Heat, the Michael Mann film from 1995 is one of my favorite movies. It stars Robert DeNiro as a master criminal who heads a crew of high-end professional thieves (including Val Kilmer, Tom Sizemore, and Danny Trejo) and Al Pacino as the highly-skilled detective out to catch them. It would be a great movie if it was just a cat-and-mouse game between those two forces, but it is so much more.
At its heart, it is really a character study of these two characters who are both very similar though on opposite sides of the law. Both men are highly intelligent, great at their jobs, and extremely dedicated. The DeNiro character swears off all attachments because he says he needs to be able to flee without a second thought, he has to be able to leave everything behind. Pacino’s detective is married, but it is falling apart (and this isn’t the first time that’s happened) because he can’t ever leave the job at the office. Kilmer plays a man kind of in the middle of these two. He is smart and very good, but he’s got a girl and he’s dedicated to her. He’ll get the job done, but he’ll never leave her.
It is a long movie and one that takes its time. It allows the audience to really soak up these characters and live in this world. It is a film I like more and more each time I watch it and one I always enjoy spending time with.
So, I was excited when I learned that Michael Mann (with help from Meg Gardiner) had written a sequel to Heat. As a novel. Which is weird, right? Mann has never written a novel before, and Heat is a movie. Except Mann often talks about how when he writes a movie script he writes long character descriptions giving them background stories and filling in their characters. Apparently, he writes hundreds of pages of background stories that never make it to the actual script. Heat was actually a remake of an earlier film of Mann’s called L.A. Takedown, which was originally intended as a TV pilot but when it wasn’t picked up he converted that into a television movie. What I’m saying is Mann knows and loves these characters so it makes a certain amount of sense that he’d want to revisit them in this format.
Heat 2 is really good, even if it is a little convoluted and relies a little too heavily on coincidence. It follows two timelines that eventually converge. The first follows directly after the events of the film. Chris (that’s the Val Kilmer character) has escaped with his life (barely) and is on the run. He makes it to Paraguay where he begins working for a crime syndicate.
The second timeline follows Vincent (the Al Pacino character) several years prior to the events of the movie as he chases a violent gang of home invaders in Chicago. Neil (the DeNiro character) and Chris and their cohorts are also in Chicago at the same time, involved in an unrelated crime.
The stories converge in interesting ways. At least to me. Your mileage may vary.
Spoilers for the movie: at the end of the film Neil is dead and so he can’t factor into the events of the book that unfold after that moment. It is clear from the film that Neil and Vincent had never met before. In this book, the two characters circle each other without really knowing it and the various coincidences and events that connect them do feel a little contrived and may be a little too much for some readers.
Personally, I didn’t mind. Mann and Gardiner do a great job of bringing us back into this world. The voice of the characters line up so well with the actor’s performances in the film that I do wonder how it would come across to someone who hasn’t watched the movie.
I highly recommend watching the movie then reading the book. Mann has already said he’s interested in adapting the book into a movie or possibly a TV series. I’d vote for a series as there is so much crammed into these pages it would be difficult to fit it all into a movie, even a long one. It will be fascinating to see who they get to play these characters as the original actors are far too old for it now.