Heat

A film that will entertain while at the same time make you think

What it’s about

Lieutenant Hanna, a detective played by Al Pacino, decides to catch a highly intelligent seasonal criminal, played by Robert De Niro, who has vowed to pull off one last robbery before he retires for good.

What you will learn from watching it

​Heat is based on the true story of Neil McCauley and Detective Chuck Adamson from back in 1964, McCauley was a calculating criminal and was an ex-inmate of Alcatraz, Detective Chuck Adamson was the man who caught him.

What makes this film perhaps a really interesting proposition is that though poetic licence has been used to make the story more dramatic, there is a lot of truth in the account of what happened, which is rare for a Hollywood film.

For example, in the film Al Pacino who plays Chuck Adamson and Robert De Niro who plays McCauley, meet one-time for a coffee. This actually happened. The next time they meet in the film guns are drawn. This also is true, in real life the next time they met guns were drawn.

Obviously also the film is set in the 90s rather than the 60s, but ignoring that by Hollywood standards this is a fairly decent account of what went down. In terms of what in my view you can learn from watching this film, besides an interesting account of a true crime story, is the power of the bad guy.

To explain, what makes this film interesting is the fact that no person can watch it and not find themselves rooting for the bad guy. You will really want Robert De Niro’s character to get away with it and escape to his new life with his girl.

Based on what he has done, you should not want this to happen, you know you should not want this to happen, there are literally no grounds to justify his actions, and yet you most definitely do want this to happen.

The way I see this film is a perfect example of how bad guys no matter how bad they are when shown and seen in a certain light can feel like the good guys, and because of that you find yourself rooting for them.

In a way it is like the famous saying, bad guys don’t see themselves as bad guys, they see themselves as good guys, which is why at times they can seem so attractive. For example, Al Capone genuinely saw himself as a good guy, he thought he was helping people to have a good time and because of it was working in the interests of the people.

He was not a good guy, selling the alcohol illegally was one thing, but all the killing and the evil crimes he committed were another entirely. But if he told his story the way he wanted to tell it, so from his perspective, no doubt he would argue that every crime he committed was in the interests of the greater good and that he really was a good guy and no doubt he would be able to sell his argument with such strength that you might actually believe him, which at the time a lot of people did.

It is so easy to get taken in by a bad guy, in my view this film shows you just how easy and that for me makes it a great watch. The fact it is such a great film is the cherry on the cake.

Is the story any good

There are a number of angles going on in this film, on the one hand you have the breakdown of Al Pacino’s relationship with his wife, on the other hand you have Robert De Niro’s character realising he does not want to live a life alone, and so is looking for love.

Added to the cat and mouse game that De Niro and Pacino play, it has to be said this film makes for a highly compelling watch but the character that you end up rooting for is without question like said De Niro.

And that is why this is such a good story, because like said you should not be rooting for him. Yet the way the story is told makes you root for him while at the same time making you feel like you shouldn’t be rooting for him.

Final words

Robert De Niro, Al Pacino, Val Kilmer, Jon Voight, even a young Natalie Portman, the roll call in this film to say the least is filled with some great actors. And for good reason, this is a brilliant film. It should be said that if you don’t like nitty-gritty crime dramas which are driven more by the actors rather than the effects team, then you will probably find this film boring, but if you do like nitty-gritty crime dramas which are driven by the actors rather than special effects, then you’ll most probably like this film, maybe even love it.

For that reason from me this film gets a big thumbs up.

Director: Michael Mann

Writer: Michael Mann

Genre: crime, drama, thriller

Year: 1995

Runtime: 172 minutes

Vantage Point

Solid Action Thriller Told in a Unique Way

What it’s about

US President Henry Ashton attends a summit in Spain to sign a treaty but is shot by an unknown sniper. Subsequently, an explosion takes place in the square, which leads to absolute chaos.

My thoughts

Despite the unique storytelling style this is basically a run-of-the-mill action film, so someone gets shot in this case the president, someone has to chase the shooter and there is much shooting and a car chase from a car which has been commandeered et cetera et cetera.

In terms of the unique story making style, basically as said the president is assassinated and the moments leading up to and right after the assassination are told from several different perspectives.

What this means is rather than a normal film in which time moves normally, we watch the same moment happen several times over but from the perspectives of different characters, each character providing another piece of the puzzle.

With that said first things first about this film it is short, and considering that in reality it is only telling a period of time of about thirty minutes or so in total, and is telling those thirty minutes again and again but from different perspectives, and there is not any depth to the story, it needs to be.

In terms of whether it works, after the fourth or fifth perspective change the film starts to drag namely because it is only reaching the point of the assassination and not moving beyond it, and there is not much story to it, but thankfully the director has realised that this is the limit and has allowed the film to really kick on from this point with the action properly taking off.

