Thursday, August 28, 2014
Based on a novel by Academy Award winner William Goldman (ALL THE PRESIDENT’S MEN), who also wrote the screenplay, HEAT should have been so much better than it is, but it’s tough to make a good movie when the star and director are punching each other in the face. It was also the beginning of Burt’s downhill slide as a leading man, and so HEAT feels small like a B-movie. It also feels shapeless and aimless, as though many scenes that would have held the story together were never shot. Which wouldn’t surprise me, considering the backstage woes.
Goldman creates parallel stories for Nick Escalante, the Las Vegas “chaperone” played by Reynolds and nicknamed “Mex.” Neither story is for high stakes. If you believe that a film should be about the biggest day in its protagonist’s life, Mex must be a dull boy. One story has him getting payback on a cocky young son (Neill Barry) of a Mafioso who roughed up his young hooker friend Holly (Karen Young). The same night he ends up in a warehouse throwing down with a bunch of Barry’s boys, Mex also teaches rich wimp Cyrus (Peter MacNicol) how to be a tough guy.
Diana Scarwid pops in for a nothing role as a blackjack dealer, and Howard Hesseman is very good as a shyster attorney who shares an office with Mex. Both add considerably to the film, which doesn’t appear to know how to use them. Reynolds is just as terrific as he ever was, aging gracefully into a role that calls for a worldweariness that he hadn’t had to play up to that point in his career. Burt was still a movie star. It wasn’t his fault the pictures got small.