I blogged about the evils of Hollywood action films a week ago (is 'blog' a verb now?) so it's time I wrote about the other side of the coin. Michael Mann's Heat is a crime thriller, but as it goes along you get the sense that it's about people rather than gunfights. I enjoy a good gunfight (and there's some brilliant ones here) but there has to be a real plot surrounding them. Heat is about the consequences of crime, with the two main characters being completely controlled by it. These characters are not typical action puppets, they have 'real' lives that are more complicated than their day job. More time is spent exploring the effects of the struggle than the struggle itself. The coffee shop scene adds weight to everything that happens after; the characters both understand each other, they recognise parts of themselves in the other. It is fitting that it all ends with them holding hands. And there are no mavericks, no caricatures, and I wasn't thinking about the music - because it was excellent.
Mann usually makes films about two men locked in some sort of battle. Collateral was claustrophobic and played out a struggle between an improviser and a planner, contained in a taxi. Public Enemies wanted to go somewhere like this but failed because one side was just a flat FBI agent. Heat is epic and sprawling and is about more than two characters, it's a thriller done with thought and intelligence. It wants to be something above its genre.