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PostPosted: Sun Nov 10, 2013 10:58 pm 

Joined: Wed Jul 24, 2013 12:59 am
I was extremely impressed by Ashley Judd's acting in Heat - though she wasn't in the film that much, two stand-out scenes resonated:

-When McCauley (DeNiro) bursts into the hotel room where she just had her tryst & starts going off on her, she seemed genuinely frightened of him.

- When she went to the window & subtly let Chris (Val Kilmer) know with the hand gesture that the whole thing was a trap - no dialogue in this scene, but her facial expression spoke volumes.


Last edited by LavaLamp on Sun Nov 17, 2013 10:59 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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 Post subject: Re: Michael Mann
PostPosted: Mon Nov 11, 2013 12:15 am 
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Yes, I see the series of decisions McCauley makes in the last reel as violations of the code he speaks about earlier in the film: both his decision to bring Edie along, and his decision to settle things with Waingro. Which tells us two things: one, that his code made a lot of sense, since violating it costs McCauley his life; and two, that McCauley isn't really the kind of human being who can reliably live by such a code. Indeed, none of his partners in crime can live up it except, tellingly, the psychopathic Waingro.

Because Mann can be such a bombastic filmmaker, and because he can come across as pretentious (just read his comments on his 2002 Sight and Sound top ten), I tend to recoil a bit when his characters seem poised to wax philosophical about their lives and destinies--expecting it to be so much bloviating (I'm sure most of us cringed at Dione Venora's "you sift through the detritus..." line). But in his best work, including Heat and Thief, Mann does tie most of it together very satisfyingly. If you see the subplots in Heat as providing variations on issues of work, romantic attachment, and personal integrity, then I don't think they seem wasteful or indulgent at all. The stepdaughter's suicide may be a bit of an exception, but I think Mann means us to see her, along with Hanna's marriage, as a victim of the funk he moves around in.


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PostPosted: Mon Nov 11, 2013 2:00 am 
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I don't know how or why but somewhere along the line, her name has become almost a punchline, something that I really don't understand. She always does compelling work and is clearly committed to what she's doing.


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PostPosted: Mon Nov 11, 2013 2:19 am 
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It's because her star movies are kind of trashy B-movie ventures. It's not that she hasn't put in lots of earnest work; but the movies like Kiss the Girls and Double Jeopardy and High Crimes just don't seem to have the artistic depth that Heat does.

The role was written for Maggie Cheung, I believe, and Judd was a last-minute replacement. I always wonder what Maggie Cheung would have been like in that part. I think Judd is totally realistic and very good in the part, but I wonder how Mann could have played Maggie in the part.


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PostPosted: Mon Nov 11, 2013 1:24 pm 
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Polybius wrote:
I don't know how or why but somewhere along the line, her name has become almost a punchline, something that I really don't understand. She always does compelling work and is clearly committed to what she's doing.
This reminds me of Roger the alien's scathing critique of the state of cinema from American Dad. I wonder if that is where it started?:
Quote:
Ah, the death of the drive-in, harbinger of the slow demise of American cinema. The grand images, the big stars. Where did they go? Now everyone just sits at home. Now it's all TV, TV, TV!

Wait a second. I have a TV! How could I forget you, my good-time gal? Who needs the damn movies? 15 bucks to see who's chasing Ashley Judd through the woods? Movies are dead.

Long live TV!


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PostPosted: Mon Nov 11, 2013 6:19 pm 
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Polybius wrote:
I don't know how or why but somewhere along the line, her name has become almost a punchline, something that I really don't understand. She always does compelling work and is clearly committed to what she's doing.

I don't have anything against Judd-- she's an appealing, attractive presence and she embodies the roles she takes well enough, but she's certainly not a name that comes to mind when I'm thinking of top tier actresses, even in the popular arena. A quick look at her CV shows Ruby in Paradise and Norma Jean and Marilyn as early, interesting films (though the latter far more for Mira Sorvino's brilliant undermining of the whole thing than Judd's naked in church silliness) but much of it is in the Double Jeopardy vein of easily digestible mainstream fluff-- nothing against crowd-pleasers, of course, but her name isn't bandied about more because she does a serviceable job but hardly rises above something like High Crimes


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PostPosted: Mon Nov 11, 2013 6:28 pm 
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She was fantastic in Bug. That film was my own personal crowd pleaser, although I have never found another person (actual person, not you phantoms of the web) who liked it. So, crowd of one. But, yeah, that's an exception.


