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Heat – Director’s Definitive Edition (Blu-ray Review)

In the Fall of 2016, I was able to attend a screening of Heat at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, which boasted a brand new 4K restoration of the film, supervised by writer/director Michael Mann. Not that I needed a reminder of how great Mann’s Los Angeles crime saga is, but I was intrigued to see this 90s classic on the big screen, with a better than ever video and audio presentation. Now, this definitive edition of the crime epic has found its way to Blu-ray, along with the Q&A from that screening (which was moderated by Christopher Nolan), and more extras for any fan to enjoy. Not bad for this spectacular cops and robbers movie featuring two of cinema’s greatest actors.

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Film:

There is only so much to say at this point about Heat. Oscar winners Al Pacino and Robert De Niro star as Detective Vincent Hanna and professional thief Neil McCauley. The two are both great at what they do, and a heist that opens the film leads to these two men’s lives becoming intertwined.  As the thief attempts to plan one major job with his crew of equally determined men, the cop tries to figure out what dangerous heist is being planned. It culminates in an incredible bank robbery sequence and shootout, but there’s still an hour left in the film detailing the fallout of this event. As this story plays out, the personal lives of both men also factor in, which shows just how closely these two may mirror each other.

A host of other actors star in the film as well, including Val Kilmer, Tom Sizemore, Ashley Judd, Amy Brenneman, Diane Venora, Natalie Portman, Jon Voight and many others. It’s a huge cast showing just how involved the story is, how much of a prestigious project this was (despite earning zero Oscar nominations), and how many actors were happy to be involved with Mann and in a film that features both Pacino and De Niro. The results are nothing short of great, as everyone delivers, from Tone Loc to Danny Trejo and the many who fall in between.

As good as this cast is, there’s also the whole procedural aspect of this story. While the story being told has an interesting way of balancing steely conviction with a heavy dose of emotion, seeing professionals handle the details of getting the materials required for a big score or doing the detective work necessary all feels like signature Mann. All of that and there is still a great action film buried in here; one that features incredibly tense moments, iconic gun fights and a well-communicated sense of space that emphasizes both the use of LA and the skills of everyone on either side of the law.

Heat has some many fantastic qualities to speak of, be it the tangential plots, such as one involving a seemingly unrelated character played by Dennis Haysbert as an ex-con working in a kitchen, or the incredible cinematography and use of music to further develop the tone and feel of the film. Heat is an inspiration to many films and filmmakers for a variety of reasons, but Mann’s personality speaks through this entire film. It’s all of those details that have helped this film retain such a high standing.

I’ve already spoken of how great this cast is, but it’s worth pointing out the effort put in by Pacino and De Niro. Both are given great roles, and they deliver truly fantastic performances. Regardless of if they’ve been better in previous (or perhaps future) roles, these are two characters that they’ve both done to varying degrees but have the chance to create lived in characters and have them play off so much of what is going on in this film. With the especially memorable diner scene, you can see what goes into bringing such well-written characters together and seeing them throw their life philosophies at each other.

Heat is a classic for the genre, regardless of how modern it may be compared to other such films. It features tremendous performances from a large ensemble cast, some terrific action, a wonderfully developed story and a great depiction of what it means to be a professional challenged by the life that’s been chosen to live. Having all of that in a film that pits two titans of cinema against each other (while having them both play protagonists) could be considered a crime for just how great it is.

 
Video:

Encoding: MPEG-4 AVC

Resolution: 1080p

Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1

Clarity/Detail: This release has been dubbed the “Director’s Definitive Edition” due to the all-new restoration personally supervised by Mann. While the previous Blu-ray release from Warner Brothers was certainly not bad, this Fox release is still an upgrade thanks to how the new transfer helps bring out qualities that have been previously problematic. I’m namely referring to the night time scenes that found Mann doing things with the camera that would later become much easier for him, given his current love for digital cinematography. In addition, the level of detail found throughout the film in its brightly lit moments; there is newfound clarity to be seen in the darker moments of the film, let alone the more complicated action moments. It’s a great new restoration that makes the film look better than ever.

