Heat ★★★★★

Heat opens with De Niro's McCauley descending from above wearing an EMT uniform, one of many costumes/false identities he'll don throughout the course of the movie as he quietly blends in with the masses of baseball and barbecue loving "normals.*" At other times he's framed at high vantage points, hovering over the city and recalling in my mind the famous poster art for Feuillade's FANTOMAS. This is the great American crime movie of my lifetime. The roles of cop and robber are expanded to mythic proportions, the movements are operatic (hovering at times somewhere between soap opera and pulp fiction), the action scenes are grounded and thrilling... I think it's pretty much perfect.

As in classic mythology, when gods clash and begin meddling in human affairs there's collateral damage. In HEAT Mann takes time to focus on his large ensemble to show the toll paid by lovers, children, beat cops, and bystanders, the "midday shoppers" literally caught in the crossfire between these clashing forces. It's maybe Mann's best written movie, but it may also help that De Niro and Pacino are the powerhouses tasked with spewing out Mann's infamously unwieldy/unnatural dialogue. In any case, it's a film full of surprising empathy and pathos that a slimmer film might not achieve. I'm thinking of the scene in which Pacino embraces the mother of a recently murdered prostitute. The scene is probably less about her grief at the loss of an innocent to the one criminal in the movie that is characterized as fully villainous than it is about the kind of crap Hanna has to witness before coming home late to dinner, but it's all there for the viewer to soak up and feel. I think this is Mann's warmest, most humane movie.

Stray observation: Mann's characters often (but not always) die looking straight up.

*that is, when he's not going the opposite way of a stream of people (a motif wonderfully repeated in BLACKHAT). [spoiler] In the final conflict Hanna steps out into the light unafraid to truly be seen and gets the edge on McCauley, still a shadow trying not to be seen.

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