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PostPosted: Mon Nov 11, 2013 6:50 pm 
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I thought she was good in this, though I haven't seen much else of her work. I was impressed that she was in her mid-20's when she did it, when clearly it was a role written for someone probably 10 years older. It's not something you think about until you do the math when you see her IMDB page, but it's an interesting thing she and Michael pulled off. It's not usually cool when Hollywood puts younger people in the roles clearly fit for older ones, but this is an exception.


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PostPosted: Mon Nov 11, 2013 7:44 pm 
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domino harvey wrote:
but much of it is in the Double Jeopardy vein of easily digestible mainstream fluff
Something which can be said of most everyone this side of John Cazale.

I understand this POV, especially from the group of viewers who frequent a place like this, but my point is that she also doesn't also get the lovely parting gift of exalted status from the people who like run of the mill moneymakers. For whatever reason, fans of Sandra Bullock and Julia Roberts don't really seem to hold her in the same high esteem. I don't think that's what she is (or should be) looking for, but it's usually a natural result of that process.


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PostPosted: Mon Nov 11, 2013 9:38 pm 
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But Double Jeopardy is a kind of neo-B-movie. Sandra Bullock and Julia Roberts star in A-movies. The people who go to see Erin Brokovich and Eat. Pray. Love. or whatever don't also go and see Kiss the Girls, usually. She headlined B-movies. To me she has a status similar to an actress like Lizabeth Scott or Dorothy Malone back in the day. They were basically headliners, but they headlined B-grade product, just as Ashley Judd has today. And I like Lizabeth Scott and especially Dorothy Malone. There may be some better comparisons, since those actresses weren't usually the protagonist of their starring pictures.


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PostPosted: Tue Nov 12, 2013 2:21 am 
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feihong wrote:
The role was written for Maggie Cheung, I believe, and Judd was a last-minute replacement. I always wonder what Maggie Cheung would have been like in that part. I think Judd is totally realistic and very good in the part, but I wonder how Mann could have played Maggie in the part.


I'd love to know more about some of the original people brought on for this and how they thought of approaching their characters. The one most commented on is Keanu Reeves and Val switching roles (between this and Johnny Mnemonic which has to be the Hollywood equivalent of the Red Sox trading out Babe Ruth to the Yankees).

The IMDB page has some interesting tidbits, including that people like Nick Nolte, Jeff Bridges, and even Don Johnson were considered for stepping in for either De Niro or Pacino if either or wouldn't be able to make it.


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PostPosted: Tue Nov 12, 2013 4:28 am 
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flyonthewall2983 wrote:
even Don Johnson
"Yeah, well there's a flip side to that coin, pal."


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PostPosted: Tue Nov 12, 2013 5:16 am 
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Apparently Gong Li was the original choice for the Amy Brenneman character as well, but she turned it down because she would have had to read her lines phonetically. Eventually Mann prevailed against Gong's objections and got her to do Miami Vice. Maggie Cheung reported the encounter with Mann in casting as kind of terrible.


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PostPosted: Tue Nov 12, 2013 3:50 pm 

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I kind of wish Cheung or Gong Li had been cast -- but Brenneman in this has grown on me a lot over time. I love the scene where she and De Niro first meet, how the camera does a 180° turn around them right when De Niro decides to open up and offers his hand out to her.

Also, a funny moment: Back at her impossibly swank house, Brenneman gives a detailed history of her family roots, "Scots-Irish... they immigrated to Appalachia in around the 1700s.." (paraphrasing) then expectantly asks De Niro where he and his family is from, to which he simply grunts "Bay area."


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PostPosted: Tue Nov 12, 2013 7:39 pm 
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The "detritus" line gets some flack here, but it lends some credence later on when Vincent is describing the home she bought with her ex-husband as a "dead-tech, post-modernistic bullshit house" place which may reveal that she's a bit pretentious (and with her feet clearly off the ground, as shown in her disconnected relationship with her daughter) anyway.

It's interesting to me that at a certain point Michael (as indicated by the video linked above about the movie and L.A. Takedown) offered it to Walter Hill. I just watched Extreme Prejudice, which when compared to Heat is somewhat inferior but has a charm all it's own (especially in Michael Ironside's crew of soldiers). It probably would have been okay if Walter did it, but it would have lacked a lot of depth and probably relied more on trying to make it another cinematic analogy to the Westerns he loves.


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PostPosted: Tue Nov 12, 2013 11:27 pm 
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oh yeah wrote:
I kind of wish Cheung or Gong Li had been cast -- but Brenneman in this has grown on me a lot over time. I love the scene where she and De Niro first meet, how the camera does a 180° turn around them right when De Niro decides to open up and offers his hand out to her.

