The best scene in “The Heat” isn’t the same without its stars

Al Pacino and Robert De Niro in Michael Mann’s dress the heat.
Photo: Picture Lux / Hollywood Archives / Alami Photo Gallery

While Michael Mann the heat The film was reviewed well and solidly at the box office upon its release in 1995, and the film’s popularity has only grown over the past several decades – so much so that it is now considered (correctly) one of the greatest masterpieces of American cinema. I wrote about the heat Several times over the years (including Piece about how I took a while to appreciate his greatness), and every time I re-watch a picture of Mann, I discover something new.

On Friday, June 17, the Tribeca Festival will host the world premiere of a new 4K restoration the heat, and I run the prescreening panel. Reviewing the movie recently, I’ve found myself focusing more and more on one of the movie’s most famous scenes – the dinner conversation between LAPD detective Vincent Hannah (Al Pacino) and master thief Neil McCauley (Robert De Niro). It’s a momentous encounter, sure, and one that was widely recognized at the time as well, as it represented the first time these two legends had ever shared a spectacle. But there’s something else about it that has always impressed me.

As some fans already know, Man Pictures is a story the heat Once Before – Also called a 1989 TV movie LA Takedown, who was originally supposed to be a pilot for the NBC show. The series was never selected (Mann and NBC president Brandon Tartkoff disagreed on casting) and was recast as a television movie, which was not particularly well received. Los Angeles times reconsidering From that year she admitted somewhat prophetically that some scenes in the film seemed to belong in a “different, better picture.”

made man LA Takedown By sculpting a large portion of a huge script he’s been working on throughout the ’70s that will eventually become the heat. like man tell me A few years ago, he had a hard time licking the end of that longer, more ambitious story—and it wasn’t until the 1990s, when he finally came to the Unforgettable closing moments from the heat. LA Takedown A different epilogue: Neil McCauley’s character (named Patrick McClaren in the TV movie) is murdered by his deceitful ex-nemesis/serial killer, Wingro, who is kicked out of a hotel window by Vincent Hannah. roll balances.

LA Takedown It is definitely not the heat – To put it mildly. But she is not trying to be. Mann filmed it in 19 days on a limited budget, which was standard for television productions at the time. There was no time to improve performance, explore settings, cover different angles, or get the atmosphere and details just right – all key aspects of Mann’s job as a director. The performers are typical television actors of the time; Most of them seem to have come from Eric Roberts’ factory. The two protagonists (Scott Blank as Vincent Hannah and Alex MacArthur as Patrick McClaren) were younger than Patrico and De Niro, so the film doesn’t focus on their characters’ decades-old fatigue or experience. the heat Do. Plank and McArthur faithfully manage their lines and bring a certain amount of prefab density to their parts. I hate shows in LA TakedownOver the years, however, I’ve developed a strange fondness for them. If it did become a show, it would be interesting to see if these actors grew up around their characters. Of course, if it becomes a show, we’ll probably never get it the heatSo in the end things turned out for the better.

Today watch LA Takedown Still a strange experience. Like a transmission from an alternate reality. The vast majority of scenes in the TV movie, at least on paper, come directly from the heat – Often literally. One of these is the coffee shop showdown, so if you ever wanted to see what is one of the most iconic scenes in movie history featuring two of the most iconic actors in movie history, well, two more people, coincidentally. Much of the dialogue is the same. And because the setting is still two men sitting opposite each other in a restaurant, a lot of the photos are the same too – still shots crossed over the shoulder. Despite their superficial similarities, the two scenes present a striking contrast. Put them side by side and you will see how wonderfully everything comes to life the heat. How it gets endlessly cool and eye-catching thanks to De Niro and Pacino who provide these lines, inhabiting these guys. Anyone studying acting is advised to compare these two scenes to understand what an actor can do in action.

