Release Date: 1995
Director: Michael Mann
Why I picked this: It’s a classic heist movie, I hear
Intense, complex, and featuring lead performances from two of the best actors of our time, this three-hour long crime epic is engaging, but sometimes meandering. This movie focuses on two different sides; a group of thieves led by Neil McCauley, played by Robert De Niro, and the police force attempting to catch them, led by Vincent Hanna who is played by Al Pacino. De Niro and Pacino share very little screen time together, but they are electric during this little time with each other. One scene has the two drinking coffee together after Hanna pulls McCauley over; they both make clear the lengths they will go to stop the other from succeeding, but they also find a unique connection with each other, as they both find that their job is all they could do. They are the same person on two different sides, but their respective purposes contradict each other, and as a result, they are on a collision course. McCauley’s group is a very professional one; his team members are played by Val Kilmer, who gives an intense performance, especially during the action sequences, Tom Sizemore, and the underutilized Danny Trejo. Their heists and robberies are very well throughout, and they conduct themselves with caution in their actions and their words. The battle between McCauley and Hanna is one of wits, where both sides try constantly to outsmart the other. Sometimes they must rely on firearms, which at one point, leads to one of the greatest shootouts I’ve seen in a movie; it occurs in the middle of the film, is very large scale, and takes place on an open street in public. The film takes place in Los Angeles, which makes for some great location shots; some of the characters live in lavish places. McCauley, Hanna, and Val Kilmer’s character Chris are in relationships that are prominently featured, with McCauley’s girlfriend Eady, played by Amy Brenneman, Hanna’s (third) wife Justine, played by Diane Venora, and Chris’s wife Charlene, played by Ashley Judd. Their different jobs have put strains on these relationships; Eady knows nothing about McCauley’s other life, and I saw McCauley beginning a relationship with her as an attempt to live a semi-regular life. Chris acts angrily, and his wife is shown to be unfaithful, as is Hanna’s wife, as his job has taken over most of his life. De Niro and Pacino give very intense performances, often yelling or at least acting very stern to get what they want. The rest of the cast is pretty good as well, but the story can be meandering, especially the first third of the film after the opening heist. Some characters are pointlessly expanded on; one character had a fleshed out backstory only to be unceremoniously killed of later. Some subplots, including one involving a money launderer played by William Fichtner could have been cut. Still, after those action sequences, it is hard to deny that this is a very well crafted movie.
It’s a little too long, but performances from Robert De Niro and Al Pacino, along with intense action sequences and an overall epic scale make for a classic heist movie.