And when the action takes off this becomes a surprisingly pleasing to watch action thriller, nothing special which is likely why it receives such a poor critical response, but as an action film it is entertaining. The only real gripe I have with it is how it ends, without giving anything away basically rather than Dennis Quaid’s character using his smarts to save the day, basically he gets lucky.

I have to say I am not a fan at all of endings where the good guy only saves the day because of pure luck, it just screams of laziness from both the director and writer. And I have to say I believe this film deserved a better ending. In fact it deserved a better story full stop, especially considering this was a film told using such a unique style. It was just begging a more compelling story than just your standard run-of-the-mill action film story of someone gets shot good guy chases bad guy et cetera et cetera.

But that aside this is still a highly watchable action film which is told in a unique way, and as Dennis Quaid and Forest Whitaker put in solid performances as the lead characters, that means all in all this film gets a thumbs up from me.

​​Director: Pete Travis

Writer: Barry L Levy

Genre: action, thriller, crime

Year: 2008

​Runtime: 90 minutes

Message Man

Solid Action Flick with a Terrible Name

What it’s about

When his dark past threatens to catch up with him, an assassin comes out of retirement to go on a final killing spree to make things right.

My thoughts

First thing’s first it has to be said this film arguably has the lamest name in the history of films, the fact that any person thought that Message Man was a brilliant name for a ruthless assassin is beyond belief.

However, ignoring the terrible name this is actually quite an enjoyable film, and if you like action flicks along the lines of John Wick and the Rambo films, so ruthless killers killing bad people ruthlessly, then it is highly probable that will enjoy this.​

Is it as good as said films, no but it is indisputably a decent action flick, with ex-Home and Away man Paul O’Brien putting in a solid performance as the lead actor.

There is not much in the form of story, but there never is in films like this. What matters in films like this is whether there is enough story to justify all the killing, and this film ticks that box.

Basically Message Man hires a young boy to help him and goes on to befriend his mother. That young boy then gets kidnapped by someone from Message Man’s past, forcing Message Man to come out of retirement to get him back. Much ruthless killing then ensues.

All in all it is one of those films that you don’t expect much of but goes on to pleasantly surprise you. Best of all the name Message Man is barely mentioned in the entire film, which means it gets a thumbs up from me.

​​Director: Corey Pearson

Writer: Corey Pearson

Genre: action, crime, thriller

Year: 2018

​Runtime: 86 minutes

Need for Speed

A Videogame with a Supercharger Attached

What it’s about

A street racer is framed by a rival who is also a wealthy business associate in a murder case. Upon his release, the street racer devises a plan with revenge in mind.

My thoughts

Tyre burning in this film is taken to an entirely different level. In fact it is probable that during filming, they will have burnt through so many tyres that they could have filled a tyre graveyard. But if you like films in which high-powered cars are taken to their limits, then you will like this film.

But only if you are able to watch it for what it is, and that is a video game turned into a film, which means if you are person that likes films to have a semblance of realism to them you’re gonna think this film ridiculous.

That means to say the least poetic licence is used in this film, and the way the title characters are willing to just pop in and out of jail so freely and willingly, and to risk jail so freely and willingly is definitely more videogame than feature film.

In fact the entire film is more videogame than feature film. But video games are fun and this film is fun, and if you’re willing to watch it with that in mind then you will find it a fun and easy to watch film which pays solid homage to the video game it is based upon.​

For these reasons it gets a solid thumbs up from me.

​Director: Scott Waugh

Writer: George Gatins and John Gatins

Genre: action, crime, thriller

Year: 2014

​Runtime: 132 minutes

2 Guns

Action Thriller That Starts Slow but Has a Clever Twist

What it’s about

Two undercover agents, Robert and Michael, aim to expose Manny ‘Papi’ Greco, a drug lord. Unaware of each other’s true identities, the two get into trouble when they finally meet Papi.

My thoughts

An action film which stars both Denzel Washington and Mark Wahlberg to say the least sounds a mighty compelling film. But that is perhaps why this film struggles to impress. The problem of expectations.

And those expectations are hit right at the beginning because to say the least this is a bit of a slow starter, and the way the timeline jumps back and forth in the beginning is without a doubt messy. However, it is still a fun film with a surprisingly clever storyline.

Also despite in the beginning the chemistry between Denzel Washington and Mark Wahlberg seeming a bit lacking the chemistry along with the initial slow pacing grows as the narrative progresses.

All in all, this is a passable action flick that feels like it should have been more than it is but as it is is still half decent watch. Basically if you like Denzel Washington and Mark Wahlberg then in all likelihood you will enjoy this film, but not as much as perhaps you would hope.

And that perhaps is the lasting feeling, and the fundamental problem with this film, it’s a good film with a clever storyline but not as good a film as you want it to be considering the billing.

But as it is a decent action film it gets a solid thumbs up from me.

Director: Baltasar Kormákur

Writer: Blake Masters and Steve Blake

Genre: action, crime, thriller

Year: 2013

Runtime: 99 minutes