Also, a funny moment: Back at her impossibly swank house, Brenneman gives a detailed history of her family roots, "Scots-Irish... they immigrated to Appalachia in around the 1700s.." (paraphrasing) then expectantly asks De Niro where he and his family is from, to which he simply grunts "Bay area."

Since I've become a graphic designer myself, the fantastic opulence of Brenneman's graphic designer lifestyle now cracks me up. She's designed the menus for a restaurant...and it somehow netted her substantial financial independence.

The Scots-Irish line is interesting in that later, in Miami Vice, Colin Farrell and Gong Li exchange a very similar discussion of roots--it's like the go-to thing Mann's couples do once they decide to start to like each other. And Mann always presents it as an admission of something secret.


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PostPosted: Wed Nov 13, 2013 3:28 am 
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Interesting stuff here...

Graphic Design in Heat


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PostPosted: Wed Nov 13, 2013 10:39 am 
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It is interesting to think of a Walter Hill-directed Heat, but then Hill wasn't exactly at the top of his form by the early-mid 1990s...

I just watched Extreme Prejudice, too, and it's a credit to Hill that he made the ludicrous Milius (et al) screenplay work. The film's gender politics are, shall we say, somewhat less than evolved, and almost every scene centrally featuring María Conchita Alonso falls flat. But there's a certain narrative and stylistic integrity to the film and it's enjoyable as long as you don't expect it to have anything to do with the reality of Mexico's drug wars. And Powers Boothe is grand as usual.

Quote:
the fantastic opulence of Brenneman's graphic designer lifestyle now cracks me up


But nearly everybody in Heat appears to have a modernist house overlooking the beach, with floor-to-ceiling windows and tastefully minimalist decor (William Fichtner's character is pretty much the only one for whom this makes complete sense). It's just one case where Mann's fetishes as a visual artist come before any notion of realism, although Mann would probably vehemently deny this. Did I mention I love this movie?


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PostPosted: Wed Nov 13, 2013 4:20 pm 
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jonah.77 wrote:
It is interesting to think of a Walter Hill-directed Heat, but then Hill wasn't exactly at the top of his form by the early-mid 1990s...

This would have been in the 80's I think, predating both L.A. Takedown and his 1986 script which I believe ultimately served as the basis of the final movie.


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PostPosted: Wed Nov 13, 2013 8:23 pm 
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jonah.77 wrote:
Quote:
the fantastic opulence of Brenneman's graphic designer lifestyle now cracks me up


But nearly everybody in Heat appears to have a modernist house overlooking the beach, with floor-to-ceiling windows and tastefully minimalist decor (William Fichtner's character is pretty much the only one for whom this makes complete sense). It's just one case where Mann's fetishes as a visual artist come before any notion of realism, although Mann would probably vehemently deny this. Did I mention I love this movie?



Well, I assumed that the high-profile burglars would be able to afford this. Of the robbers, only McCauley has a fantastic oceanfront property, and we know that he seems to have no other use for his money anyway. We can assume Hanna lives in the style he does because his wife gets the ex-husband's house in her divorce. But Edie's digs are totally unaccounted-for. And when I started designing, having done the menus for a restaurant, I would be desperately scrabbling for the next scrap of any job I could get. She may be an early-adopter digital Brodyist in style, but that doesn't make Eady a designer of Brody's level of prestige. She couldn't ask for a fancy house in exchange for her menu designs. It's just a bit silly, I think, for a director who is so interested in the details of professional life, to make Eady so small-time and yet so successful in spite of that. The cops and the criminals lives are much more detailed.

I think what it adds up to is that Mann is really a fantasist when it comes to romance. He's relentless in examining professionals doing their professional work with exacting timing and proficiency (still, does Hennessey & Ingalls really carry coffee-table books on "Stress Fractures in Titanium?" I've never been to their section on metallurgy), but for Mann, romance is this kind drifting abandon of all the tension of professional life. People always seem to be escaping in his romances--escaping from the pressure of the story. McCauley and Eady have this enclosed world in Heat, and so do Crockett and Isabella in Miami Vice, and Hawkeye and Cora in Last of the Mohicans escape the pressures of pursuit together. And I think Mann relaxes a little when he writes these scenes, and so they often surrender to fantasy--Crockett and Isabella boating to Cuba being the ultimate example of this, where the movie's narrative completely surrenders to a gorgeous boat-ride and some salsa dancing. Eady, as the most romantic character in Heat, gets the most romantic lifestyle. She lives free and easy as she ostensibly labors to establish even the beginnings of a client base as a designer. I'm not saying the detail spoils the movie--certainly the romanticism of the Eady character contributes to our sense that McCauley betrays her at the end of the movie (the other romantic relationships in the film are all filled with betrayal from start to finish, so Eady needs that romanticism to contrast her to the rest of what's going on)--but it just makes me laugh when she starts to talk about her job, and in the end it emphasizes that the movie is still a fantasy, and not some earnest jab at the realistic situation on the Los Angeles streets.



