Blu Reviewed: Heat - Director's Definitive Edition (1995) - Reviewed

It goes without saying that Michael Mann’s 1995 Los Angeles crime epic Heat is not only the director’s best work but it is inarguably the greatest cops and robbers action thriller of the new millennia.  Loosely based on a failed 1989 television pilot of Mann’s own devising, L.A. Takedown, Mann’s revisiting of the material represents the director creating a mainstream commercially viable crime saga while defining his own idiosyncratic audiovisual technique, cementing his status as one of modern cinema’s most formidable auteurs. 

Aided in large part by the central casting of Al Pacino and Robert De Niro on opposite sides of the fence yet managing to have two of the world’s greatest actors in the same scene together, Heat is at heart an intensely character driven drama about the men drawn into a dog eat dog warzone that leaves zero room for any kind of normal life.  Containing arguably the most realistic shootout sequence ever put on film, Heat manages to rival heist films that have preceded it and set the bar so high no other film has come close to topping it.

For the film’s twentieth anniversary, Michael Mann and cinematographer Dante Spinotti have supervised and prepared a new 4K digital remaster with upgraded image and sound quality out now on blu ray with many of the extras from the previous blu ray edition ported over as well as two new retrospective documentaries bringing together the cast and crew behind what is still a towering masterpiece of craft, storytelling and action cinema as an engrossing character study.  


The Video

Previously available on blu ray from Warner Brothers in 2009, this new 4K remastered package comes from 20th Century Fox with a vastly different look than previously available.  With new color timing, slightly cooler skin tones and different black levels in select scenes, Heat is presented roughly in 2.39:1 with slight intentional cropping of the image on all four sides.  If you compare the 2009 disc to this one, you’ll notice slightly more picture information on all four sides of the image on that edition.  Purists will inevitably gripe at just how different this 4K director-approved master looks compared to how it looked originally in theaters, but not to worry.  This new 4K master looks splendid in motion and many of the scenes which intentionally had a flatter look now jump out with vibrance.  Despite the differences, the image does indeed look more filmic than previously and for my money, Michael Mann’s epic has never looked better!


The Audio

I remember when Heat came out on laserdisc, the Dolby Digital 5.1 track was and still is one of the most powerful soundtracks ever released on home video and I frequently would play the legendary shootout sequence with the volume at full blast to show off my home theater.  The previous 2009 BD was encoded with Dolby TrueHD 5.1 sound which while an improvement with greater fidelity range and clarity doesn’t hold a candle to this new edition’s DTS-HD 5.1 track.  With a significantly higher bitrate than the 2009 disc, the audio on this new edition of Heat sounds perfect and could well become known as one of the best sounding blu rays currently available.  Dialogue is cleaner and more audible than before and those gunshots still sound as real as ever!   


The Extras

As aforementioned, the extras including the director commentary and mini-documentaries have all been ported over from the 2009 blu ray though the new remaster includes two new supplements.  Cited as Filmmaker Panels, the first one filmed in 2016 lasts an hour and brings the original cast and crew together on the stage for a q&a moderated by Christopher Nolan who undoubtedly took cues from Heat.  The other includes a 2015 Toronto Film Festival panel running thirty minutes with Michael Mann commemorating the film’s twentieth anniversary.  The previously available extras still hold up very well including discussing how the film’s greatest scenes came to be.  All in all, a minor set of new additions to this set round it off as a solid set of extras.


Final Verdict

Simply put, this is a must own disc and is going online at a more than reasonable price!  Purists will undoubtedly complain about the changes made to the image and while I’m keeping my 2009 disc for posterity, it’s a strong likelihood this new 4K remaster will be rewatched by yours truly for many years to come.  If you’ve never seen Heat, drop everything you’re doing and buy this now with confidence!

- Andrew Kotwicki