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Heat (1995 film)

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Theatrical release poster
Directed byMichael Mann
Produced by
Written byMichael Mann
Music byElliot Goldenthal
CinematographyDante Spinotti
Edited by
Distributed byWarner Bros.
Release date
  • December 15, 1995 (1995-12-15)
Running time
170 minutes
CountryUnited States
Budget$60 million[1]
Box office$187.4 million[2]

Heat is a 1995 American crime film written, co-produced and directed by Michael Mann, and starring Al Pacino, Robert De Niro and Val Kilmer.[3] De Niro plays Neil McCauley, a professional thief, while Pacino plays Lt. Vincent Hanna, an LAPD robbery-homicide detective tracking down McCauley's crew. The story is based on the former Chicago police officer Chuck Adamson's pursuit during the 1960s of a criminal named McCauley, after whom De Niro's character is named.[4] Heat is a remake by Mann of an unproduced television series he had worked on, the pilot of which was released as the TV movie L.A. Takedown in 1989.

Heat was a critical and commercial success, grossing $67 million in the United States and $187 million worldwide (about $302 million in 2018)[2] against a $60 million budget. It was well received by critics. The film-critic aggregator Rotten Tomatoes reports 86% positive reviews, calling the film "an engrossing crime drama that draws compelling performances from its stars and confirms Michael Mann's mastery of the genre."[5]


Neil McCauley (De Niro), a highly skilled career criminal, and his crew – Chris Shiherlis (Kilmer), Michael Cheritto (Sizemore), and Trejo – hire Waingro (Gage) to help them rob $1.6 million in bearer bonds from an armored car. During the heist, Waingro impulsively kills one guard, prompting another to reach for his concealed pistol, forcing the crew to kill him as well. McCauley gives the order to kill the third guard so as not to leave an eyewitness, but is furious with Waingro for the unnecessary escalation. The crew attempts to kill Waingro, but he escapes.

McCauley's fence, Nate (Voight), suggests he sell the stolen bonds back to their original owner, money launderer Roger Van Zant (Fichtner), who could profit by claiming the insurance on the bonds. Van Zant agrees, but instructs his men to ambush McCauley at the meeting. McCauley survives the ambush and vows revenge against Van Zant.

LAPD Major Crimes Unit Lieutenant Vincent Hanna (Pacino) is called in to investigate the robbery, along with Sergeant Drucker (Williamson) and Detectives Casals (Studi), Bosko (Levine), and Schwartz (Trimble). An informant connects Cheritto to the robbery, and Hanna's team surveils him, leading them to the rest of the crew. When Hanna's team discovers that the crew's next target is a precious metals depository, they set up a stake out, but their presence is detected by McCauley and the crew abandons the job. Hanna opts to let them go so that he can continue gathering evidence against the crew rather than arresting them on a minor breaking and entering charge.

Despite the increased police surveillance, McCauley's crew agrees to one last brazen bank robbery worth $12.2 million to secure their financial futures. Hanna pulls over McCauley on the 105 Freeway and invites him to coffee. Face-to-face, the aging professionals realize that they've both prioritized excellence in their fields at the expense of their personal lives. Hanna admits that his third marriage with Justine (Venora) is near failure and the toll this takes on his step-daughter Lauren (Portman). McCauley confides that his solitary lifestyle has prevented him from finding a romantic partner, and that he doesn't know how to reconcile this with his feelings for his new girlfriend, Eady (Brenneman). Despite their mutual respect for one another's skill, they both acknowledge that they will not hesitate to kill the other if necessary. When he returns to his office, Hanna realizes that McCauley's crew have all slipped their surveillance.

