Heat (Blu-ray) (1995)

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Released 27-Oct-2009

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Crime Audio Commentary-Michael Mann
Deleted Scenes
Featurette-True Crime
Featurette-Crime Stories
Featurette-Into The Fire
Featurette-De Niro and Pacino: The Confrontation
Featurette-Return To The Scene Of The Crime
Theatrical Trailer-Surprise Of A Lifetime
Theatrical Trailer-Two Actors Collide
Theatrical Trailer-Closing In
Rating Rated MA
Year Of Production 1995
Running Time 170:27
RSDL / Flipper No/No Cast & Crew
Start Up Programme
Region Coding 4 Directed By Michael Mann
Studio
Distributor

Warner Home Video
Starring Al Pacino
Robert De Niro
Val Kilmer
Jon Voight
Tom Sizemore
Diane Venora
Natalie Portman
Case Amaray Variant
RPI ? Music Elliot Goldenthal


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby TrueHD 5.1
French Dolby Digital 5.1
German Dolby Digital 5.1
Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1
Portuguese Dolby Digital 2.0
English Audio Commentary Dolby Digital 2.0
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 2.35:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 1080p
Original Aspect Ratio 2.40:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English for the Hearing Impaired
French
German
Spanish
Dutch
Spanish
Portuguese
Danish
Finnish
Norwegian
Swedish
Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement Yes, mildly
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

    Every director, even ones as straight and mainstream as Frank Coraci or Renny Harlin, has a film that they can look back on, shed a tear of pride, and say "I coordinated the making of that". For Michael Mann, that film is Heat. And I will tell you this much: I can only think of one other director who has shot a shot (or sequence of shots) where an actor simply stares into the camera (or the region thereof), and yet the result in context is so awesomely riveting. Unlike that other film I am thinking of, however, Heat has a slow, languid pace that even makes some efforts of the 1960s or 1970s look like Crank by comparison. Of course, it helps that the cast is top-notch, with even the bit parts and extras played to a perfection that has rarely been seen before or since (Gran Torino is one of the few examples that comes to mind).

    The plot is a complex web of interweaving stories that begins on one quiet day in Los Angeles. Neil McCauley (Robert De Niro) is a professional thief who runs a well-coordinated unit consisting of such  men as Chris Shiherlis (Val Kilmer), Michael Cheritto (Tom Sizemore), and Trejo (Danny Trejo). For reasons never elaborated on, the crew have taken on a fifth gunman by the name of Waingro (Kevin Gage). This turns out to be a mistake, as Waingro turns out to be a professional only in the sense that he participates in thieveries for money, and his itchy trigger finger escalates what should be a simple armed robbery with malicious damage into a murder one beef, as Lieutenant Vincent Hanna (Al Pacino) later puts it. Hanna is a detective who came into the police force straight from war, and has a reputation for dogged persistence at his work to the exclusion of his social life and, more importantly, home life.

    Said home life consists of a disintegrating marriage to Justine (Diane Venora). Justine's daughter from a previous marriage, Lauren (Natalie Portman) is undergoing her own crisis as her biological father is repeatedly skipping out on custodial visits with her, which manifests in a series of mood swings that made me feel empathetic to Justine, and you know that is saying a lot. Meanwhile, McCauley's fencer, Nate (Jon Voight), proposes to attempt selling the bonds stolen in the heist we just mentioned back to their rightful owner, a businessman called Roger Van Zant (William Fichtner). He also tells McCauley that a fellow by the name of Kelso (Tom Noonan) has a big score that might well pay enough for McCauley and his merry band to retire and give up this life of crime. But real life has a way of getting in the way, and soon the whole affair descends into a game of cat and mouse where both participants have mutated into super-tigers.

    I could go on and on about all this film has to offer, such as the ridiculous fight in the closing stages of the film where the 250-pound Henry Rollins gets his dot kicked by the 5'4"-standing-on-his-wallet Al Pacino, but aside from the architecture described above, the principal joy in watching Heat for the first time is discovering it all for the first time. As I said, the cast is top-notch, but some of the things I discovered on this viewing also lead me to admire the technical side of this piece. Making a film that holds the interest of an audience for the entire running length is a difficult job at the best of times, but making a film of slightly less than three hours with a pace like this that keeps the interest of the viewing audience is an achievement that few directors in the history of the medium can lay claim to. If crime thrillers are your bag, then Heat should be considered compulsory viewing.

