A decade on, “Heat” finally has a DVD to match its technophilic grit. Originally cranked out by the Warner Bros. homevid factory without any extra features in 1997, in the dawn of the DVD format, its nearly three-hour sprawl merits a bonus disc of featurettes and deleted scenes. Embedded within are a wealth of clues to the criminal mind as well as the methodology of those involved with the production. There’s no Rosetta stone, but plenty of gold dust to give the film a new glint.
To wit, the famous coffee talk between Robert De Niro and Al Pacino, their only scene of dialogue together in their storied careers, was nearly staged at a roadside taco stand rather than the sleek and note-perfect Kate Mantilini restaurant. D.p. Dante Spinotti mounted multiple cameras above each actor to make intercut over-the-shoulder shots match. Take 11 was the best for both actors on almost every line, Michael Mann says.
Also compelling is a sequence detailing the real-life crew in Chicago that inspired the one Mann depicts in “Heat.” Once you digest how steeped in fact the story is, moments that initially seemed awkward or overheated come into resonant focus.
The film’s cast remains one of the most impressive in recent major-studio history. Along with De Niro and Pacino, it features Val Kilmer, Jon Voight, Tom Sizemore, Dennis Haysbert, Natalie Portman, Mykelti Williamson, Ashley Judd, Hank Azaria, Henry Rollins, Amy Brenneman, Jeremy Piven, Ted Levine, Tom Noonan — even an uncredited Bud Cort!
A veteran Chicago policeman who was a consultant on the film is among many on the disc to utter some variation in the sentiment, “You have to think like a thief to catch a thief.” Detectives, start your DVD players.