It’s a couple of weeks since I watched this (for the first time) on DVD, but I think it’s taken that long for my opinion to fully ferment in my head. I’m not sure where I’d heard that this was ‘a great classic movie’, but I had heard it, and when I went on a reduced-price amazon dvd purchasing spree I picked this one up along the way.
It was already reasonably late, but I wanted to watch a movie to wind down before bed – and I made an obvious school boy error, I didn’t check the running time. At around three hours, this is not a movie to just drop into before you go to sleep, and I have to admit that towards the end I was willing it to finish.
Heat takes a look at a cat and mouse hunt between a top quality thief (De Niro) and a top quality cop (Pacino) and includes a look at their lives and how they live them. It’s not an action movie, although it has some action scenes but those scenes are incidental to the movie. It’s really a character movie, trying to give us an insight into how the two main characters are similar in so many ways, dedicated to what they do at the expense of their own personal relationships.
It’s entertaining, given the right amount of free time it’s worth watching, but it’s not something I enjoyed on a great level. Some scenes feel contrived (the only scene in which Pacino and De Niro are both on-screen at the same time is entirely contrived), some sections aren’t entirely believable which is essential since the movie tries to portray a real-true-to-life grit, the characters around Pacino and De Niro are flat and under-developed. The action isn’t very explosive, and the pace is slow and uneven.
Pacino’s character is so over the top that you wonder how he didn’t burst a blood vessel with all the constant shouting. De Niro’s character is the only person in the movie with whom I could empathise on any level, and that results in dissapointment during several scenes where you want the character to be more than he can ever be. However, De Niro’s character and performance makes it worth watching this movie at least once.
Overall this movie is too long and too focussed on giving Pacino and De Niro a platform to show off. All the flaws add up to a feeling of confusion because it is obviously a high quality movie, and on a technically level demonstrates that quality, but the screenplay doesn’t manage to step up to the plate.