November; Production Process; Heist Movies:
When pre-production is finished and a film moves into the production stage, people with different skill sets come together under the leadership of a Director to complete a film. A similar process occurs when a heist is committed; a bunch of people with different skill sets come together under a master planner, to steal something. Last month was about the one man process of pre-production using Parker as an example, but let’s move out of the planning stage and onto the stage where the work gets done. I am currently in production of my film, Animafia. I’ve brought together my crew, and laid out the job and would like to analyze several others who have done the same.
The first film I will look at is Heat, directed by Michael Mann in 1995. It is considered a crime classic, and one of the greatest heist films of all time. It features the famous actors, Robert De Niro and Al Pacino, facing off against each other in a game of cat and mouse. Robert De Niro runs a crew of master heist men, planning a big score to regain the money from their last job. Hot on their tale from the last job, is obsessed cop Al Pacino. Good acting, great gunfights, and tense heists ensue.
The story revisits and expands upon another Michael Mann film, Thief, starring James Caan as a heist man pulling a big job for some hoods in order to settle down with a girl, until he is betrayed by the mob and goes on a hunt to get his money and his revenge (sounds like we’re moving into Parker territory now). Michael Mann’s bigger budgeted version is Heat with Robert De Niro in James Caan’s role including a second protagonist (Al Pacino). Both characters have opposing goals and its up to the audience to decide who to route for. The best crime films are full of moral ambiguity and this carries that quality in spades. The actual preference for who should win though, depends on which actor the viewer likes better.
De Niro and Pacino do a great job in the movie, but the movie is banking on the characters being De Niro and Pacino. I give the names of the actors instead of the characters because all I see is Al Pacino if he was a dedicated cop and De Niro if he was a heist man. Each actor delivers their classic tropes, such as De Niro’s narration stating a code of honor and a serious speech to an associate on how much he fucked up. Pacino has his classic freakouts, like screaming about big asses, while madly following his driven goal. The performances are so compelling that they carry the first half of the the film. The first half is slow, which makes sense because it is building up to the heist, but the time is spent setting up sub-plots and character interactions instead going into detail on the process of the main heist. De Niro and Pacino keep this part interesting by laying all their classic tropes down like hands in a poker game.
Things kick into high gear when the heist starts up, leads to a kickass gunfight, leaving the rest of the film to deal with the aftermath. The heist creates high stakes that make the final half the most tense part of the film as we see De Niro and his crew attempt to escape death and jail as their world crumbles around them, and past mistakes come back to bite them in the ass. The ending is the showdown between Pacino and De Niro and it’s up to the viewer to decide if it is a happy or sad one.
The film is great, but the second half is better than the first and it wouldn’t be a classic if De Niro and Pacino didn’t bring their star power and quirks to the film. It’s a mandatory watch for any heist fan, but it isn’t too detailed on the process of the heists and focuses too much on the action, which is forgiven, because the action is awesome.
Favorite Scene: The primary heist at the bank. It delivers in full and will have you sweating bullets throughout.
Written By Tyler Ducheneaux
Images From: Heat