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Written and directed by Michael Mann, HEAT ($29) is powerhouse entertainment and unquestionably one of the great cinematic crime dramas to ever emerge from the genre. With its nearly three hour running time, HEAT is an epic caper film, which is also an interesting character study of its two central characters- LAPD Lieutenant Vincent Hanna (Al Pacino) and lifelong thief Neil McCauley (Robert De Niro). In terms of temperament and personality, we discover that Hanna and McCauley polar opposites; yet at the same time, the two characters are joined together- like the opposite sides of a two-headed legal coin. The premise of HEAT finds Hanna on the trail of McCauley, after an armored car heist that results in several murders. What follows is the dogged police pursuit, which requires the thieves to be caught in the act, as well as several double crosses on the way to one final payday.

Like so many of Michael Mannís other films, HEAT unfolds slowly, which allows each of the two central characters chance to develop with Pacino and DeNiro practicing their craft to the hilt. Although they share little screen time together, HEAT does afford Al Pacino and Robert De Niro a couple of moments to play off one another and to create some cinematic sparks. Some will accuse Pacino with shamelessly overacting during the course of HEAT, but I think that the performance is right on the mark. Director Mann has a penchant for making criminals into anti-heroes, like he did with James Caan in THIEF, but I found this film to be a lot more accessible than that earlier work. HEAT also takes a balanced approach to the material, allowing the audience access to characters on both sides of the law. A great deal of that balance stems from the humanity that both Pacino and DeNiro bring to their driven, relentless characters. In addition to the two fine leads, Val Kilmer, Tom Sizemore, Diane Venora, Amy Brenneman, Ashley Judd, Mykelti Williamson, Wes Studi, Ted Levine, Dennis Haysbert, William Fichtner, Natalie Portman, Tom Noonan, Kevin Gage, Hank Azaria, Danny Trejo and Jon Voight supply superior support.

Warner Home Video has made HEAT available on Blu-ray Disc in a 2.35:1 aspect ratio presentation that has been encoded onto the disc with the VC-1 codec. Director Michael Mann has a tendency to go for stylized visuals that have a great artistic aesthetic, and display a highly cinematic quality, yet donít always lend themselves to what one may consider to be a pretty picture. Personally, I love the grittiness of Mannís movies and am delighted to say that the terrific 1080p presentation of HEAT faithfully represents the filmmakerís intentions. Almost all of the time, the picture appears very sharp, quite dimensional and displays terrific levels of fine detail and texturing. Sure there are moments, that the picture appears a bit softer and less dimensional, but for the most part, it impresses. Colors favor a somewhat cooler, more subdue palette, but look great. Flesh tones appear true to life. Blacks are inky and the whites are crisp. Contrast is fairly smooth, but has been give a slight push to meet the artistic aspirations of the filmmaker. Shadow detail is relatively good, but the film has been shot in such a way that some details are obscured. The elements from which HEAT has been transferred appear are very clean. Grain is noticeable throughout the presentation, which gives HEAT an organic quality.

HEAT is presented on Blu-ray Disc with a 5.1 channel Dolby TrueHD soundtrack. Considering the nature of this type crime drama/caper movie, HEAT features a pretty aggressive sound design that delivers plenty of shoot Ďem up action. As such, all of the outlying channels are well utilized, with sound effects shooting and ricocheting all over the soundstage. Fidelity is pretty sweet, thanks to the lossless encode, producing intense sound effects and a strong musical component. The bass channel is deep and percussive, which enhances the gunfire. Voices are cleanly reproduced and the dialogue maintains good intelligibility almost all of the time. English, French, Spanish and German Dolby Digital 5.1 channel tracks are also encoded onto the disc, as is a Portuguese 1.0 channel track. Subtitles are available in English, French, Spanish, Danish, Dutch, Finnish, German, Norwegian, Portuguese and Swedish.

The interactive menus allow one access to the standard scene selection and set up features, as well as the supplements, which have been ported from the earlier DVD release. Starting things off is a running Audio Commentary with writer/director Michael Mann. Next we have the most significant program entitled The Making Of Heat. The Making Of Heat is three-part, interviewed based program that runs nearly an hour. Featurettes and other programs include: Pacino And De Niro: The Conversation (ten minutes) and Return To The Scene Of The Crime (twelve minutes). Additional Scenes and a Theatrical Trailer close out the supplements.

There is no denying HEAT is powerhouse entertainment. The Blu-ray looks and sounds terrific and marks a significant upgrade from DVD. Highly recommended.



Heat [Blu-ray] (1995)


DVD & Blu-rayDisc reviews are Copyright © 2009 THE CINEMA LASER and may not be copied or reprinted without the written consent of the publisher.
THE CINEMA LASER is written, edited and published by Derek M. Germano.



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