Published: Jul 7, 2016 12:00:00 PM

heat-title.gifMovie seasons come in waves. Movie moods come in waves. I'm not talking about summer being blockbuster season or the winter being awards bait. I'm talking about movies that make seasonal sense to watch during certain times of year.

I want to address the the best summer movies. Movies that are about long days and about living for night.

Today's entry concerns Michael Mann's 1995 action crime-saga: HEAT.

HEAT is one of the best summer movies.

It may seem blunt, but HEAT's thesis statement is that it exists because the characters within it demand it exist. The characters do not know any other way to live. They are disciplined to be cautious and thorough, whether cop or criminal. That heightens tension to breathless degree. It broadcasts its destinations far off in the distance: scores the crooks want to seize, and the determination of the cops chasing them.

Then, through its middle acts, it teaches the audience how it cannot go down any other way.

Robert De Niro plays the thief. He is an all-metal ghost-monk of a man. His detachment from the world is built into his character, convincing the viewer that whatever he does, he must do, and he does it on principle.

Al Pacino plays the cop. He is a fanatic for his job. He is nonetheless aware of the destruction it causes to his undeserving family. However, like De Niro, he is not heartless. He's trained and educated, and he sees what brutal crime does to people, not only through explanation and backstory, but through how he interacts with criminals who aren't De Niro.

So that ratchets the intensity. These are keen individuals so close to bursting, so calm when the whole world wants to shriek. That's what makes HEAT one of the best summer movie: it builds. There is an entire HBO drama season's worth of story plotted out in the nearly 3-hour movie. No scene is wasted, always escalating, not through action, but through character tension.


A series of action scenes would exhaust the audience. Instead, HEAT just ups the plot with each heist, or failed heist, or discovery, or aftermath, or betrayal. The entire third hour is about betrayal. Characters betraying each other, betraying themselves, or, perhaps NOT betraying anything, against all odds. Everything comes back around.

Enough cannot be said about the brutality and cacophonous violence in the bank heist shootout. That's what most people will remember. It's the inbetween that makes it a long, summer crime-saga. Summer is as much about waiting for action as it is about the action itself. Summer is a season that builds up. Then its tension must be vented.

HEAT is one of the best summer movies.

Go watch HEAT. It's beautiful. Get it on Amazon.

-- Alex Crumb
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