Subject: I have found a DVD that I think you would enjoy
Actors: Neil Barry, Wendell Burton, Howard Hesseman, Pete Koch, Peter MacNicol
Directors: Dick Richards, R.M. Richards
Genres: Action & Adventure, Drama
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Reynolds at his best
Jeffrey Leach | Omaha, NE USA | 11/05/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I'm not ashamed to tell you that I'm a big fan of Burt Reynolds. I'm also not ashamed to say that his 1986 film "Heat" is my all time favorite Burt Reynolds film. I like this movie better than "The Longest Yard," "Smokey and the Bandit," "Sharkey's Machine," and "Deliverance." Well, maybe I should remove "Deliverance" from consideration since it is more an ensemble piece than a Reynolds's vehicle. But you get the idea. I tend to enjoy his lower budget efforts from the early 1970s more than his "good old boy" stuff that made him so popular a few years later. Don't get me wrong; I thoroughly enjoyed "Smokey and the Bandit" and "Hooper" just as much as the next kid at the time, but they ruined the former with a couple of amazingly lame sequels and never adequately publicized the latter. Then Reynolds sank like a stone in the mid to late 1980s, which meant that when he made "Heat" he was trying to keep his head above water. His resurgence after the success of "Boogie Nights" in the late 1990s still continues to this day. He's supposedly appearing in four or five films opening within the next year.
Reynolds plays Nick Scaliente in "Heat," an aging tough guy who has fallen on hard times in Las Vegas, Nevada. Once considered as an excellent recruit by the local mafia dons, Scaliente's compulsive gambling habits and anti-authoritarian attitude assured that the city's bone crushers would refuse to employ him. At the beginning of the film, we see how far this professional fighter has fallen in his efforts to earn a few bucks. A meek businessman wishing to impress his girlfriend hires Nick to pick a fight in a bar so the guy can "beat him senseless" in the parking lot, thus proving to his woman that he's tough enough to knock down a hulking guy like Scaliente. We later learn that Scaliente is willing to take any work he can find because he fervently wishes to leave Las Vegas forever in favor of a relaxing retirement in Venice, Italy. But life keeps getting in the way. While sitting in his office in a slummy part of Vegas, an office he shares with seedy lawyer Pinchus Zion (Howard Hesseman), a young computer mogul named Cyrus Kinnick (Peter MacNichol) turns up on the doorstep requesting Scaliente's services. Kinnick is a wimpy sort who wants Nick to teach him how to fight like a man, which Scaliente will eventually do in several hilarious scenes involving pushing, slapping, and punching.
In the meantime, Scaliente has a few other serious problems. Holly (Karen Young), a young harridan who happens to live next door to Nick, turns up one day asking for his assistance. The spoiled son of a big East Coast mafia don, Danny DeMarco (Neill Barry), roughed her up with the help of his beefy goons at a casino's hotel. Worse, they refused to pay her for her services. Nick at first refuses to get involved, but eventually comes around because he is at heart a decent fellow who won't let a friend suffer no matter what they do for a living. He goes to the casino posing as Holly's boss and kicks some serious you know what, slashing one guy's throat with a credit card and breaking bones with the greatest of ease. Unfortunately, Nick didn't know exactly whom he was dealing with when Holly asked him to intervene. DeMarco runs to Baby (Joseph Mascolo), the biggest mafia don in the city, and demands that Scaliente die for his intervention. Nick narrowly escapes doom when he proves that DeMarco is lying about the specific details of the violent encounter, but he knows that Danny isn't the sort of guy to forget a wrong. Sure enough, DeMarco guns for Scaliente in a conclusion that sees Reynolds's character using a piece of rebar as a spear, dumping bricks on someone's head, and kicking out an electric light to set a guy on fire. Oh yeah!