    The real question, since we are talking about Heat, is whether this new release of the film is the kind of presentation it deserves.

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Transfer Quality

Video

    Heat was filmed in the Super 35 process, and presented in theatres with an approximate 2.39:1 aspect ratio. The packaging claims that the video transfer is presented in the aspect ratio of 2.40:1, which I see no clear reason to dispute. As you would expect of a transfer of a film of this stature, it is presented within a 1920 by 1080 progressive window. All of the advantages this transfer has over previous DVD releases can be associated with this singular fact.

    This transfer is sharp. Sharp enough that the shades of colour in actors' eyes are visible in dark scenes, to use my favourite yardstick. Had I never made the jump to BD, I would not know that in the right lighting, Kevin Gage's eyes turn a yellowed baby-shit brown (another shot shows they are a light blue). Other, more gruesome details such as blood spatters and wounds show up with a clarity no other medium can presently offer. Shadow detail is very good, but often purposefully limited. Suffice to say that the detail the director wants to share is clear and leaping out of the screen. No low-level noise is present.

    The colours in the transfer can be split into two schemes. Daytime scenes and sequences that take place in well-lit locations such as the insides of houses or other places where one would expect bright light are vivid and vibrant, with plenty of colour to go around. Scenes that take place in the dark, on the other hand, are very drab, with only the important subjects of the shots brightly lit. Skin tones are well done and consistent. No problems were evident with bleeding or misregistration.

    Compression artefacts were not noted in this transfer. The transfer is encoded in the VC-1 codec, with the bitrate varying between the mid teens and high twenties. Grain, what little there appears to have been in the source, appears to have been well-managed. Film-to-video artefacts are where this transfer basically takes a big dump upon previous SD versions, with neither hide nor hair of aliasing evident at any point during the running time. And believe you me, with all the road markings, car chrome, power lines, and wire fences on display during this feature, the lack of aliasing in the transfer certainly was not for lack of opportunity. Film artefacts consisted of the occasional very small black or white mark on the picture that was generally difficult to notice, leave alone find objectionable.

    Subtitles are offered in about a dozen languages, including an English for the Hearing Impaired option. I watched the film with this option enabled. The subtitles do truncate some particularly lengthy lines of dialogue, but they are otherwise fairly accurate to the spoken word.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

    Now, anyone who has read my reviews will know they can expect a lot of jabber from me about how the video, audio, or both basically makes me wonder how anyone can continue to watch other media. Heat is no exception, within certain limitations.

    A total of six soundtracks are presented on this BD-Video. The first, and default, soundtrack is the original English soundtrack in Dolby TrueHD 5.1, which I listened to. Also present are dubs in French Dolby Digital 5.1, German Dolby Digital 5.1, Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1, and Portuguese Dolby Digital 2.0, with an audio commentary in Dolby Digital 2.0 for good measure.

    One problem with this transfer is that the Dolby TrueHD soundtrack is rather quiet compared to the Dolby Digital dubs on offer. I had to turn my receiver's volume up about six points above my normal listening position. The helicopter sequences prove that this is more of a problem because of the much wider dynamic range (ie the difference between the softest and loudest parts) that the lossless compression offers. Nonetheless, the fact that this soundtrack sounds so subdued compared to other Dolby TrueHD tracks that have been offered from the same distributor does cause some minor concern.

    Dialogue was always clear and easy to understand, even more so than has ever previously been the case. Separation of the elements, namely dialogue, sound effects, and music is very good. This is partly because the sound design of this film is strangely reminiscent of films from times like the early 1980s, with a one-element-at-a-time approach. When the action does ramp up and multiple elements come out of the dugout, however, the soundtrack shines so bright it is blinding. No problems with audio sync were noted.

    The score music is credited to Elliot Goldenthal. Although it is fairly minimal and very subtle, there are moments when it comes out into the foreground and really drives what would have otherwise been some very ordinary shots. As with the dialogue, the lossless compression just makes it that much more of a treat to listen to.

