‘Heat‘ is a 1986 action thriller written by William Goldman, who also wrote the novel it is based on. It is co-directed by Dick Richards and Jerry Jameson.
Nick “Mex” Escalante (Burt Reynolds) is a Vietnam vet and former mercenary who now works in Las Vegas as a paid bodyguard and fixer. He dreams of moving to Italy, but cannot due to his gambling addiction. After being hired by a wealthy heir named Cyrus Kinnick (Peter MacNicol) to “chaperon” him on a gambling binge, a prostitute friend named Holly (Karen Young) was beaten and tortured by the sadistic high roller Danny DeMarco (Neill Barry). Nick helps her get revenge but paints a target on his back after helping Holly escape. Despite the Las Vegas underbelly coming down on him, Cyrus agrees to stay with him and even escape to Italy, if Nick shows him how to be tough.
This movie had a troubled production. M*A*S*H director Robert Altman was set to helm the film but quit over creative differences and Dick Richards was brought on to replace him, but he did not last long, as he and Reynolds did not see eye-to-eye. This led to a physical altercation where the actor punched the director. Jerry Jameson, who had mainly worked in television at that point, would come on to finish the project, though Richards would still assist from a distance.
With all of this chaos, you can kind of see the workings of three different films. The revenge for a friend. The “fish out of water” friendship. The seedy underworld of gambling with the story of a man searching for his identity. With these sort of diverging plot threads, it could have been a total mess.
Sure, it had its flaws. The opening bar sequence feels out of place with the rest of the movie and at times the editing feels a bit choppy, especially with the action scenes. Also, the friendship between Cyrus and Nick does not evolve naturally with the former’s presence feeling annoying, though he did grow on me a bit toward the climax.
Does this answer the question? Is it a great movie? No. Not by any means. That being said, I enjoyed it. Burt is great in the role and carries the movie on his very broad shoulders. Though I found Cyrus annoying, it was good to watch a movie about a man wanting to learn about being “tough” and who better to teach that than Burt Reynolds? I also thought the acting was decent with some good one-liners coming from the cast. In the end, seeing these directors stitch it together into an entertaining story was an interesting endeavor.
Bottom line, Heat is one of those eighties flicks that you could put on during a rainy day, pop some popcorn, and enjoy Burt Reynolds engage in a few fights.
PARENTAL CONCERNS: Foul language, Strong violence, Sexual content
FAVORITE QUOTE: You mean I’m on trial?
Check out the trailer below:
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