We often talk about characters who have an inner life. It is not enough to look cool, read your lines well, or give good feedback. We simply need to be able to. Watch You are. We need to be able to look at you, even when you’re not doing much of anything, and wonder what’s going on inside your head. This, for example, is what makes Pacino so compelling in Francis Ford Coppola The Godfather, where the reserve of his character gradually turns into something terrifying. (Maybe this is the reason why Paramount tried to fire the relatively unknown actor at the time The Godfather; This kind of restraint was very foreign to huge Hollywood productions at the time.) This is also what makes De Niro’s performance in Martin Scorsese film taxi driver A performance that is, on its surface, silent and extremely passive – indelible. Great actors convey this sense of inner life, but they also hide mounds of feelings and information under the simplest gestures. It all seems like an abstract concept until you witness something like the coffee shop scene in two different versions and actually witness it happening – like an impossible magic trick you’ve only heard rumors about.

in LA TakedownSuch as the heatThis is the first time the two men have met face to face. In fact, the incident was taken from a real-life event Mann learned of from Chuck Adamson, a retired Chicago police detective (and later screenwriter and producer), sometime in the 1960s, who met a man he was investigating, Neil McCauley – the truly Neil McCauley – Not knowing what to do, he took him for coffee. in the heatOf course, the moment is of even greater importance: this was Pacino and De Niro meeting on screen for the first time. By running icons, Mann gives the scene an almost metaphysical edge. We know they’re finally these two huge movie characters, so we find ourselves paying attention to every gesture, every look, and every line of dialogue. This is not just a marketing gimmick. This is what the characters themselves do in the scene. They are watching each other carefully, trying to gain an angle and learn more about what is going on in their opponent’s head.

Throughout their conversation in the heat (which takes place at Los Angeles’ famous Kate Mantilini restaurant that’s now closed), Hana slouched near the table, alert and chatty, while McCauley is calm, controlled, and poised. However, Pacino brings to his slouch a feature that is almost begging; It makes Hanna vulnerable and open. This is partly to disarm McCauley, to get as much of him as possible. But it is also, one suspects, because the detective realizes that only the criminal sitting in front of him really understands him.

The two men’s energies are quite different at first, but gradually and subtly come together over the course of their conversation. Their eyes keep drifting but they always end up closing in on others. Hanna blurs his emotions: “My life is disaster zone…I have a wife. We’re skipping each other on the (third mine) marriage ramp, because I spend all my time chasing men like you all over the building.” (Listen to the way Pacino changes the tempo of his rhythm in the middle of this sentence. Shifts like this keep the viewer in balance and force us to pay more attention to his words and gestures. Nothing is predictable.) By doing so, he gets a key piece of information from McCauley: that he has Girlfriend. (“I have a woman.”) This will come in handy at the climax of the movie, when Hannah discovers McCauley’s girlfriend, Eddie (Amy Brenneman), is sitting alone in a car outside the hotel where her husband has just gone to kill Wingro.

Then the two men exchange dreams: Hana presents an elaborate dream in which he sits at a banquet table with the dead victims of various murders that he had to investigate. McCauley, still impossibly nervous, says this simply of his dream: “I have a dream that I’m drowning in. And I must wake up and start breathing or I will die in my sleep.” He says that the dream is about time, but it is also clear that it is constantly running. The laconic speed with which De Niro delivers this line reflects his stance – as if time is really running out.

This, too, has more resonance in the film. This scene is, in many ways, the undoing of Neil McCauley. His motto, which he repeats here, was: “Don’t let yourself stick to anything you don’t want to get out of in 30 seconds if you feel hot on the corner.” and yet, Here’s the heat. There is Vincent Hanna, the policeman who wants to take Neil McCauley, sitting across the table from him, having coffee. The smart thing was to use the restroom and then disappear forever. But no, McCauley just sits there and tells Hannah about his dreams. Somewhere deep inside, he knows he shouldn’t; This is why his body is so stiff, his delivery has been clipped. However, he does it, because this man, he realizes, understands him. And although Neil and Vincent proceed to admit that they wouldn’t hesitate to shoot each other if they had to, the scene ends with a quick hint of smiles on their faces. It wouldn’t have any other way. They need each other.

This, then, is what it means when a character has an inner life. The cafe scene in the heat Brilliantly written, sure, it’s a pivotal moment in the film’s structure. But this also applies to the scene in LA Takedown – which has only a small part of its effect the heat. Because once actors like Pacino and De Niro (two actors we’ve been watching, fascinated, for decades) do such a scene, it explodes into something wonderful and unforgettable.