Waingro threatens information out of Trejo, having made a deal with Van Zant to help eliminate McCauley's crew. Acting on a tip from Van Zant's bodyguard Hugh Benny (Rollins), the LAPD intercept the crew just as they are leaving the bank, resulting in a massive shootout in Downtown Los Angeles. Bosko is killed and many police officers are also killed or wounded, while McCauley loses Cheritto and his alternate driver Donald Breeden (Haysbert), and Shiherlis is wounded. McCauley subsequently arrives at Trejo's house to find his wife dead. A dying Trejo reveals Waingro's betrayal, prompting McCauley to kill Van Zant. Eady realizes that he is a criminal but ultimately agrees to flee the country with him. Shiherlis attempts to reconnect with his wife Charlene (Judd), who is helping the LAPD with a sting operation. She changes her mind and helps him escape, albeit without a way to keep their son Dominic in his life.

Hanna finds Lauren's body in the bathtub after a suicide attempt and rushes her to the hospital. He and Justine agree to go their separate ways after learning that she has survived. Meanwhile, McCauley is free to leave the country with Eady, but learns of Waingro's location and abandons his usual caution to seek revenge. The LAPD, acting on information from Benny, learns of McCauley's presence at Waingro's hotel. McCauley kills Waingro, but before he can return to Eady and escape, he is spotted by the arriving Hanna and forced to flee on foot, leaving her behind. Hanna pursues McCauley onto the tarmac at LAX and mortally wounds him. Hanna takes his hand as McCauley succumbs to his injuries.


De Niro was the first cast member to get the film script, showing it to Pacino who also wanted to be a part of the film. De Niro believed Heat was a "very good story, had a particular feel to it, a reality and authenticity."[6] Xander Berkeley had played Waingro in L.A. Takedown, an earlier rendition of Mann's script for Heat. He was cast in a minor role in Heat.[6][7] In 2016, Pacino revealed that his character was under the influence of cocaine throughout the whole film.[8]

In order to prepare the actors for the roles of McCauley's crew, Mann took Kilmer, Sizemore and De Niro to Folsom State Prison to interview actual career criminals. While researching her role, Ashley Judd met several former prostitutes who became housewives.[6]


Factual basis

Heat is based on the true story of a real Neil McCauley, a calculating criminal and ex-Alcatraz inmate who was tracked down by Detective Chuck Adamson in 1964. Neil McCauley was raised in Wisconsin where his father worked as steam fitter to provide his family with a middle-class life. The normalcy of Neil's youth faded following the adoption of another child and his father's death in 1928. At 14, he quit school to find work to support his mother and five siblings. The McCauleys soon relocated to Chicago. In Chicago, McCauley began his criminal career after his mother began drinking heavily. By the time he was 20, he had already done three stints in county jail for larceny.[9][10]

In 1961, McCauley was transferred from Alcatraz to McNeil, as mentioned in the film, and he was released in 1962. Upon his release, he immediately began planning new heists. With ex-cons Michael Parille and William Pinkerton they used bolt cutters and drills to burglarize a manufacturing company of diamond drill bits, a scene which is closely recreated in the film.[11] Detective Chuck Adamson, upon whom Al Pacino's character is largely based, began keeping tabs on McCauley's crew around this time, knowing that he had become active again. The two even met for coffee once, just as portrayed in the film.[10] Their dialogue in the script was almost exactly word for word the conversation that McCauley and Adamson had.[11] The next time the two would meet, guns would be drawn, just as the movie portrays.[10]

On March 25, 1964, McCauley and members of his regular crew followed an armored car that delivered money to a National Tea grocery store at 4720 S. Cicero Avenue, Chicago.[12] Once the drop was made, three of the robbers entered the store. They threatened the clerks and stole money bags worth $13,137[12] (equivalent to $104,000 in 2017) before they sped off in a rainstorm amid a hail of police gunfire.[10][11]

McCauley's crew was unaware that Adamson and eight other detectives had blocked off all potential exits, and when the getaway car turned down an alley and the bandits saw the blockade, they realized they were trapped. All four suspects exited the vehicle and began firing. Two of his crew, Russell Bredon (Breaden) and Parille, were slain in an alley while a third man, Miklos Polesti (on whom Chris Shiherlis is very loosely based),[10] shot his way out and escaped. McCauley was shot to death on the lawn of a nearby home. He was 50 years old and the prime suspect in several burglaries.[13] Polesti was caught days later and sent to prison. As of 2011 Polesti was still alive.[11]

