Heat

Most crime films tend to pick a side early on, focusing on a ‘means to an end’ band of criminals thieving because they have to, or a team of patriotic, all-American supercops able to match their never-ending machine gun clips with a limitless supply of one liners, but Michael Mann’s Heat, a remake of his own 1989 made for TV movie L.A. Takedown, takes a different path, giving Robert De Niro’s gang of seasoned thieved and Al Pacino’s police squad equal screen time, equal motivation and similar levels of compassion, so you get to decide who you want to win. Though the two main characters; De Niro’s master thief Neil McCauley and Pacino’s dogged detective Vincent Hanna are sworn enemies, they are still two sides of the same coin, separated by their own opinions of the law, but brought together by a deep mutual respect. Neither one is the villain of the film, there are more than enough scumbags among the supporting player to take that role, yet neither is necessarily the hero, although in the end it’s Pacino who grabs the most heroic moments.
Surrounded by an incredible ensemble cast (deep breath: Val Kilmer, Tom Sizemore, Danny Trejo, Dennis Haysbert, Natalie Portman, Xander Berkeley, Hank Azaria, Jon Voight, Jeremy Piven, Mykelti Williamson, William Fichtner, Tom Noonan, Ted Levine, Ashley Judd), some perfectly choreographed set pieces (the opening truck heist and mid film bank robbery/street shootout) and ability to show the effect their chosen lifestyles has had on these characters and their personal lives, or lack thereof, this is a tremendous film, even if it does give in to the occasional cliché, but these can be forgiven for the fact that they use weapons that actually, from time to time, need reloading.
Choose film 9/10

The Silence of the Lambs

It’s easy to forget just how impressive Silence of the Lambs is as a film; receiving the ‘Big 5’ Oscars (Actor, Actress, Picture, Director, Screenplay) back in 1992, an accolade since rusted by the diminishing returns of the sequels/prequel. When remembered, the image brought to mind is of a motionless Anthony Hopkins stood eerily in the centre of a jail cell, awaiting Jodie Foster’s FBI student Clarice Starling, the conversations that ensue regarding Hopkins’ incarcerated Hannibal Lecter assisting the FBI with psychological analysis of an active serial killer, and certainly Hopkins’ aggressive, manic yet restricted delivery of oft-quoted and even more so parodied dialogue. Admittedly Hopkins turn, equal parts refined and ruthless, educated and insane, psycho-analytical and psychopathic, is remarkable, before Ridley Scott’s Hannibal turned him into some kind of dandy rogue (albeit one who feeds Ray Liotta his own brain), but it is so overpowering that it overshadows the rest of the film, feeling his absence whenever he’s not on screen, staring directly into the soul of the viewer. Not to diminish the rest of the production, with Jodie Foster being another highlight, her twig-like rookie about a foot shorter than all the other male recruits, all of whom have no problem checking her out as she walks by, seeing her not as an equal, but simply as a girl. Ted Levine (Monk, Heat) is also incredible as the killer Buffalo Bill, keeping his victims alive in a well before skinning them to make himself a suit. Criminally he was not even considered for a supporting actor nomination, yet his portrayal is arguably more chilling than Hopkins’, delving deep into a twisted, scarred psyche and throwing the shattered remains at the screen. The third reel reveals, both examples of fine editing and cinematography, also deserve mentioning, keeping you guessing long after you thought you knew what was happening.
Choose film 8/10