Director Michael Mann’s 1995 star-studded crime drama debuts on the ultra-high definition disc format in Heat: Ultimate Collector’s Edition (Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment, rated R, 2.39:1 aspect ratio, 170 minutes, $34.99).
Loosely based on real Chicago Police Officer Chuck Adamson’s pursuit of a habitual criminal, the setting moves to Los Angeles and finds professional thief Neil McCauley (Robert De Niro) and his crew stealing bearer bonds from an armored car while also executing all of the guards during the heist.
Enter gum-chomping LAPD Lt. Vincent Hanna (Al Pacino), a slick and exhausted veteran with a chaotic personal life on a mission to arrest and stop McCauley by any means necessary.
Mr. Mann’s effort excels not only thanks to the first time Mr. Pacino and Mr. De Niro actually talk to one other in a movie, but the continual ramping up of the violence and angst during the cat-and-mouse game between a cop getting a little more desperate by the minute and a criminal unable to control his gang while trying to pull off that one last big job.
Pop star power supporting the pair of heavyweights performances include Natalie Portman (“Star Wars”) as Hanna’s stepdaughter; Jon Voight (“Coming Home”) as McCauley’s fence; Danny Trejo (“From Dusk Till Dawn”) as one of the heist gang members; Ted Levine (“Silence of the Lambs”) as an LAPD detective; rocker Henry Rollins as a bodyguard; and Hank Azaria (“The Simpsons”) as a shady Las Vegas businessman.
The major complaint I had when I first reviewed the movie many years ago, of course, still exists, that being the two master actors shared very little time on screen together. They both have plenty of meaty moments to tear into, I just wish the director had given them more moments together.
4K in action: Whether the 4K mastering may have come from the 2017 restored version of the movie or is redone, viewers are still exposed to cinematographer Dante Spinotti’s stylish choices to present the harsh and dusty streets of Los Angeles during daylight countered by crisp and glossy cool blue streets at night.
Additionally, throughout there remains a suppressed color palate that keeps the presentation looking a bit underlit, with occasional pale skin tones and some sickly-hued scenes that enforce a gritty realism.
Moments to appreciate include Mr. De Niro bathed in blue moonlight while looking at the ocean; the stark overhead shot of an empty drive-in theater; water condensation around a drill cutting into a safe; the crisp views of a helicopter flying over Los Angeles at night; and the chance to count hundreds of bullet holes in police cars during an extreme firefight.
Best extras: Viewers really do get the Ultimate Collector’s Edition that now combines in a three-disc set the 4K disc movie, and the Definitive Director’s Edition released back in 2017 that offers a restored high definition version of the movie and additional Blu-ray disc packed with the bonus goodies.
Both movie discs feature a solo optional commentary track with low-key Mr. Mann who does a great job of covering aesthetic and technical aspects of the production. There are some expected chunks of silence as he tries to cover the nearly three hours’ worth of content, but his words always reveal a knowledgeable filmmaker passionate about his movie.
Move to the extra Blu-ray to find an equally fun hourlong 2016 panel at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences featuring Mr. Mann, Mr. Pacino and Mr. De Niro.
Filmmaker Christopher Nolan moderates the proceedings and asks way-too-demanding introspective questions, and neither actor has any idea what to say. And, that’s fine since these guys are simply great at what they do, and that’s about all anyone needs to know. About 30 minutes in, more actors and crew pile on stage to give their memories of the project.
Next, a vintage, hourlong production documentary from 2009 covers the script, themes and characters.
The documentary does an excellent job of diving into Adamson’s background, his encounters with the real McCauley, and the allure of being a thief and a police detective.
Viewers also get another two vintage featurettes covering the famed conversation; a look at locations and cinematography; and 30 minutes with Mr. Mann before and after watching the movie at the 2015 Toronto International Film Festival.
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