Adamson went on to a successful career as a television and film producer, and died in 2008 at age 71.[14] Michael Mann's 2009 film Public Enemies stated in its end credits "In memory of Chuck Adamson". As an additional inspiration for Hanna, in a 1995 interview Mann cited an unnamed man working internationally against drug cartels.[15] Additionally, the character of Nate, played by Jon Voight, is closely based on real-life former career criminal and fence turned writer Edward Bunker, who served as a consultant to Mann on the film.[10][11][16]

Canceled TV series

In 1979, Mann wrote a 180-page draft of Heat. He re-wrote it after making Thief in 1981 hoping to find a director to make it and mentioning it publicly in a promotional interview for his 1983 film The Keep. In the late 1980s, he offered the film to his friend, film director Walter Hill, who turned him down.[6] Following the success of Miami Vice and Crime Story, Mann was to produce a new crime television show for NBC. He turned the script that would become Heat into a 90-minute pilot for a television series featuring the Los Angeles Police Department Robbery–Homicide division,[6] featuring Scott Plank in the role of Hanna and Alex McArthur playing the character of Neil McCauley, renamed to Patrick McLaren.[7] The pilot was shot in only nineteen days, atypical for Mann.[6] The script was abridged down to almost a third of its original length, omitting many subplots that made it into Heat. The network was unhappy with Plank as the lead actor, and asked Mann to recast Hanna's role. Mann declined and the show was cancelled and the pilot aired on August 27, 1989 as a television film entitled L.A. Takedown.[6] which was later released on VHS and DVD in Europe.[17]



In April 1994, Mann was reported to have abandoned his earlier plan to shoot a biopic of James Dean in favor of directing Heat, producing it with Art Linson. The film was marketed as the first on-screen appearance of Al Pacino and Robert De Niro together in the same scene – both actors had previously starred in The Godfather Part II, but owing to the nature of their roles, they were never seen in the same scene.[18] Pacino and De Niro were Mann's first choices for the roles of Hanna and McCauley, respectively, and they both immediately agreed to act.[19]

Mann assigned Janice Polley, a former collaborator on The Last of the Mohicans, as the film's location manager. Scouting locations lasted from August to December 1994. Mann requested locations which did not appear on film before, in which Polley was successful – fewer than 10 of the 85 filming locations were previously used. The most challenging shooting location proved to be Los Angeles International Airport, with the film crew almost missing out due to a threat to the airport by the Unabomber.[6]

To make the long shootout more realistic they hired British ex-Special Air Service special forces sergeant Andy McNab as a technical weapons trainer and adviser.[20] He designed a weapons training curriculum to train the actors for three months using live ammunition before shooting with blanks for the actual take and worked with training them for the bank robbery.[21]


Principal photography for Heat lasted 107 days. All of the shooting was done on location, Mann deciding not to use a soundstage.[6]


Box office

Heat was released on December 15, 1995, and opened #3 in the box office with $8,445,656 opening weekend in 1,325 theaters (behind Jumanji and Toy Story respectively).[22] It grossed $67,436,818 in United States box offices, and $120 million in foreign box offices.[23] Heat was ranked the #25 highest-grossing film of 1995.[23]

Home media

Heat was released on VHS in June 1996.[24][25] Due to its running time, the film had to be released on two cassettes.[25] A DVD release followed in 1999.[26] A two-disc special-edition DVD was released in 2005, featuring an audio commentary by Michael Mann, deleted scenes, and numerous documentaries detailing the film's production.[citation needed] This edition contains the original theatrical cut.[27]

The initial Blu-ray Disc was released on November 10, 2009, featuring a high-definition film transfer, supervised by Mann.[28] Among the disc extras were Mann's audio commentary, a one-hour documentary about the making of the film and ten minutes worth of scenes cut from the film.[29] As well as approving the look of the transfer, Mann also recut two scenes slightly differently, referring to them as "new content changes".[30]

