“Heat”, the immense classic by Michael Mann, has just been released on Netflix. The opportunity to come back to this emblematic work, and especially to the very first meeting between two sacred monsters of cinema: Al Pacino and Robert De Niro.
Heat : possibly the best Michael Mann film
In 1996, the filmmaker Michael Mann sets out to direct a cult thriller: Heat. Supported by an impressive cast including Val Kilmer, Jon Voight, William Fichtner and Danny Trejo, the main attraction of the feature film nevertheless remains the cult confrontation between Robert De Niro and Al Pacino. A meeting at the historic summit, which has already caused much ink to flow.
Heat tells the fate of Neil McCauley (Robert De Niro), an experienced robber who sees one of his heists turn sour because of one of his associates. The latter kills a security guard, which attracts the attention of Lieutenant Hanna (Al Pacino). A tense manhunt follows between the two men. Heat quickly became a cult film. Shunned by the Oscars, however, he brought back more than $ 187 million in box office revenue. And over time, Heat has become quite simply the best film of its author Michael Mann. The latter has also imagined his feature film as a remake of the TV movie LA Takedown which he himself wrote and directed in 1989. At the time, the lead roles were held by Michael Rooker and Scott Plank.
Two icons that never meet
Heat is famous among the general public for two main reasons: for the absolutely mind-blowing shooting scene and for the meeting between Al Pacino and Robert De Niro. A historic and meaningful confrontation to which we have decided to come back. In 1996, Al Pacino and Robert De Niro are two sacred monsters of cinema. The two actors have appeared in iconic films. Robert De Niro has appeared in most of Scorsese’s films, like Taxi Driver, New York New York, Raging Bull, The Valse des Pantins or The nerves alive. It can also be seen in Journey to the end of Hell, Once upon a time in america or The Untouchables. Al Pacino, for his part, also made a series of major films and appeared in the trilogy of Godfather, in A doggy afternoon, in Time for a weekend, and especially in Brian De Palma’s films like Scarface and The dead end.
The two actors are therefore at the peak of their career and connects successes. Two international stars who have only toured together in one film: The Godfather Part 2. Corn the two artists never appear together on screen in Francis Ford Coppola’s work, which leaves a certain frustration with moviegoers. We will therefore have to wait until 1996, and Heat, so that Robert De Niro and Al Pacino can fight back.
A showdown at the top
Heat thus allows the two actors to give the answer for the first time. Michael Mann himself is aware that there is something historic about this meeting, and he does everything to make it memorable. To keep the magic of their meeting intact, the filmmaker ensures that the two actors are never visible at the same time on the screen. Even during the cult sequence of dialogue between the two characters in the cafe, Robert De Niro and Al Pacino face each other, appear in turn, but are never side by side on the screen. A voluntary bias on the part of the director. Michael Mann used two cameras simultaneously in the field / reverse field. At the time, some have criticized this choice of staging but Michael Mann had a solid rationale for this decision:
This plan would have been grammatically wrong. They embody two men who are completely opposed. I couldn’t show them face to face.
In total, this famous dialogue required 13 sockets. This is the eleventh that Michael Mann kept in the final cut. In addition, duringa round table between Michael Mann, Robert De Niro and Al Pacino in 2016, Robert De Niro had revealed that Michael Mann had chosen to shoot this sequence late at night:
We started it late, around one in the morning. I love this scene, I wanted it to be the best it can be. But I was really sorry to start so late, in the middle of the night!
Michael Mann then ironically replied: “It was intentional”. Thus, this cult sequence is a reference in itself, and shows how these two actors are brilliant actors. Robert De Niro and Al Pacino show great sobriety in the game, and magnify this scene even more. Subsequently, the two performers met only twice: in the disappointing The…