Over the past few years, Bilge Ebiri has been an eloquent advocate for Michael Mann’s Heat (1995), speaking with the director on stage and in print and appearing twice on One Heat Minute, the podcast hosted by Blake Howard that devoted an entire episode to each and every one of the film’s 170 minutes. At Tribeca this summer, Ebiri moderated a conversation with Robert De Niro, who plays professional thief Neil McCauley, and Al Pacino, who plays Vincent Hanna, the LAPD Lieutenant determined to catch him.
In 2015, Ebiri wrote a marvelous piece for Vulture about seeing Heat for the first time. He eventually came around to appreciating it as “a tale of men and women, and of the way they break into and out of each other’s lives,” but he admits that he initially suspected that Mann “was trying to weld onto an otherwise-solid crime thriller the expansiveness of a Dickens novel, and that his ambitions had gotten the better of him.” Again, Ebiri ultimately embraced Heat in all its rich and sprawling fullness, but the ambitions he sensed are most definitely there.
Working with award-winning crime writer Meg Gardiner, Mann has written his first novel. A prequel and a sequel to the film, Heat 2 leaps between the before and after stories in a way that has reminded a few reviewers of The Godfather Part II. In the late 1980s, McCauley is already taking scores in Chicago, where Hanna is chasing down a brutal gang of home invaders. And in the immediate aftermath of the movie’s final shootout, Chris Shiherlis—played in Heat by Val Kilmer—leaves Los Angeles for Paraguay, where he lands a job with a Taiwanese syndicate pulling off a series of highly sophisticated crimes.
Vulture’s review of Heat 2 comes not from Ebiri but from Chris Stanton, who calls it “a pulpy, expansive crime novel that feels of a piece with Mann’s filmography, from its hypercompetent, ambitious characters to the richly detailed underworlds they operate in.” For Stanton, “part of the fun of Heat 2 lies in watching its authors pull ideas and tiny details from across Mann’s entire filmography.” Talking with Mann for Reverse Shot, Gavin Smith so thoroughly maps connections between several of the films and television projects that he wonders if it might be “possible that in some sense Thief,Crime Story,Robbery Homicide Division, the film version of Miami Vice, and Blackhat all belong in a single space/time continuum with Heat as the center of gravity?”
Heat 2 is “a genuinely exhilarating expansion of the movie’s world,” writes Rolling Stone’s David Fear, and it features “some truly jaw-dropping, bullet-filled set pieces.” But not every reviewer is won over. In the Washington Post,Chris Klimek finds that the “hopscotching in time enriches the characters but costs the book in pacing and tension, traditionally Mann strengths.” The verdict from James Wolcott at Air Mail is split. “The novel is nothing if not action-packed, a drive-in feature sandwiched between hard covers,” he writes. “Unfortunately, it is sometimes nothing but action-packed, a perpetual-motion collision machine manufacturing tension and suspense but offering no incidental moments of beauty, no lyric flourishes, just fine-tooled functionality.”
In an outstanding profile that ran last month in the New York Times Magazine,Jonah Weiner noted that the “visionary criminals” in Mann’s work “offer him a means not only to tell lurid tales of ambition but also to learn about, and map, self-obscuring networks that govern the visible world.” Mann is not through with Heat. Even as he shoots Ferrari, starring Adam Driver as racer, designer, and business magnate Enzo Ferrari, Mann is planning another novel that would track the further exploits of Chris Shiherlis. “I’d love to make a Heat 2 movie, definitely,” he tells David Fear. “But if we do it, we’re going to do it big.”
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