I can't imagine Walter Hill doing very much with the female characters in Heat. Mann always spends time with the women in his movies--though he is more prone to shorting them on character development than he is on his men--but I can't remember an important woman in a Walter Hill movie. Isabelle Adjani hardly gets to speak in The Driver, and Rhonee Blakely's part could easily have been played by a male actor. I do recall the woman on the drive-in screen in Another 48. Hrs., whose chest is split open, "Alien"-style, by the bikers who drive through the projection screen--she made the biggest impression on me of any woman in a Walter Hill movie.

Also I feel that Walter Hill attitudinizes violence way more than Mann does. I mean, they are similar directors in that respect. But I can imagine the downtown shootout in Heat being very different if Hill were directing. I could see the Sizemore character being more of a snarling, enigmatic psychopath, rather than a guy we actually care about and whom we don't really want to see put down, even when he takes a hostage. That hostage bit is really odd and off-key to me, as well.
[Reveal] Spoiler:
Just previous to the shootout, there's a scene in which we really feel for Cheritto--where he basically pleads with McCauley to let him stick with the crew, even though McCauley feels that the risk is too high and that Cheritto shouldn't expose himself to that kind of trouble. We know these guys are ruthless where cops are concerned, but we don't see them torture people or take prisoners. The grabbing of the little girl seems to be making Cheritto into a standard-issue bad-guy, so that Hanna can take him out without alienating those of us in the audience who have identified a bit with Cheritto. It's like we're all suddenly okay with Cheritto getting killed, because he's outed himself as a traditional screen villain. It would have been a bit more interesting if Hanna had simply picked him off--plausible as well, since he was a minute before shooting at cops with an M16--and it might have kept some level of moral ambiguity in the film. As it was, after the downtown firefight, any militant response any character brought to any situation seemed justified.


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PostPosted: Wed Nov 13, 2013 9:02 pm 
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Huh, I always saw the hostage taking as Mann specifically challenging audience sympathies in an interesting way-

[Reveal] Spoiler:
We know and like these guys for their professionalism, but by the lights of their code, the evasion of violence is purely pragmatic rather than moral- as we see in the opening, with the security guards. Cheritto's actions make sense, in a cold and calculated way, and I think we can assume that he would not specifically act to hurt the kid, but as a threat it's very effective, and is therefore a pragmatic move. To me, it's interesting to create and stick with a group of protagonists who, broadly speaking, have no social consciences. To me, Cheritto's death is still a tragedy, despite his amorality, and that's an interesting accomplishment. Certainly we're rooting for Val Kilmer's character to get away later, and he was blasting away in a public square with an M-16 too.


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PostPosted: Wed Nov 13, 2013 9:28 pm 

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feihong wrote:
But Edie's digs are totally unaccounted-for. And when I started designing, having done the menus for a restaurant, I would be desperately scrabbling for the next scrap of any job I could get. She may be an early-adopter digital Brodyist in style, but that doesn't make Eady a designer of Brody's level of prestige. She couldn't ask for a fancy house in exchange for her menu designs. It's just a bit silly, I think, for a director who is so interested in the details of professional life, to make Eady so small-time and yet so successful in spite of that. The cops and the criminals lives are much more detailed.

Eady, as the most romantic character in Heat, gets the most romantic lifestyle. She lives free and easy as she ostensibly labors to establish even the beginnings of a client base as a designer. I'm not saying the detail spoils the movie--certainly the romanticism of the Eady character contributes to our sense that McCauley betrays her at the end of the movie (the other romantic relationships in the film are all filled with betrayal from start to finish, so Eady needs that romanticism to contrast her to the rest of what's going on)--but it just makes me laugh when she starts to talk about her job, and in the end it emphasizes that the movie is still a fantasy, and not some earnest jab at the realistic situation on the Los Angeles streets.


Actually, there are a lot of explanations for Eady living beyond her means: Maybe she inherited some money; Maybe she is living off of the proceeds from a patent/invention; Maybe she has wealthy parents who are bankrolling her - I used to know a family who was doing exactly that, i.e. buying their single daughter a nice house, expensive car, etc.; Maybe she used to be married & is living off of her rich ex-husband's alimony. Just because it's not mentioned in the film doesn't mean anything - Mann could feel it's irrelevant to the story (which it is).

In any case, glad there's so much interest/discussion re: this incredible film.


