Heat (1995)(Warner Home Video, 2.22.2005)
Men love Heat. What costar Dennis Haysbert refers to as "a great action-adventure chess match" has a mythic, Shakespearean drawing power that builds entirely upon the relationship of two hunters in a modern jungle. Not unlike James Foley's film of Glengarry Glen Ross, the story's most powerful charge comes from the clash of its diametrically-opposed main characters, conflicts here drenched with blood, gunfire, and macho sentimentality. This is a boy's show, all the way -- though its female characters aren't mistreated, they do tend to get marginalized -- but the film's greatest triumph is its exploration of the grey area that makes the boundaries between cop and criminal blur and fade.
Warner's new double-disc special edition is a boon for fans, beginning with a commentary from writer-director Mann on the first platter. Mann's track focuses, admirably enough, on descriptions of character backgrounds and influences, forensic in detail, which is intriguing given the complaint often lobbed his way that style takes precedence over story in his work. After a while, the track does lose some steam, with Mann simply narrating the onscreen action or not commenting at all, but what is related is informative and exacting.
About 80 minutes of consistently interesting featurettes occupy the second disc, beginning with "True Crime," which details the real-life underpinnings of the script. Neil McCauley was a thief in Chicago in the 1960s and policeman Chuck Adamson's pursuit of McCauley formed the backbone to the story. The precious-metals heist in the film was inspired by an attempted heist of a department store and McCauley himself was eventually taken down by Adamson during the robbery of a supermarket.
"Crime Stories" details the years' worth of work put into the screenplay, mentioning its beginnings as a television movie called L.A. Takedown (but not, disappointingly, presenting excerpts or even still shots from that earlier incarnation). "Into the Fire" shows how the action setpieces were prepared for: the bank heist at the nexus of the film was meticulously choreographed, with real weapons and ammo, on an obstacle course built on a firing range, and then recreated ("faked") with props in downtown L.A. on the weekends. The actors even went through the paces of casing the bank, in disguise, and weren't spotted.
The featurettes manage to cover quite a bit of ground, touching on everything from the sound of the gunfire during the bank heist to Elliot Goldenthal's experimental score, and the repeated emphasis on the importance of the interaction between the characters is refreshing. Eleven short deleted scenes round out the package. Some are extraneous, while others provide additional dramatic meat for characters played by Tom Sizemore and Danny Trejo. All told, this new special edition is an informative and relatively comprehensive upgrade. -- Jason Comerford