Sunday, April 13, 2014

Hot Damme! Heat

While Manhunter helped spark a Hannibal themed week, it also took me back into the land of writer/director Michael Mann.  Responsible for some absolutely terrific films like Thief, Manhunter, The Last of the Mohicans, Heat, The Insider and Collateral while his continued descent into near docudrama/High Definition filmmaking has yielded star-studded, almost home movie like features Miami Vice and Public Enemies.  While still working on film, Mann gave us a cops and robbers tale of epic proportions in Heat.  Epic in it's casting:  Al Pacino, Robert DeNiro, Val Kilmer, Jon Voight, Tom Sizemore, Ashley Judd, Mykelti Williamson, Wes Studi, Natalie Portman, William Fichtner with musicians turned thespians Tone Loc and Henry Rollins.  Epic in it's production:  the entire film was shot utilizing 65 locations around Los Angeles without one manufactured set or stage.  And epic in it's detailed depiction of the lives of well trained, seasoned professionals on both sides of the law and the inherent violence that can ensue.  The film is steeped in gritty procedural facts with an air of authenticity that comes from copious research and perfectionist execution.

After 1981's Thief, Mann rewrote his script to Heat and asked Walter Hill (Hard Times, The Warriors) to direct, who declined.  Before lensing 1986's Manhunter, Mann was still trying to produce but not direct Heat.  In 1989, Mann reworked his script and turned it into the TV movie, L.A. Takedown.  After the success of 1992's The Last of the Mohicans, Mann turned his attention back to Heat and with 6 months of prep time, went about creating his arguably most masterful work.

If you've seen Heat, you probably remember the bank heist scene midway into the film.  There, DeNiro's crew have made it out of a bank with millions in cash while Pacino's posse from the Major Crimes Unit finally catches them in the act.  What follows is a harrowing, intense and LOUD showdown between professional thieves and their law abiding pursuers.  Always one for keeping it real, Mann based much of the film on real life cases, criminals and officers of the law he had encountered through his career.  Mann himself spent months going on patrol with seasoned detectives and put his actors through the same rigorous and detailed regimens to prepare for the film with mandatory ridealongs, gun training, etc.  The bank scene was shot in downtown Los Angeles and has inspired future fare from the Michael Biehn/Sammo Hung Hong Kong actioner Dragon Squad to last week's Captain America:  The Winter Soldier.

To Live and Die on the Streets of L.A.:

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