Posts Tagged ‘Robert DeNiro’

Michael Mann’s complex, sprawling ‘Heat’ is one of the definitive crime dramas of the 1990s

December 1, 2015

By Matthew E. Milliken
MEMwrites.wordpress.com
Dec. 1, 2015

Heat, the gritty, glamorous Los Angeles crime drama written and directed by Michael Mann, may be The Godfather of the 1990s.

I make that claim not because the 1995 movie runs nearly three hours, or because it stars Al Pacino, who played Michael Corleone in the Godfather series, or because it co-stars Robert De Niro, who played a younger version of Michael’s father, Vito Corleone (the part played by Marlon Brando in the original), in The Godfather: Part II, although I would maintain all of those facts certainly bolster my case. Instead, I write that because Heat, like Francis Ford Coppola’s Godfather movies, is as focused on its characters’ family intrigues as it is on the criminal (and, in this film, police) activities conducted by many of those characters.

Take Vincent Hanna, the hotshot Los Angeles police detective portrayed by Pacino. He’s been married to his third wife, Justine (Diane Venora), for a number of years, but he remains stubbornly unwilling or unable to talk with her about the depraved crimes and criminals whom he investigates on a daily basis. Hanna’s stepdaughter, Lauren (Natalie Portman), is an adolescent on the verge of a nervous breakdown; in one of Heat’s earliest scenes, her inability to find a hair tie in the preferred color triggers a meltdown.

Neil McCauley, the master thief whom De Niro plays, has no family of his own (other than his crew, that is). One of McCauley’s accomplices, Chris Shiherlis (Val Kilmer) should be rolling in money thanks to the tightly knit gang’s exploits, but he’s gambled most of it away. Now his wife, Charlene (Ashley Judd), wants Chris to find a way to stop hemorrhaging cash and to turn legitimate without stinting on their lavish lifestyle. One of the movie’s key plot points involves both McCauley and Hanna uncovering the Shiherlis’s vulnerabilities and attempting to exploit them.

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Is unrestrained greed good? Nay, declares Martin Scorsese in ‘The Wolf of Wall Street,’ his sprawling indictment of Wall Street and America

January 10, 2014

By Matthew E. Milliken
MEMwrites.wordpress.com
Jan. 10, 2014

Let me tell you about a Martin Scorsese movie that I recently saw. The protagonist is an unscrupulous young white man who aspires to wealth and luxury. By associating himself with a gang of other similarly avaricious, unprincipled young men, the ambitious outsider achieves wild levels of success. The rewards include free-flowing money, drugs, sex and power. Those outside his circle sometimes pay a heavy price for the protagonist’s triumphs. After the group attracts the scrutiny of the authorities, they’re cleaved by internal divisions. Ultimately, the leading character is humbled, but he does not attain humility.

If this sounds familiar, there’s good reason for that. Squint at Scorsese’s late 2013 release, The Wolf of Wall Street, and one might easily mistake it for his 1990 mafia classic, Goodfellas. In a broader sense, it also matches the outsider-makes-good-before-getting-his-comeuppance template that Goodfellas shares with Scorsese’s 1995 drama, Casino, wherein a Philadelphia oddsmaker becomes a top Las Vegas power broker but is undone by greed, drugs, lust and politics. In all three films, the protagonist’s success is threatened by a profligate right-hand man.

Both Goodfellas and Casino are based on nonfiction books by Nicholas Pileggi. This time around, the source material is a memoir by arriviste financier Jordan Belfort; thugs, guns and violence are de-emphasized in favor of opulence and sex, but the parallels with Scorsese’s early works are unmistakable.

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