04 June 2011

5 June - "You don't live with me. You live with the remains of dead people."

Heat (1995)
dir. Michael Mann (The Last of the Mohicans, 1992)

Al Pacino (Donnie Brasco, 1997)
Robert de Niro (Stone, 2010)
Kevin Gage (The 'burbs, 1989)
Diane Venora (Romeo + Juliet, 1996)
Natalie Portman (Black Swan, 2010)
Jon Voight (Holes, 2003)
Tom Sizemore (True Romance, 1993)
Mykelti Williamson (The Final Destination, 2009)
Ted Levine (Memoirs of a Geisha, 2005)
William Fichtner (Crash, 2004)
Val Kilmer (True Romance, 1993)
Ashley Judd (Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood, 1992)
Hank Azaria (Love and Other Drugs, 2010)
Danny Trejo (From Dusk Till Dawn, 1996)
Martin Ferreo (Jurassic Park, 1993)
Jeremy Piven (Old School, 2003)
Wes Studi (Avatar, 2009)
Tone Loc (Ace Ventura: Pet Detective, 1994)

The only kind of movie I watch less often than crime drama is courtroom drama (With the exclusion of My Cousin Vinny, which I watch at every opportunity and enjoy EVERY TIME). That's a funny pattern, because I LIKE crime dramas, just not quite as much as my usual fare of adventure, science fiction, and period drama. This movie is mostly about Robert de Niro, who sets up his crew to take one last big score, and Al Pacino, a work-obsessed detective (aren't they all?) in hot pursuit. It's one of those movies in which the tracker and the tracked discover they have more in common with each other than they originally thought. That doesn't change the nature of their relationship, though.

I think Michael Mann is a wonderful director. I appreciated especially, in this case, the depth of understanding that I got from the relatively minor roles of the supporting actresses, the wives and girlfriends of the criminals, and the detective's wife and stepdaughter. I had trouble, at first, determining the purpose of Al Pacino's suicidal stepdaughter, played by Natalie Portman. Maybe it seemed a little superfluous. Upon reflection, I decided that the take home message was about the futility of life, whether you make it by crime or by retribution, without anyone to share it with.

That seems a bit chintzy for a movie with so many gunshots in it. But really it wasn't as corny as that. The point is that Al Pacino's character was totally submersed in crimes and victims and criminals, but for all that he sacrificed to try and do something right, he was unable to prevent the victimization of someone in his own family. He chose de Niro over his wife and stepdaughter.

de Niro makes the same sacrifice. He has the opportunity to escape with his girl, but he chooses to make one last revenge hit before the airport, and so he abandons her, choosing the endless cat and mouse game with Pacino instead.

Ashley Judd and Val Kilmer have the sweetest romance. Their marriage is failing and you think she's been flipped by the cops, but at the last moment she signals to him to keep going, to leave her behind. It's a final act of sacrifice, but it's for love, not pride.

There's a blog I like to read that focuses on horror movies, i'm into survival (which inspires me to think of a better name for my little movie blog here, with its handful of readers). The most recent entry was about the second sequel to The Exorcist and specifically about the difficulty of establishing friendship between characters. That was something they were trying to do in this movie, and not entirely successfully. De Niro and Pacino had coffee in one scene, they lamented about their love lives and respectively admitted that "This is what I am best at. It's the only thing I know how to do." Perhaps this rapport could have been better established. To myself, I was drawing comparisons to Tommy Lee Jones' detective character and his relationships with pursued criminals Ashley Judd and Harrison Ford in Double Jeopardy and The Fugitive. Of course, in those Judd and Ford's character were both innocent. Even so, I enjoyed the relationship much better.

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