A Director's Definitive Edition Blu-Ray was released on May 9, 2017 by 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment, who acquired the distribution rights to the film through their part-ownership of Regency back in 2015. Sourced from a 4K remaster of the film supervised by Mann, the two disc set contains all the extras from the 2009 Blu-ray, along with two filmmakers panels from 2015 and 2016 discussing the movie with the filmmakers.[31]


Metacritic gives the film a score of 76 out of 100, based on 22 critics, indicating "generally favorable reviews".[32] Audiences polled by CinemaScore gave the film an average grade of "A-" on an A+ to F scale.[33]

Roger Ebert gave the film ​3 12 stars out of 4. He described Mann's script as "uncommonly literate", with a psychological insight into the symbiotic relationship between police and criminals, and the fractured intimacy between the male and female characters: "It's not just an action picture. Above all, the dialogue is complex enough to allow the characters to say what they're thinking: They are eloquent, insightful, fanciful, poetic when necessary. They're not trapped with cliches. Of the many imprisonments possible in our world, one of the worst must be to be inarticulate — to be unable to tell another person what you really feel."[34] Simon Cote of The Austin Chronicle called the film "one of the most intelligent crime-thrillers to come along in years", and said Pacino and De Niro's scenes together were "poignant and gripping".[35]

Kenneth Turan of the Los Angeles Times called the film a "sleek, accomplished piece of work, meticulously controlled and completely involving. The dark end of the street doesn't get much more inviting than this."[36] Todd McCarthy of Variety wrote, "Stunningly made and incisively acted by a large and terrific cast, Michael Mann's ambitious study of the relativity of good and evil stands apart from other films of its type by virtue of its extraordinarily rich characterizations and its thoughtful, deeply melancholy take on modern life."[3] Owen Gleiberman of Entertainment Weekly gave it a B− rating, saying that "Mann's action scenes ... have an existential, you-are-there jitteriness," but called the heist-planning and Hanna's investigation scenes "dry, talky."[37]


The explicit nature of several of the film's scenes was cited as the model of a spate of robberies since its release. This included armored car robberies in South Africa,[38] Colombia,[39] Denmark, and Norway[40] and most famously the 1997 North Hollywood shootout, in which Larry Phillips, Jr. and Emil Mătăsăreanu robbed the North Hollywood branch of the Bank of America and, similarly to the film, were confronted by the LAPD as they left the bank. Phillips did have a copy of the movie where he lived. This shootout is considered one of the longest and bloodiest events of its type in American police history. Both robbers were killed, and eleven police officers and seven civilians were injured during the shootout.[41] Heat was widely referenced during the coverage of the shootout.[42]

For his film The Dark Knight, director Christopher Nolan drew inspiration in his portrayal of Gotham City from Heat in order "to tell a very large, city story or the story of a city".[43] In 2016, a year after its 20th anniversary, Nolan moderated a Q&A session with Michael Mann and cast and crew at the Academy.[44]

Heat was one of the inspirations behind the video game Grand Theft Auto V, notably the mission "Blitz Play" where the crew blocks and then knocks over an armored car in order to rob it.[45]

In March 2016, Mann announced that he is developing a Heat prequel novel as part of launching his company Michael Mann Books.[46]

Soundtrack album

Heat: Music from the Motion Picture
Soundtrack album by
various artists
ReleasedDecember 19, 1995 (1995-12-19)
GenreClassical, Avant-garde, Modernist, Jazz fusion, Electronica, Alternative rock
LabelWarner Bros.
9 46144-2
ProducerMatthias Gohl
Elliot Goldenthal chronology
Batman Forever
Heat: Music from the Motion Picture
Michael Collins
Professional ratings
Review scores
Filmtracks.com4/5 stars[47]
Musicfromthemovies4/5 stars[48]
AllMusic3/5 stars[49]

