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Reviewed by John Orr
This is a good one.
Among other things, it passed the Diet Coke Test: I drank a Diet Coke during the first part of this longish film, and the soda went immediately to my bladder and began demanding an exit. But, I stayed in my seat, watching great performances from Robert De Niro and Al Pacino and a fine supporting cast, and some real hot, slick, cops-and-robbers shoot-'em-up. I had to do one of those duck-walk things to get to the mens room after the credits.
It's true, as some reviewers have whined, that Michael Mann, as writer and director, kinda goes wandering around in some subplots, but that is fine with me, and that part of this film works, as far as I am concerned. I liked that, in fact.
It is not surprising that De Niro and Pacino are great -- I mean, these guys hardly ever miss ("Mad Dog & Glory" being the one De Niro stinkbomb that comes to mind for me) -- but what is surprising to me is that Val Kilmer is actually worth watching in this film.
There are several other fine supporting performances, including Amy Brenneman as De Niro's lover, and Diane Venora as Pacino's drugged-out wife. Ashley Judd is great -- she always is, as far as I have seen -- as Kilmer's wife. Princess Amidala (Natalie Portman) makes a pre-"Phantom Menace" appearance as Pacino's unhappy step-daughter. I liked seeing Ted Levine -- the amazing actor who was the bad guy in "The Silence of the Lambs" -- as a good-guy cop.
De Niro is a way slick, way professional robber -- big-time heists, with a very tight crew of gunmen and burglers -- including Kilmer and the always appealing Tom Sizemore. Pacino is a bulldog detective. The essence is De Niro being great at what he does, Pacino being great at what he does; only one can survive, who's it gonna be??
Pacino and De Niro have one really great scene together (Ya know, one reviewer I read was whining about how it was their first film together since "Godfather II," and why didn't they spend more time on screen together? Well, chump, go watch "Godfather II" again, and tell me how much time they spent on screen together in that. Sheesh. They don't HAVE to be on screen at the same time for the movie to work), and the scene is a delight. It's great to watch two of the screen greats working together. They have another scene together later, but ... ya have to go watch the film yourself.
(OK, OK -- there are aspects of that last De Niro/Pacino scene I thought were stupid -- Mann just indulging himself for the way things look, as opposed to how they would actually happen, in the real world. But, it's a minor problem.)
Um ... not for the queasy. Lots of blood, lots of violence. Practically a war zone in downtown L.A. Many of the characters in this film are not nice people, and they do bad things.
Overall ... a terrific film.