Michael Mann Is Still Trying To Recreate The ‘Heat’ Shootout

Black Hat is the director's latest failed attempt to match former glories

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This Friday sees the release of Michael Mann’s Black Hat, a modern tech-crime thriller starring Chris Hemsworth as an inexplicably buff computer nerd called upon to save the day from cyber terrorists who probably still live at their mum’s house.

For many action fans, Black Hat is likely to produce the familiar feeling of disappointment that has accompanied most of Mann’s recent output. Because let’s be honest, things haven’t been right for a while.

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The main issue is that – like a musician trying and failing to recapture the magic of that one near-masterpiece of an album – Mann has been stuck trying to re-shoot Heat for twenty years.

Unfortunately, his latest attempt to relive the magic is not only the nadir of his bad run but the film where the director finally becomes a parody of himself.

Specifically, Mann almost ruins the memory of his famous bank robbery shootout, a crime he’s been working towards ever since he called ‘cut’ on Robert De Niro in 1995.

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You know which scene we’re talking about. The crown jewel in Mann’s oeuvre, the scene by which action movie standards are set: the infamous Heat LA bank robbery shootout.

It’s an almost perfect piece of cinema. There’s DeNiro on top form. Pacino with an assault rifle. A pre-breakdown Tom Sizemore. All of them immaculately outfitted in three-piece suits and bullet proof vests.

As for the shooting itself, it’s loud, it’s fast, and it’s completely unemotional in its execution – the best example of Mann’s cold, clinical eye. So detailed was the level of weapons training behind this scene in particular that United States Marine recruits have been shown it as a an example of perfect form under fire.

In short, with one ten-minute sequence, Michael Mann, redefined the cinematic shootout while simultaneously digging himself into a cordite-scented hole.

The great shame is that ever since then, his action sequences have been self-referential shadows of what could have been.

You won’t remember the club shootout from Mann’s 2004 effort Collateral because no one watched the film, but this scene is undoubtedly Mann’s least subtle attempt at saying ‘Hey everyone, guess what? I’m about to turn up the HEAT in this club.’ Forced, jarring and featuring a glassy-eyed Tom Cruise, the whole scene plays like a Mission Impossible outtake shot on someone’s iPhone.

The big one in Mann’s next film, Miami Vice, is a dust-up at a shipping yard. All the Mann tropes are here: people being shot through car windows, more shaky cameras and more manly men in grey suits but the scene plays out like a stag-do’s paintballing session recorded on a GoPro.

Jamie Foxx somehow hovering in mid-air for about ten seconds while he lays the smackdown on four bad guys (from 3 mins) doesn’t help matters either.

And then comes this week’s Black Hat, an action movie that’s about as exciting as an episode of Antiques Roadshow narrated by Alan Rickman. It’s a film in which the most gripping scene involves the good guys hiding as they get shot at for five minutes straight, while only managing to get off a single shot in retaliation.

The usual action scene ingredients are all there, but Mann hasn’t had a clue how to put them together since Val Kilmer was skinny.

Sadly, much like Miami Vice and Collateral (Public Enemies just about gets a pass) there’s not much else of substance in the remainder of Black Hat, other than close-ups of people typing away on loudly-clacking keyboards.

Ok Michael, we get it, these days all the action is carried out over the internet, but come on, would you want to watch that? After exploiting his legacy with diminishing returns for twenty years, maybe now’s the time for Mann to put aside the crime caper and leave one of the greatest scenes in cinema history behind for good.
 

Agree?


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