The filmmaker's book revisits characters played by Al Pacino, Robert De Niro, and Val Kilmer in 1995 crime thriller.

During the most famous scene in writer-director Michael Mann's 1995 crime thriller Heat Robert De Niro's master criminal Neil McCauley and Al Pacino's obsessive cop Vincent Hanna sit down in a diner to size up each other and compare notes, both professional and personal. "A guy told me one time, 'Don't let yourself get attached to anything you are no willing to walk out on in thirty seconds flat if you feel the heat around the corner,'" De Niro says at one point, detailing a credo he has clearly adopted himself. Ironically, Mann himself has remained attached to these characters for almost half a century and the now 79-year-old auteur shows no sign of wanting to walk out on them them any time soon.

The filmmaker first started writing what would eventually become Heat in the late '70s, inspired by a story told to him by Chicago detective Chuck Adamson who had sat down for coffee with the real Neil McCauley and was later part of the team who gunned him down. The director initially brought his tale to the screen with 1989's L.A. Takedown, an unsuccessful pilot for NBC starring Scott Plank as Hanna and Alex McArthur as a version of McCauley, which was remodeled as a TV movie.

Six years later, Mann revisited the same creative well for Heat. A moderate commercial success on its release, the film has, in the intervening years, acquired the status of a classic thanks to Mann's masterful, muscular, reinvention of the cops-and-robbers genre and the contributions from a deep-bench cast which also includes Jon Voight, Natalie Portman, Tom Sizemore, and Val Kilmer who played McCauley's right-hand man, Chris Shiherlis. Now, Mann has returned to the story's central characters again with the just-published novel Heat 2, which in recent interviews he has talked about adapting into a new film. "There are plans… but I can't talk about them," Mann, currently at work on a film about sports car entrepreneur Enrico Ferrari, told Rolling Stone. "But if we do it, we're going to do it big."

Michael Mann turns up the temperature in novel 'Heat 2'
| Credit: Everett Collection

It is hard to imagine the Ali and Last of the Mohicans filmmaker overseeing a small adaptation of Heat 2, given his penchant for the epic and this tale's span, both geographical and temporal. The director and his co-author, crime writer Meg Gardiner, have effectively gone The Godfather Part II route with their collaboration, alternating between events which preceded and followed those depicted in Mann's film. In the chronologically earlier sections, which take place in 1988, we track McCauley's gang as they rob a bank in Chicago and then target a house across the Mexican border where the mob stash huge sums of cash as part of a money-laundering scheme. Along the way, we learn how Shiherlis met his girlfriend Charlene (played by Ashley Judd in Heat) and are introduced to McCauley's romantic partner Elisa and her young daughter Gabriela. We also follow Hanna as he attempts to end a series of brutal house invasions undertaken by the murderous Otis Wardell who ultimately intersects with McCauley's gang in ways we won't spoil here.

'Heat 2' by Michael Mann and Meg Gardiner
Heat 2 authors Michael Mann and Meg Gardiner
| Credit: William Morrow (2)

The other half of the tale picks up immediately after the foiled bank heist from the third act of Heat with a badly wounded Shirhelis escaping from the US to Mexico and then Paraguay, where he gets a job working security for a crime family. Over time, Shiherlis falls for Ana, the daughter of the family's boss, and the pair start to make plans for the kind of international crime schemes which make McCauley's crimes look like small potatoes money-wise. Back in Los Angeles, Hanna picks up the scent of the still on-the-loose Wardell and pursues his prey with the larger-than-life determination familiar to fans of Pacino's performance in the film.

The female characters in Heat 2 are notably underdeveloped compared to their male counterparts and there is at times a preposterousness to the book's plotting that was absent, or perhaps better camouflaged, in the film. Yet anyone concerned that the result might besmirch their memory of Heat can rest easy. Mann's long relationship with his central protagonists, and fondness for research, are evident on almost every page of this propulsive universe-expansion. His core characters fascinate as they approach, and attempt to survive, a string of action sequences which culminates in a piece of LA highway mayhem capable of rivaling anything in Heat were Mann to bring the book to the screen. Whether the director should do so is debatable given he would presumably have to recast roles which have become so identified with the actors who played them in the 1995 film. But reading this novel, and it's cliffhanger ending, definitely leaves you wanting another book set in the same world.

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