Silent J’s review published on Letterboxd:
I've seen this only once beforehand, a very long time ago actually. It's been years even. I remember really digging it the first time, but now I think I've fallen in love with this film. It's now shot way up my Top 100. Maybe it's because it's been so long since I've seen it and I went in with almost fresh eyes, but this is one of the greatest films I've ever seen and it still holds up very well.
It is absolutely amazing seeing Robert De Niro and Al Pacino share the screen. It's only for a couple brief scenes, but they really work and prove that sometimes LESS is MORE. There's a reason why this succeeds where Righteous Kill failed and it's not just because Righteous Kill has a poor script. Righteous Kill had Pacino and De Niro together throughout the whole film. Too much of a good thing could spoil it. Since they share such little screen time in this film, you get the feeling that this is really special not only because it's two legends going face to face, but when it all builds up to the antagonist sharing these scenes with the protagonist, you know that shit gets real when it all culminates and the build up pays off.
Together they have such strong chemistry and alone they are just phenomenally powerful. Despite the impressive reputations they'd already established from their respective resumes, both Pacino and De Niro still manage to give two of the very best performances they've ever given. De Niro comes off as subtle, calm, calculated, and super cool and Pacino comes off as convincing, intense, and just as incredible. Even when he's in screaming mode in a couple scenes he's still believable and not the self-paroding hyena he is today.
You also get fantastic performances from the rest of the cast which consists of some of the very best actors from the 90's, some of which are still considered as the best working today incuding Val Kilmer, Natalie Portman, Ashley Judd, Dennis Haybert, Jon Voight, Tom Sizemore, and William Fitchner just to name a few. Just by the few names alone that I mention, that's one hell of a cast that is tough to beat. Of these supporting characters, it's Val Kilmer who seems like the most understated. I can understand why he's overlooked given that a lot of us would rather pay attention to Pacino and De Niro rather than anyone else in this film but Kilmer does a terrific job in his role. Of course, he does'nt outshine either, but he stands out the most out of the supporting cast.
I had a much better understanding of these characters than on my first watch. I can now tell and appreciate just how well layered each character is. Each character is given time to properly flesh themselves out. Being headlined by two acting heavyweights, it could have easily just focused on them but thankfully everyone is given the right amount of time and given a fair share of memorable moments.
Everything about this film could have worked so well but while I can go all day praising these actors for the amazing work they all put out, much of whay works in the film is thanks to writer-director Michael Mann. What makes the script so well written is that it does an effective job balancing the well paced action with tense crime/heist drama with compelling human drama. Every moment keeps you interested, on the edge of your seat, and gives you a reason to care about each character. Michael Mann creates such a tense atmosphere and does an excellent job building suspense and directing high octane action.
I can go on and on praising this film but I'll end this by saying this one of the greatest crime epics ever filmed and a modern masterpiece that still holds up as not only a definitive heist film, but the ultimate cops and robbers tale.