The Heist Movie

What to Watch

I was watching the Gerard Butler vehicle Den of Thieves, when it struck me how much it was trying to be Heat. So why not watch the real thing rather than a wannabe?

These movies belong to the sub-genre of crime film known as “the heist movie”. This generally involves a gang of thieves putting together an intricate plan for a criminal act, and the cops who are trying to stop them. The best of these movies leaves little to distinguish the two groups.

Heat (1995) was directed by Michael Mann who had made a name for himself creating and producing the TV series Miami Vice. It was received with great fanfare for its two leading actors. Al Pacino plays Lt. Vincent Hanna (the cop) and Robert De Niro plays Neil McCauley (the thief) – with a memorable first scene together. Both also starred in The Godfather Part II but due to the bifurcation of that storyline, they never shared a scene. So it was a point for anticipation when these two great actors finally shared a scene and delivered it without rehearsal.

Hanna and McCauley are in the best traditions of the heist movie, two sides of the same coin. They both have failed personal lives, their work always comes first and they are always at work. At the end of their much celebrated scene together, Hanna confesses that he doesn’t “know how to do anything else”. To which McCauley replies “Neither do I”. There are no ‘bad guys’ in these movies, just like actors, they play their predestined roles to some unenviable conclusion.

There is so much more to enjoy in Heat. The shoot-out that takes place after a bank robbery, is so well conceived and executed that it is used to train army recruits on how to retreat under fire. Mann is also credited with reinventing the way a shoot-out is recorded by placing microphones around the set, creating a more holistic effect. There is an excellent support cast which includes Val Kilmer and Jon Voight. Heat is the high water mark of the heist movie.

These 2 outstanding actors are back together again in a 2019 movie that I am most looking forward – The Irishman. Pacino plays Jimmy Hoffa and De Niro, Frank Sheeran, Hoffa’s hitman and the person who claims to have killed him! If that wasn’t enough, the movie is directed by Martin Scorsese and also stars Joe Pesci and Harvey Keitel. This is a group that has probably spent more time playing and directing cops and robbers than most cops and robbers. Throw in $175M of Netflix money and you have something that has to be seen. Beware that this is a Netflix movie, so it may get a short theatrical release – but a movie like this should be seen on a big screen.

Companion Piece

At just under 3 hours, Heat is a bit of a long watch! So as a companion piece I have chosen a movie that just runs over 2 hours and hopefully not past your bedtime. Inside Man (2006) is directed by Spike Lee, who you would not normally associate this genre of movie. (Lee is currently receiving well deserved acclaim for BlacKkKlansman – a movie with a biography and social commentary that is more typical of his style.)

Inside Man stars Denzel Washington as Detective Keith Frazier and Clive Owen as Dalton Russell, the heist mastermind. The movie utilises an interweaving timeline to reveal a cleverly devised plot. Add some excellent cameos from Jodie Foster, Christopher Plummer, Willem Dafoe and Chiwetel Ejiofor and you have an engaging companion piece for the truly great main fare.

Happy Viewing!

The Movie Cricket
The Movie Cricket

3 thoughts on “The Heist Movie

  1. I do love Inside Man – it has a certain elegance (and economy of course) not usually associated with a heist movie.

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