"Heat" should have received more attention from filmgoers and critics than it ultimately did. None other than William Goldman wrote the script, and Reynolds gives what is probably his best performance as the problem addled Scaliente. There's a great scene in the film where Nick and Cyrus go to a casino for a little fun at the tables that reveals all too clearly the sort of addiction plaguing Scaliente's life. Reynolds's dialogue with the card dealer Cassie (Diana Scarwid), and her reaction to his failure to win big when he's ahead, is worth watching repeatedly. So is Scaliente's open admission to Cyrus that he does indeed have a gambling problem. Even more to the film's credit is its unflinching portrayal of the flipside of Las Vegas. Most of the film takes place in run down sections of the town, which, if not exactly representative of the entire city, does show that it's not all flashy lights and glitzy hotels.
As much as I liked the film, it does have its problems. First, the scene where Reynolds goes on a rampage in DeMarco's hotel room is extraordinary for its poor editing. Why this action sequence ultimately tanks while the final showdown between Nick and Danny works so well is a mystery for the ages. Second, the plot is hardly original. We've seen a tough guy helping out the weak in a million other films. Third, the DVD version of the film is so poorly put together that it's infuriating. No extras and a fullscreen presentation were enough to make me want to pull my hair out. But in the end none of this matters. It's the performances that elevate this one to memorable status, and "Heat" is memorable for this Reynolds fan. I hope a better DVD comes out soon.
"I don't particularly like violence. I just happen to be goo
Trevor Willsmer | London, England | 02/15/2008
(3 out of 5 stars)
"1986's much-troubled Heat is pretty much the moment Burt Reynolds stopped being a star. Despite making barely a handful of decent movies, for much of the 70s he was the biggest star in America (but not in the world due to his reluctance to fly abroad to promote his movies), but by the 80s a combination of too many bad choices and too much bad publicity - not least the rumors he was dying of AIDs after his severe weight loss after a jaw injury on City Heat - had him edging closer and closer to the straight-to-video bin. On paper a William Goldman script directed by Robert Altman seemed a good idea. It didn't work out that way. Altman managed to get out of his contract before shooting after vicious arguments with producer Elliot Kastner only for Reynolds and replacement director Dick Richards to come to blows - literally, with Reynolds knocking him unconscious. Not an uncommon event on Richards' sets, allegedly, and such was the director's popularity with the crew that they drew a chalk outline around his unconscious body, but the star hit him a little too hard, damaging his eyesight and leading to costly legal action. The film ended up being completed by Jerry Jameson, no stranger to jumping on sinking ships after taking over Raise the Titanic after Stanley Kramer walked. The film opened first in France several months before a disastrous US release with a happier ending, while overseas distributors Cannon released the film to video. Ever since it's been particularly difficult to find.
It has to be said that it's no great shakes, though by Reynolds' standards it's not bad. The plot's fairly simple: bodyguard and gambling addict Nick Escalante dreams of leaving Las Vegas only to fall foul of the heir apparent to an out-of-town mob when he helps a girl he brutally beat up take her revenge on him. Yet there's a lot less action than you might expect from the synopsis - only three scenes, in fact, and only one where he gets to display his mastery of the improvised Edged Weapons that gave Goldman's source novel its original title. Instead it's generally more of a character piece, with much of the running time devoted to his interaction with software millionaire Peter McNicol, who wants to learn how to be a tough guy and who gradually sees beneath Escalante's armor. There are echoes of his cop from Hustle in Reynolds' character: instead of Paris, he dreams of escaping to Venice but is too far gone with Vegas fever to leave. Even when he wins enough money to leave, he can't resist gambling it all away (it's tempting to think that this is what originally appealed to Altman: the Vegas on show here is a slightly sleazy circle of Hell where winning brings only emptiness but which no-one really wants to leave). It does go some way to stretching his range with an intriguing opening sequence where he displays such a convincingly malicious redneck side to his persona that it's a shame he never really got a proper bad guy role in a decent film, while his first verbal confrontation with the undersized mobster is strikingly well written and performed.
Overall it's hard to make much of an argument for it being a lost or overlooked classic, but it's certainly much more interesting than most of the films that ushered in the straight-to-video era of its star's career. Platinum's Region 1 NTSC DVD offers a decent fullframe transfer of the US version complete with that unconvincing happier ending but no extras."