Downtown Los Angeles, high noon. Three men in suits walk out of a bank into broad daylight, brisk and all business, indistinguishable from the cubicle drones clogging the sidewalk. They make a beeline toward a waiting car, the end of their workday in sight. They have just committed a robbery. But as the last of the group reaches the curb, he spots armed police officers across the street, waiting to pounce. Without hesitation, he raises his assault rifle and opens fire: a relentless volley that shreds the banal day. The report is thunderous, echoing down the canyons of the city, and the reply from the policemen’s guns is no less ferocious. The epic battle of Los Angeles in Michael Mann’s Heat has begun.
Released in 1995, the movie remains the apotheosis of the director’s style—a muscular, outsized vision of laconic men at work. It is proudly old-fashioned and unabashedly movie-ish in its predilection for moments of pop cool and baroque grandstanding, most conspicuously in Al Pacino’s performance, the rare instance of the cop being more flamboyant than the robber. Heat‘s very scale announced its ambitions—the nearly three-hour film aspired to be the mother of all cop dramas. That made the gunfight at its center the mother of all shoot-’em-ups. Read the rest of Elbert Ventura’s contribution to the Reverse Shot Sounds Off symposium.