Theme Song: Stock 80s Soundtrack Music by Freestyle Saxophone.
Interesting Dated References: A rack of cassette tapes hanging prominently on the wall, as if it were a thing of value. Some awesome visuals of a rarely seen 1986 Las Vegas. Burt Reynolds and his career downturn.
Best Line: Burt Reynolds to chick –“Dear God, I remember when you wore braces.” Burt Reynolds to guy –“‘I need fuck you money.’ ‘How much is that?’ ‘$20,000 a year for life.'”
Social Context: It was the 80s, all movies dealt with greed and financial gain.
Summary: At some point after First Blood came out on home video, America was swept by the collective thought all Vietnam Veterans were tough guys who could survive anything and kill you with their bare hands. In reality, they were mostly just dads and homeless guys, but I think Hollywood was more focused on the idea of them being tough loners who were above the law. Heat follows one such loner through a week or so of his life. Burt Reynolds plays the plaster-faced Nick “Mex” Escalante, a ‘Nam vet who is a really tough body guard in Las Vegas.
The movie opens with a hilariously ironic scene where Mex rips off a man’s toupee. I don’t really think Reynolds should be running around ripping off toupees, especially not in 1986. He proceeds to show his toughness by getting in a fight with a nerdy businessman. The next day, after some horrible freestyle sax, it is revealed the businessman paid Mex to take the hit so he could look good in front of his girl. As we follow Mex on his day at the office, his services are secured by a young gambler named “Cyrus,” who needs Mex as an escort while he goes about gambling. After a hard day’s work and another freestyle sax solo, he goes and visits his prostitute/girlfriend-like character who he discovers has been beaten up pretty badly. Mex, ever the knight in shining armor, tracks down the prepubescent-looking villain. This leads to a fight sequence so hilariously terrible-yet-awesome I have to dedicate a new paragraph to it.
So when the 17-year-old “thug” draws a gun on Reynolds and has his two hoods surround him, Reynolds immediately retaliates by kicking Body Guard #1 in the knee so hard his entire kneecap and knee joint become exposed. One swift kick splits the skin wide open. Mex is one tough ‘Nam veteran. Then he takes out a credit card that is either modified to be razor sharp, or is just a plain old credit card. They never clarify. Regardless, he uses it to slash open Body Guard #2’s face. Then he kicks him and punches him. Then Reynolds throws an orange or some type of large coin at the teen gang leader. Body Guard #2 is so distraught his screams have a delay-effect on them, and Reynolds kicks with so much force it actually causes the camera to skip and repeat the same kick 4 times very quickly. This happened a lot in 80s action films, but you don’t see it much anymore. Then the final action shot: Mex takes a running leap and dropkicks Body Guard #1 in the chest. The distance of this flying kick is over 10 feet, but that’s apparently no big deal. The kick is edited horribly and isn’t so much “shown” as it is insinuated. Then the prostitute is allowed to come in and exact her revenge.
After all that action and another freeform sax solo, Mex goes gambling at the casino. He wins a shit-ton of money and his gambling problem becomes evident as he is unable to stop. He eventually bets all his winnings and loses them. All evening, Cyrus, the guy who had hired him earlier, has been following him around and eventually makes his intentions clear. He wants Mex to show him how to be tough, and how not to be afraid. In exchange he offers to pay him quite a bit. This leads to some rather humorous chemistry between Reynolds and the actor portraying Cyrus (Peter MacNicol of Ally McBeal fame), however, things take a turn when the teen gangster comes seeking revenge on Mex. Cyrus winds up using all the toughness he learned to try to defend Mex, but of course he fails miserably. The last 15 minutes of the film involve Mex being chased by the gangsters and lots of Reynolds doing bizarre eyebrow motions. He passively offs the bodyguards and lures the teenage gang leader back to his own hotel room. Then he hides in the dark and talks really pessimistically to the kid until the kid commits suicide. No I’m fucking serious! The movie kind of fizzles out as Mex visits Cyrus in the hospital and they get all jovial about taking a trip to Italy. A freeform sax solo helps the credits roll.
This could have been a good movie. Everyone wants to rip on this movie because of the annoying sax and shitty editing and all that. Granted, all of those things combine to totally shit all over any good intentions the film had. This movie was originally written by the great William Goldman. As in Butch Cassidy & the Sundance Kid, The Hot Rock, All the President’s Men, Marathon Man, A Bridge Too Far, EVEN The Princess Bride. The man is a powerhouse of infallible writing ability. If Heat had come out in the 70s, it would be right up there with other great character study/crime films of the decade like The Long Goodbye, Charley Varrick, Chinatown, or Dog Day Afternoon. Unfortunately, it falls victim to flashy post-Miami Vice directing. Repeated/stuttered fight sequences, annoying sax solos, mustaches – everything you hate about the 80s is all here. The fact that Burt was desperately trying not to age and well past his prime didn’t help either.
Poster and Box Art The poster for Heat is almost as misguided as the film. It makes no sense and only confuses potential viewers. However, this Belgian poster is fucking awesome:
Look at those features on Reynolds!