Heat makes good use of its star with Burt Reynolds at his best and Kino Lorber’s new Blu-ray edition of Heat looks and sounds quite solid in this high definition transfer.
Plot: A professional companion / bodyguard in Las Vegas bites off as much as he can chew when he does a dangerous favor for a friend.
Review: When we first see Nick Escalante (Burt Reynolds) our impression of him isn’t what we think it should be at first. He’s drunk in a bar off the Vegas strip, and he comes on too strong on a lonely lady who says she’s waiting on her fiancé. Nick doesn’t take no for an answer, and when the lady’s friend shows up eventually, the man can hardly measure up to Nick’s macho bravado and swagger. In fact, the man seems nebbish with his weakling haircut, suit and tie, and he can’t possibly be a threat to Nick, but what transpires is very surprising: Nick gets his ass handed to him big time, which shocks not only the lady he was hitting on, but us too. How can this guy who looks like a movie star get clobbered by this thin non-assuming plebe? It’s all part of the show, folks. We find out later that Nick is a professional at this. He takes money from guys like that man in the bar to take a convincing fall in front of their impressionable fiancés to make them look good. Nick is so good at what he does that articles have been written about him in Solider of Fortune magazines, and he’s never out of work, just sitting around waiting for the phone to ring. He’s part private eye, part lonely heart, and all dreamer – he has posters of Italy on the sad walls of his office, and he hopes to one day save enough money to go there one day and retire, but he needs enough (at least 20K) to make it happen, and culling only two or three hundred bucks per gig, he’s got a long way to go. It doesn’t help that he lives in Vegas because he’s addicted to gambling too, so if he’s got the cash he tends to drop it at the tables.
When one of his neighbors – a young escort named Holly (Karen Young) – is severely beaten up, raped, and left for dead by an upscale john – Nick begrudgingly agrees to help her find out who the guy was and perhaps go the extra mile for her and make sure the guy feels what it’s like to be helpless in front of her. He investigates. What he finds is that the man is the disgusting, vile son of a mafia kingpin, but that doesn’t stop him. He drops in on the prick and his two hulking bodyguards and casually and quite easily gets the better of them all, making sure Holly gets her moment, but what happens next is surprising: The guy he humiliated makes it seem like Nick murdered his bodyguards and stole 20K from him. The last part is true (technically, Holly stole it, but she gave it to him as a parting gift), but by the time the mob comes after him, he’s already blown the cash on the tables after almost scoring 100K in a great scene where he has a lucky streak at the blackjack tables, and so he’s got nothing to return to the mob. He also picks up a new client: the nebbish millionaire Cyrus (Peter MacNicol) who has read all the articles about Nick and wants to hire him to make him feel like a tough guy. These types of characters are Nick’s specialty, apparently, and while he’s giving Cyrus some valuable life lessons, the mob’s hitmen show up and force Nick to fight back.
Based on a book by William Goldman, Heat gave star Burt Reynolds a great vehicle to star in at the midway point in his career. He was still very much a major movie star at this point, and after the films Sharkey’s Machine and Stick, this film really gave him one of his best shots at a comeback in the 1980’s. He did Malone after this one, and all these films are excellent character studies and action flicks because they really gave Reynolds room to explore his persona and charisma. This one has some great flavor and ambiance, and when the film requires it, he gets very physical. Incidentally, some decades later Jason Statham starred in Wild Card, which was based on the same book. Both films are a perfect example of when good material marries the right star. Heat was directed by R.M. (Dick) Richards and Jerry Jameson. Filmmaker Richards was replaced by Jameson on the film after he and Reynolds got into a fistfight on the set, resulting in Richards suffering a broken jaw. He successfully sued Reynolds, but he never made another movie.
Kino Lorber’s new Blu-ray edition of Heat looks and sounds quite solid in this high definition transfer. There’s a new audio commentary by action specialist Mike Leeder and film historian Brandon Bentley, plus an alternate ending where one of the main characters survives his on-screen death in the theatrical version, plus the trailer.