On December 19, 1995, Warner Bros. Records released a soundtrack album on cassette and CD to accompany the film, entitled Heat: Music from the Motion Picture.[49] The album was produced by Matthias Gohl. It contains a 29-minute selection of the film score composed by Elliot Goldenthal, as well as songs by other artists such as U2 and Brian Eno (collaborating as Passengers), Terje Rypdal, Moby, and Lisa Gerrard. Heat used an abridged instrumental rendition of the Joy Division song "New Dawn Fades" by Moby, which also features in the same form on the soundtrack album. Mann reused the Einstürzende Neubauten track "Armenia" in his 1999 film The Insider.[50] The film ends with Moby's "God Moving Over the Face of the Waters", a different version of which was included at the end of the soundtrack album.[47]

Mann and Goldenthal decided on an atmospheric situation for the film soundtrack. Goldenthal used a setup consisting of multiple guitars, which he termed "guitar orchestra", and thought it brought the film score closer to a European style.[51] The soundtrack was noted for lack of a central theme. Christian Clemmensen of criticized the omission from the album of much music heard in the film due to the film's length, but praised the album as a decent listening experience, and Goldenthal's score as "psychologically engaging and intellectually challenging", believing it to be one of Goldenthal's best.[47] AllMusic called it a "soundtrack for the mind ... full of twists and turns".[49] thought of the album as uncharacteristic for Goldenthal's style, calling the atmosphere "absolutely electrifying".[48]

1."Heat"Elliot GoldenthalKronos Quartet7:41
2."Always Forever Now" (from Original Soundtracks 1, 1995)U2; Brian EnoPassengers6:54
3."Condensers"Elliot GoldenthalElliot Goldenthal2:35
4."Refinery Surveillance"Elliot GoldenthalKronos Quartet1:45
5."Last Nite" (from Blue, 1987)Terje RypdalTerje Rypdal & The Chasers3:29
6."Ultramarine" (from Cobalt Blue, 1992)Michael BrookMichael Brook4:35
7."Armenia" (from Zeichnungen des Patienten O. T., 1983)Blixa Bargeld; F.M. EinheitEinstürzende Neubauten4:58
8."Of Helplessness"Elliot GoldenthalElliot Goldenthal2:39
9."Steel Cello Lament"Elliot GoldenthalElliot Goldenthal1:43
10."Mystery Man" (from The Singles Collection, 1989)Terje RypdalTerje Rypdal & The Chasers4:39
11."New Dawn Fades" (from I Like to Score, 1997)Ian Curtis; Peter Hook; Stephen Morris; Bernard SumnerMoby2:51
12."Entrada & Shootout"Elliot GoldenthalElliot Goldenthal1:49
13."Force Marker"Brian EnoBrian Eno3:36
14."Coffee Shop"Elliot GoldenthalElliot Goldenthal1:38
15."Fate Scrapes"Elliot GoldenthalElliot Goldenthal1:34
16."La Bas: Song of the Drowned [Edited Version]" (from The Mirror Pool, 1995)Lisa GerrardLisa Gerrard3:10
17."Gloradin" (from The Mirror Pool, 1995)Lisa GerrardLisa Gerrard3:56
18."Run Uphill"Elliot GoldenthalElliot Goldenthal2:51
19."Predator Diorama"Elliot GoldenthalKronos Quartet2:40
20."Of Separation"Elliot GoldenthalElliot Goldenthal2:21
21."God Moving Over the Face of the Waters" (from Everything Is Wrong, 1995)Richard HallMoby6:58

Video game

A video game based on the film was announced at E3 2006, under development by Gearbox Software for PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360.[52] During E3 2009, it was revealed that Gearbox did not have the license of the film to make the game, as this was being optioned to be sold.[53] Michael Mann, director of the film, was reported to be involved with the game. In a 2009 interview Randy Pitchford, President, CEO, and co-founder of Gearbox Software, said that development of the game had been halted and the IP could potentially be available to another developer saying:

In a nutshell, we're nowhere. We have passionate game makers that would love to do it. We've got filmmakers that think it's a great idea that would love to see it done. We have publishing partners that would love to publish it. But we have no time. That's the limiting factor. Because of the situation, we're not keeping the IP locked down anymore. So if somebody else were in a spot where they could do it, and everybody was comfortable with that, then conceivably that could happen.[54]


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External links