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PostPosted: Wed Nov 13, 2013 11:29 pm 
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LavaLamp wrote:
Actually, there are a lot of explanations for Eady living beyond her means: Maybe she inherited some money; Maybe she is living off of the $ from a patent/invention; Maybe she has wealthy parents who are bankrolling her - I used to know a family who was doing exactly that, i.e. buying their single daughter a nice house, expensive car, etc.; Maybe she used to be married & is living off of her rich ex-husband's alimony. Just because it's not mentioned in the film doesn't mean anything - Mann could feel it's irrelevant to the story (which it is).

In any case, glad there's so much interest/discussion re: this incredible film.

Those explanations are all plausible, but no explanation is provided within the film. And I would disagree that this element of Eady's background is irrelevant to the story--if her background is irrelevant, then why is it important that we get background data about Hanna's marriage, or Charlene Shiherlis' background in the foster system? Do we need to know that Cheritto is happily married? Do we even have to have the scene where he tries to convince McCauley that he should still roll with them in spite of his successful life? Where should we start trimming?

I guess my point is, Heat is the movie it is because it's filled with background detail of place and people. That detail is sketched in minimally, but it is present, and without it, Heat would not be the epic crime saga that it is. Eady may be independently wealthy, but that we don't know that is a detail Mann omits from this detail-filled movie, and I think it's a mistake on his part to do so. I love the movie, but I think its rapturous detail draws attention to the parts of the film that don't connect to anything, and this is one of those points where the disconnect results in an incongruity. It makes you wonder that there is no explanation, like the point at which Kim Staunton arrives in the bar to pick up Haysbert, and her face is drenched in water droplets. Where is that from? An abandoned subplot, I suppose. But because the material of the film so rewards rapt attention, these little incongruities stick out of the polished whole.


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PostPosted: Thu Nov 14, 2013 9:54 am 

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I agree that one of the many strengths of Heat is that is pays a lot of attention to detail in regards to both major & minor characters. Note that the examples you provided are all very relevant & important to the film, which is about criminals & those who pursue them:

-Hanna's marriage (and mention of his past marriages) is/are important, because he is shown to be more married to his job than to his wife/family; the conversation that Hanna & McCauley have in the coffee shop show them to be two sides of the same coin, which is one of the major themes of the film.

- Charlene Shiherlis' foster care background is important in understanding her character & why she may be compelled to give up Chris (V. Kilmer), i.e. so she won't have to get locked up & leave her baby son to be raised in that very system.
[Reveal] Spoiler:
That's why the detective brings this up to her (and to us, the viewers), so that we can better understand how significant it is when she doesn't give up Chris in that pivotal scene.


-Cheritto's happy marriage is important because it illustrates that he has a lot more to lose than the rest of them in that final "job", as McCauley points out to him in the scene when Cheritto insists that he go with them.
[Reveal] Spoiler:
And, though you lose sympathy for the character as he uses that young child as a hostage during the botched bank job, this doesn't change the fact that if he hadn't gone, he would still be alive. When we see him die it's somewhat sad, because it didn't have to be that way.


Conversely, Eady is only important in the film in relation to her interaction with McCauley. She is the one person who has gotten through to him & gets him to show some emotion, and is probably the reason he is planning on "retiring" at the end of the film. I see her inclusion in the film as specifically designed to this end. So, it's not important to explain why or how she lives in a nice house despite not appearing like she can afford it - obviously there's a reason/reasons for this, but do we really need to know the background here?! Maybe it's just me, but I don't find the character compelling enough to care much about her back-story. I may be alone in this, however.

Going along with the above, from a logistical/practical stand-point, when would we find out how/why Eady can afford that house? It would almost have to be a scene when she mentions it to McCauley. There is a scene near the beginning of their relationship when they talk about their backgrounds, etc., but if the Eady character does indeed have an outside source of $, I don't think this is something that she would just bring up with someone she doesn't know that well - that's just my opinion, however. Also, it's evident to me that McCauley wouldn't care about her financial status either way, since he himself doesn't need to worry about money. In other words, I'm not at all surprised that this Eady/$ question never came up in the film.

Also, to address another criticism of the film (which may have been in the Michael Mann thread): Hanna's wife using the word "detritus" in conversation. Yes, it's true that I myself have never heard this word actually used. However, I can see Hanna's wife using it since, based on what we see in the film, she probably sees herself as an intellectual/pseduo-intellectual.


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PostPosted: Thu Nov 14, 2013 3:21 pm 

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Right, the way Diane Venora plays her makes Justine seem like exactly the person who would spout faux-Baudrillardian words like 'detritus' in conversation; more importantly, though, her little monologue has a nice poetic, rhyming flow to it that sells the whole thing for me.


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