"Heat", Regency Enterprises, 1995
This is unintentionally one of the weirdest films I've ever watched, and whilst I can appreciate the cerebral tone its trying to take the cop-and-robbers genre, the final product is a tonal mess that can sometimes be exhausting to watch.
I was instantly struck with a timeless sense of quality to it. The cinematography and the feel of this film feels somewhat more modern to other late 90s crime films like The Usual Suspect. This can also be seen with the sidestep the screenplay takes with De Niro and Pacino's characters, looking at the instability of these archetypical character's lives that comes with the involvement with the law. However, this is where the film instills off-beaten aesthetic, intentional or not. Pacino feels like a cartoon throughout this movie. His animated facial expressions, the tone of his voice and the parts of the script that he emphasises (often shouting) very often undercuts any sense of urgency and drama. Mann only manages to either reel his performance in or find a balance between silly and serious a select number of times, actually managing to poignantly underline occasionally the twisted world that exists only a few inches outside his family life. Nevertheless, as carefully executed as this is, this instead comes to fruition Venora's nauseating performance as Vincent's wife. She feels completely flat and acts only as a tool for the cause-and-effect direction of the story, making the sympathy that Mann intends the audience to feel for her and Vincent laughable, making underdeveloped plotholes like with their step-daughter all the more head-scratching. Unfortunately, De-Niro's Neil is nearly equally as perplexing. Whilst I can appreciate where the story takes him, like falling in love and trying to balance this window of opportunity to escape with this window of opportunity into fortune and financial stability, it comes across as shoved-in and poorly-realised. This can be seen with the baffling composition of every shot-reverse-shot between them, which paired with the most on-the-nose dialogue just feels unorthodox. Whilst this may be interpreted as the awkward transition into the life outside the "30-seconds heat" rule, the special relationship Mann tries to conjure here falls flat underneath this attempt to comment on the emotional turmoil of these types of characters. In terms of the diegesis that carries the duality between these characters, I feel that there was a loss in translation between the screenplay and Mann's direction. The jarring pacing that meshes together the weird dynamic the robbers have which feels different in each scene they share together and the needlessly-prolonged search for the robbers all together is so poorly handled, constantly bringing me out of the immersion that the slighty-off-kiltered cinematography and low-key lighting may provide.
Whilst I did genuinely enjoy a few scenes that finds a happy medium between the conventional approach to tone and the jolty sense of tone Mann brings (the fight scene towards the end), the world that brings everything together feels lifeless with people that I do not connect to on any level with their intentions and/or their arcs.