A gang of highly professional thieves is committing a series of robberies… An assassin performs his very own nightly tour de force… Two anti-vice detectives pursue the typical delinquent. While looking forward to seeing on screen Miami Vice´s cinematographic version, both “Heat” and “Collateral” offer us a characteristic mark of Michael Mann´s work as a director, which is not in the detective stories but in his way of portraying the city. In fact, these two movies yield the best approach to a big city´s atmosphere that I have seen in the last decades. The city becomes a main character in both films, plays a main role in the plot. That´s why meticulous Michael Mann shows that respect when dealing with its visual and sound aspects, giving the city some paramount moments with really beautiful shots.
Hitting the city
I consider “Collateral” and “Heat” to be two true jewels, especially the latter (maybe because I have seen it more times, thus getting more from it). Heat is an authentic fresco of intertwined lifes in the same style of “Short Cuts” or “Grand Canyon”, but with the added value of a detective plot able to attract publics other than those of said movies by Altman and Kasdan.
The care given to the characters´development makes Heat a gold work where every character shines, albeit not every one does with the same splendour (something almost impossible in a characters movie). Even so, even the worst actings in Heat are well above the average. Perhaps that´s why it is unfair to say them to be “the worst”.
De Niro does a perfect acting, away from histrionisms which are not always effective (I´ll explain myself: in “Cape Fear” he exaggerates but still succeeds to create a memorable character; however, in “We´re no angels”…). Even the least important cgaracters have a story to tell, have their motivations, their fears, … Diane Venora -as Pacino´s wife- and Ashley Judd -as Val Kilmer´s- are really impressive.
On the other hand, the precise (millimetrical) narrative rhythm, quite slower compared to conventional thrillers, tells us that we are clearly before something different. The music, a selection of atmospheric themes by Brian Eno, classical music by Ligeti and some themes expressly created by talented Elliot Goldenthal, insists on this new dimension in the story and seems to be music which gently flows from the buildings and streets.
I´m confident that Mann, author of the also brilliant “The Insider”, will give us new signs of his talent. Miami Vice seems to be a “product”, and something like an adapted conclusion of all his work in the TV series. However, this director can and knows how to make more things. Heat is already a cult movie. About Collateral, just let matters take their course. Let´s hope that he´ll be hitting the city again soon.