Heat (1986 film)

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Theatrical release poster
Directed by Dick Richards
Jerry Jameson
Produced by Elliott Kastner
Cassian Elwes
Screenplay by William Goldman
Based on Heat
by William Goldman
Music by Michael Gibbs
Cinematography James A. Contner
Edited by Jeffrey Wolf
Distributed by New Century Vista Film Company
Release date
  • November 12, 1986 (1986-11-12)
  • March 13, 1987 (1987-03-13)
(United States)
Running time
101 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Budget $17 million
Box office $2,793,214

Heat is a 1986 American action-thriller film about an ex-mercenary working as a bodyguard in Las Vegas. The film was written by William Goldman,[1] based on his 1985 novel of the same name.[2] Heat was directed by Dick Richards and Jerry Jameson. The film stars Burt Reynolds, Karen Young, Peter MacNicol, Howard Hesseman, Neill Barry and Joseph Mascolo.[1]


A woman in a Las Vegas bar is annoyed by a flirtatious drunk (Burt Reynolds). Her date, a milquetoast named Osgood (Wendell Burton), wants to do something about it. The woman, D.D. (Deborah Rush), begs him not to, but when the drunk turns mean, Osgood challenges him to step outside. To D.D.'s astonishment, Osgood wins the fight and even gets the tough-looking drunk to apologize. Next morning, it turns out that the drunk is Nick Escalante, known to his friends as Mex, who has been hired to make Osgood look tough in his lady's eyes.

Nick is a former soldier of fortune, lethal with his hands and an expert with weapons, in particular sharp objects. He now acts as a bodyguard for hire but is listed in the Yellow Pages as a "chaperone". Nick's goal is to make enough money to leave Vegas and move to Venice, Italy for good.

He is approached by another meek young man. Cyrus Kinnick (Peter MacNicol) is wealthy and claims to want someone by his side while he gambles, but that's a ruse. He really wants Nick to teach him how to be tough.

Nick is distracted by the savage beating of a friend, Holly (Karen Young). As a paid escort, she goes to the hotel suite of Vegas high roller named Daniel "Danny" DeMarco (Neill Barry) who has organized crime connections. There, she was sadistically abused by DeMarco, a small man backed by Kinlaw and Tiel, a pair of gigantic thugs.

Holly can't get her revenge over DeMarco without Nick's help. He reluctantly agrees and goes to DeMarco's hotel, dressed like a flamboyant pimp. He uses his friendship with a local crime boss, Baby (Joseph Mascolo), to get access to DeMarco's suite. When he asks about Holly's suffering, DeMarco tells him that it was only the beginning of a great game. When he requests financial restitution for Holly's injuries, DeMarco first offers $20,000, which Nick accepts. DeMarco then takes back the money and pulls a gun. Rather than require an apology, he demands that Nick flatter him. Nick makes a half-hearted attempt to do so, but DeMarco says that Nick has "failed the test." DeMarco again points his gun, asking what he is he thinking about, to which Nick answers, "Venice."

At that moment, DeMarco orders Nick to be taken out of his suite, apparently to be beaten or killed somewhere else. But before the huge henchmen can take any action, Nick proceeds to dispense his own kind of justice, using sharp objects like a medallion and the razor-sharp edge of a credit card to defeat DeMarco and his goons.

Holly arrives in DeMarco's suite and, finding him tied up, threatens to slice off DeMarco's manhood. She relents by cutting only the top of his penis, mocking it as small. DeMarco asks if this about the money, to which Holly asks, "What money?" Nick tells her about DeMarco's $20,000 in his desk. Holly gives the cash to Nick, after which DeMarco tries to blame Holly's treatment on his henchmen, but Kinlaw retorts that the henchmen "didn't get [their] turn with her until [DeMarco] was done with her."

Nick has a car prepared for Holly to get out of Las Vegas and gives Holly the $20,000. He refuses Holly's suggestion to take half the money. After she drives off, she gives $10,000 to a man and asks him to give the money to Nick.

Taking a liking to his new client, Nick agrees to give Kinnick a few pointers on how to defend himself. With the money Holly gave him, meanwhile, Nick begins to play blackjack in a casino where his friend Cassie (Diana Scarwid) is a dealer. Kinnick comes to realize what Cassie already knows, that the reason Nick has had so much difficulty leaving Vegas is because he is a compulsive gambler.

After he wins enough money to go to Venice as planned, Nick talks himself into believing that it wouldn't be enough to last him for the rest of his life and he needs more. He returns to the casino and proceeds to lose it all.

DeMarco goes to Baby, asking permission to kill Nick, lying that Nick killed his friends with their own guns. Baby organizes a meeting in his home with him as a mediator. By knowing that they will find his fingerprints on the guns from when he disarmed DeMarco's friends, Nick tells Baby that some part of DeMarco's story is true. Nick asks two questions: first, why would he need a gun? (DeMarco considers it a stupid question, but Baby answers that Nick never uses firearms). Nick's second question is how he knows that DeMarco has a small cut on his penis. Baby says that DeMarco will have to expose his penis to prove if Nick is right. DeMarco refuses, after which Baby concludes that it was not Nick who killed DeMarco's thugs, but likely DeMarco himself.

