L. A. Takedown (1989)
Have you ever seen Michael Mann’s film ‘Heat’ (1995)?
This crime blockbuster was released to great acclaim, starring Al Pacino, Robert De Niro, Val Kilmer, and many more. The exciting set pieces, meticulous background detail, and a sharp script packed with memorable quotes made this into one of the big successes of the 90s. Since then, it has been regularly shown on TV, and continues to have a loyal following, as well as an instant appeal to new viewers.
But it is a remake, something you may not be aware of.
Not only is it a remake, it is a scene-by-scene retelling of a previous film that was released in 1989, originally as a TV series pilot, and later reworked into a complete film. Also written and directed by the same Michael Mann, but without the benefit of the huge star cast, packed with household names. It was also made with a much lower budget, limited expectations, and in many regions, it got a straight-to-video release only.
That’s a great shame, because it is just as good as ‘Heat’, if not better. For me, it is a superior film, for many reasons. It has a less-glossy, grittier feel. The stars are not that well-known, (at least in the UK) so it is easier to get involved in the characters, without always thinking of their previous roles. It feels more realistic, both in location, and the way the plot unfolds. It also loses some of the padding, making it a sharper and more engaging watch.
Some character names were changed in ‘Heat’, but Mann retained the name of the tough cop, Vincent Hannah, with the actor Scott Plank playing the part in the original. The part of the criminal mastermind played by De Niro in ‘Heat’ is taken by Alex McArthur, vaguely familiar from a few roles I had seen him in before. He runs with this lead role very well, imbuing his scenes with a real sense of determination and menace, despite being considerably younger than De Niro. Scott Plank carries off the sharp-suited detective with aplomb, without the need to show the world-weary obsession injected by Pacino in the later film.
I urge you to try to watch this, and to see how Mann polished the original into the well-known blockbuster that followed, with the help of a massive budget. Something totally unnecessary, in my humble opinion.
This might just be the best modern crime thriller you have never seen.