is wasted in a very underwritten role - but you'll find it hard to care, given how well the two leads deliver. The piece could maybe have shed about 15 minutes, the first 45 taking their time to build, but once the narrative kicks off it barely stops for breath - powerful drama and some masterful action beats (a highway shoot out in particular) keeping you magnetised for the just shy of 3 hour running time.
In short, a true modern classic. Brilliantly crafted, directed and written with two spellbinding performances, it could be Michael Mann's best film. If you love cinema, you shouldn't take as long as I sadly did to watch it.