DeMarco defies Baby's orders. He and more of his men ambush Nick at his office. Nick manages to fight them off with a brave intervention by Kinnick, who steps into the path of a bullet. Nick manages to kill DeMarco's henchmen. A terrified DeMarco returns to his suite. The power is off and Nick talks to DeMarco from the darkness, asks if he wants to know how he is going to die, tells him that what happened to Kinlaw and Tiel is nothing compared to what awaits him. DeMarco fails to shoot Nick in the dark. Taunted that he now has only one bullet left and that, if he misses, Nick will tear his small and beautiful face off, a powerless DeMarco kills himself with his own gun.

As his new friend Kinnick recovers in the hospital, Nick is seen on a gondola in Venice, beginning a new life.



William Goldman later called the film:

One of my major disasters... [there were an] amazing number of directors who worked on the flick. (There were six in all and yes that is a record, and like DiMaggio's batting streak, one that will never be broken. I am sanguine because it must always be remembered that the big six toiled on what was only a thirty-six-day shoot.)[3]

Burt Reynolds was paid $2 million to play the lead role.[4] "I don't think Heat and Malone [another film he made shortly after] are the movies that are going to change my career," he later said. "But at least they are serious films which people have told me I should have been doing for years. I don't know how good they are, but at least I'm taking the advice now of close friends and doing films that take me out of a car."[4] He apparently initiated the project, having read the novel and calling Goldman about turning it into a film.[4]

In 2000, Goldman published his second volume of memoirs, Which Lie Did I Tell?: More Adventures in the Screen Trade. He mentioned Heat briefly, saying "the reason you will not learn more about this baby in these pages is simple: to my knowledge, lawsuits are still flying."[5] He later reflected, "We had troubles, what can I tell you?"[6]

Robert Altman was originally going to direct the movie, but left after only one day of filming. He was replaced by Dick Richards, who did not get along with Reynolds. At one stage Reynolds hit Richards and the director left the project, being replaced by Jerry Jameson. Richards later returned, only to fall from a camera crane and wind up in the hospital.[7]

Richards later took credit as 'D.M. Richards' and distanced himself from the final product. "I had nothing to do with the editing of the film," he said later. "I was one of five directors. All I did was the casting and 13 days of shooting... I should have taken my name off it entirely." A Directors Guild arbitration ruled that Richards was responsible for 41% of the finished film and Jerry Jameson 31%.[8]

Richards later tried to sue Reynolds for $25 million for the assault, and Reynolds was ordered to pay $500,000 in damages, bitterly remarking, "I spent $500,000 for that punch. If I hit a guy, it's certain that he will run a studio or become a huge director."[9]

Lionel Wigram has one of his first industry jobs on the film.[10]


Heat grossed $2,793,214 in the United States.[11]

Critical response[edit]

The film earned mixed-to-poor reviews from critics during its release and was not a success at the box office, grossing less than $3 million in ticket sales.

Walter Goodman of The New York Times write in his review: "SO you think Charles Bronson is the most lethal object on two feet? That's because you haven't seen Heat,".[12]


Heat was released in theatres on November 12, 1986, in the United States and France.[12] The film was released on DVD on March 4, 2003, Echo Bridge Home Entertainment.[13]


Jason Statham starred in a remake written by Goldman and directed by Simon West. Filming took place in United States in early 2013[14] and the film was released briefly in select theaters in December 2014. The film was released on DVD and Blu-ray on March 31, 2015, by Lionsgate Home Entertainment.[15][16]


  1. ^ a b "Heat". Turner Classic Movies. Atlanta: Turner Broadcasting System (Time Warner). Retrieved December 12, 2016. 
  2. ^ Goldman, William (1985). Heat (1st ed.). New York City: Warner Books. ISBN 978-0446512756. 
  3. ^ Goldman 2000, pp. 340–341.
  4. ^ a b c Modderno 1987, p. L6.
  5. ^ Goldman 2000, p. 50.
  6. ^ Egan 2014, p. 216.
  7. ^ Kehr, Dave (March 13, 1987). "'Heat' Has Chandleresque Virtues". Chicago Tribune. Chicago: Tronc Inc. Retrieved December 12, 2016. 
  8. ^ Goldstein & Klady 1987, p. K18.
  9. ^ https://www.nytimes.com/1996/06/16/magazine/deliverance.html
  10. ^ Eller, Claudia (December 19, 2009). "A sorcerer of the big screen". Los Angeles Times. Los Angeles: Tronc Inc. Retrieved December 12, 2016. 
  11. ^ "Heat". Box Office Mojo. United States: Amazon.com. Retrieved December 12, 2016. 
  12. ^ a b Goodman, Walter (March 13, 1987). "FILM: 'HEAT,' A DRAMA WITH BURT REYNOLDS". The New York Times. New York City: The New York Times Company. Retrieved December 12, 2016. 
  13. ^ "Heat". Echo Bridge Home Entertainment. La Crosse, Wisconsin: Echo Bridge Entertainment. March 4, 2003. ASIN B0000C0FFV. Retrieved December 12, 2016. 
  14. ^ Lang, Brent (February 8, 2012). "'Jason Statham Starring in Remake of Burt Reynolds' 'Heat'". The Wrap. Santa Monica, California: The Wrap News Inc. Retrieved December 12, 2016. 
  15. ^ "Wild Card". Lionsgate Home Entertainment. Santa Monica, California: Lionsgate. March 31, 2016. ASIN B00T2Z3P6K. Retrieved December 12, 2016. 
  16. ^ "Wild Card". Lionsgate Home Entertainment. Santa Monica, California: Lionsgate. March 31, 2016. ASIN B00T2Z3P6K. Retrieved December 12, 2016. 


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