Rewarming ‘Heat’, two decades after its release


Author: Will Westwater

The fervor overGrand Theft Auto Five” (GTAV) has calmed down and gamers are finally getting sleep. Most of GTAV is set in Los Santos (a Los Angeles clone) and centers around a series of heists. Back on many people’s radars after the release of GTAV, the 1995 film “Heat” captures the sun-drenched, gritty city that is Los Angeles. Like GTAV, it provides a look into why people do terrible things.

“Heat” is set in mid-1990’s Los Angeles where Neil McCauley (Robert De Niro) leads a team of professional robbers. McCauley’s team has made a mistake on its last score and the LAPD Lieutenant Vincent Hanna (Al Pacino) is close on its tail. So begins a story about cops and robbers in which both sides garner sympathy.

In “Heat”, crime spawns a way of life in which both officers and criminals must balance their professions with their personal lives. It is this shared dynamic that makes “Heat” interesting. Even though these men might rob banks, they still have families and a sense of morality. None of the main characters are ruthless killers but when they start feeling the heat, they have to make decisions about what is important and how to protect the ones they love.

“Don’t let yourself get attached to anything you are not willing to walk out on in 30 seconds flat if you feel the heat around the corner,” McCauley (De Niro) said, synthesizing this ethos.

The best villains are those whose actions feel justified. “Heat” and GTAV often have that in common. The characters are more than delinquents; they are men with complex inter-personal and family lives. This character development causes the viewer to root for both the cops and the robbers. De Niro’s and Pacino’s characters both sacrifice for their craft and it takes its tole in the end.

Director Michael Mann (“Public Enemies” and “The Last of the Mohicans”) managed to make a movie with heart while preserving a gritty 90s action thrill. The group robs an armored car, plans its heists and eventually pulls off one of the greatest bank robbery scenes in cinema.

“Heat” is Los Angeles’ crime movie. Little things like the L.A. smog, KIIS-FM radio, famous landmarks and the ever constant sunny blue sky make an appearance. Even the L.A. convention center plays a minor role. These details not only locate the movie in a time and place but convey an image of Los Angeles that remains accurate.

The movie’s influence on GTAV is evident in the game’s cutscenes, shooting style and dialogue as well as the use of a musical score to enhance tension. For fans of GTAV, Pacino, De Niro or good action movies in general, “Heat” is a must-see classic.

This article has been archived, for more requests please contact us via the support system.