    The surround channels are used frequently, but very subtly, for ambient sound, directional gunfire, music, bystander screams, and other effects of this nature. Although the surround channels are used somewhat sparingly and long sequences go by where they seem to be doing nothing, their use in the soundtrack is quite beneficial. If I could sum this soundtrack up in a word, it would be "authentic", as in the soundtrack perfectly matches the onscreen action both in content and in surround use. Now, granted, the soundtrack does become slightly monaural in nature during quiet dialogue sequences, but that suits the style of the film. At 107:35, a gun battle in the streets begins, and the sequence one should use from this film to demonstrate why one has a lossless audio decoder comes out in force. Make no mistake about it, this is the way Heat should be heard. Even if it is not what we enthusiasts normally look for in a soundtrack.

    The subwoofer is used more sparingly than the surround channels, only really making itself known during car crashes, gunshots, and other bassy effects. It was well integrated with the rest of the soundtrack, and sorely appreciated in such moments as the aforementioned gun battle.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

    A small helping of extras are presented on this disc. All of them are standard definition.

Menu

    The menu is still in the style currently expected of Warner menus, with a single page of Top Menu for extras and a Pop-Up Menu for language selection and navigation. On the plus side, navigation is pretty straightforward.

Audio Commentary - Michael Mann (Director/Producer/Writer)

    This Dolby Digital 2.0 audio commentary is a holdover from the previous Special Edition DVD.

Deleted Scenes

    A total of eleven scenes that were shot but not included in the final cut of the film are presented in their own section of the Top Menu. All are presented in a 2.35:1 aspect ratio, and are not 16:9-enhanced. Total running time is a mere nine minutes and thirty seconds. All were cut from the finished product for a very good reason.

Featurette - True Crime

    Presented in the aspect ratio of 1.33:1 with film footage in 2.35:1, and Dolby Digital 2.0 audio.

Featurette - Crime Stories

    Presented in the aspect ratio of 1.33:1 with film footage in 2.35:1, and Dolby Digital 2.0 audio.

Featurette - Into The Fire

    Presented in the aspect ratio of 1.33:1 with film footage in 2.35:1, and Dolby Digital 2.0 audio.

Featurette - De Niro and Pacino: The Confrontation

    Presented in the aspect ratio of 1.33:1 with film footage in 2.35:1, and Dolby Digital 2.0 audio. This featurette is about that scene in the diner where the two leads sit and talk. Which would be a great scene if it had not been completely blown away earlier by the aforementioned stare-into-the-camera sequence. Ever get the feeling that you have emphasised something a little too much?

Featurette - Return To The Scene Of The Crime

    Presented in the aspect ratio of 1.33:1 with film footage in 2.35:1, and Dolby Digital 2.0 audio. Worth a look for anyone who is interested in what goes on in the pre-production stage of filmmaking.

Trailer - Surprise Of A Lifetime

    Presented in the aspect ratio of 1.85:1, not 16:9-enhanced, with Dolby Digital 2.0 audio. A lot of snippets from dialogue that was not included in the finished film are heard. Of those lines, I can only say I am glad they were left on the cutting room floor.

Trailer - Two Actors Collide

    Presented in the aspect ratio of 1.85:1, not 16:9-enhanced, with Dolby Digital 2.0 audio. As the menu title implies, this trailer emphasises the fact that there are a couple of scenes in which the two leads share screen time.

Trailer - Closing In

    Presented in the aspect ratio of 1.85:1, not 16:9-enhanced, with Dolby Digital 2.0 audio.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    Differing subtitle options aside, the two discs appear to be very much identical. Being that this is a Warner disc, there would also appear to be no Region Code issues. The decision as to which of the two discs offers best value for money therefore rests with the purchaser.

Summary

    Heat is one of the greatest crime/heist thrillers of all time. There simply is no other way to put it.

    The video transfer is excellent.

    The audio transfer is very good.

    The extras are all carried over from a previous Special Edition DVD, therefore mostly SD, therefore mostly not worth the bother.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Dean McIntosh (Don't talk about my bio. We don't wanna know.)
Tuesday, December 01, 2009
Review Equipment
DVDSony BDP-S350, using HDMI output
DisplayPanasonic Viera TH-42PZ700A. Calibrated with Ultimate DVD Platinum. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 1080p.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Ultimate DVD Platinum.
AmplificationOnkyo TX-SR606
SpeakersYamaha NS-45 Front Speakers, Yamaha NS-90 Rear Speakers, Wharfedale Xarus 1000 Rear Speakers, Yamaha NSC-120 Centre Speaker, Wharfedale Diamond SW150 Subwoofer

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