Depth: Everything plays nice and smooth here. The various ways the film is staged allows for characters of different distance to play well off each other via the picture quality. This is especially applicable to the big shootout scene, but you can also look at some of the wide shots of LA and take this factor into account.

Black Levels: Black levels are quite strong here, which is something I took note of during those night time scenes that feature De Niro and Brenneman against the dark sky. There’s also the climax at the airport, which also puts a good emphasis on darkness. Even while still having shot on film and seeing a level of grain, it doesn’t take away from the deep, inkiness that makes this transfer work.

Color Reproduction: If you wanted a reminder of where The Dark Knight got its look from, here’s a film that uses a cool blue palette to set the scene whenever it can. There are plenty of colors to fill out this LA world, but it’s all very natural. It adds to what the film is going for, while still having Mann’s use of blues and it all looks good.

Flesh Tones: Facial textures all register quite clear. You can see all the details in the many faces features in this film. Even when things get hectic, you can still clearly see the expressions and detail level in Val Kilmer’s face for example. Strong work here.

Noise/Artifacts: No issues found, beyond some source-related aspects that have nothing to do with the work on the transfer.

Audio:

Audio Format(s): English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1, French DTS 5.1

Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish, French

Dynamics: This DTS track is an upgrade from the TrueHD 5.1 track, and while I may have hoped Heat could have been given a Dolby Atmos track, there is no real problem with anything I heard on this great audio track. The action sequences and the quieter dialogue moments all play incredibly well.

Low Frequency Extension: Of course this LFE channel gets a lot to work with, given the roar of the machine guns featured, let alone plenty of other audio elements.

Surround Sound Presentation: Dialogue scenes are all balanced around the front and center channels, and while the shootouts and other similarly sounding scene play well there, the rear channels also manage to round out the track.

Dialogue Reproduction: Everyone is heard loud and clear.

Extras:

While there are the familiar extras found from all the way back on Heat’s special edition DVD release, there are two all new conversations (including the one I mentioned I had attended). Given the quality of the previous extras (despite still being in standard def), this release does become the definitive edition, until the eventual 4K upgrade.

Features Include:

Disc One:

  • Audio Commentary by Director Michael Mann – This is a great track full of production info and anecdotes about the origin of the film and more. A great commentary track for any fan.

Disc Two:

  • Filmmaker Panels:
    • Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (HD, 1:03:23) – Christopher Nolan moderates this fantastic panel featuring Mann, Pacino, De Niro and many other members of the cast.
    • Toronto International Film Festival (HD, 30:27) – Michael Mann goes solo for this one on one Q&A discussion recorded back in 2015.
  • The Making of Heat (SD, 59:12) – A three-part look at the making of Heat.
  • Pacino and De Niro: The Conversation (SD, 9:58) – A look at the filming of the iconic diner scene.
  • Return to the Scene of the Crime (SD, 12:05) – A look at various locations used for the film.
  • Additional Footage – Deleted Scenes (SD, 9:44)
  • Theatrical Trailers (SD, 6:48)

Digital HD Copy of the Film

 

Summary:

Heat is a classic that any film fan would be proud to own. It’s a great example of the genre and a treat for those looking for a serious action film with a terrific cast. Not hurting is this definitive edition Blu-ray, which boasts a stellar new transfer, a terrific audio track and 90 minutes’ worth of new interviews to dig into. That’s plenty of reason for any Heat fan to pick the film up again or for the first time.

Order Your Copy Here:

 

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Writer/Reviewer, Film Lover, Podcaster, Video Game Player, Comic Book Reader, Disc Golfer & a Lefty. There are too many films, TV, books, etc. for me to list as favorites, but I can assure that the amount film knowledge within my noggin is ridiculous, though I am always open to learning more. You can follow me on Twitter @AaronsPS4, see what else I am up to at TheCodeIsZeek.com & check out my podcast, Out Now with Aaron and Abe, on iTunes.

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