On December 15th, 1995, the movie “Heat” was released.
It’s one of the finest crime dramas I’ve ever watched, and is noteworthy for its big gunfight scene. This was particularly realistic because the director, Michael Mann, brought in former British SAS soldier Andy McNab to train the actors and choreograph the action. It’s so realistic and true-to-life that it’s been used – and, as far as I’m aware, is still being used – as a training aid for US military Special Forces and police SWAT teams. (If the embedded video below doesn’t load, you’ll find it here.)
What a lot of people don’t realize is that Heat was based on a real-life crime story.
In 1963, detective Chuck Adamson sat down in a Chicago coffee shop with a convicted bank robber. Rail thin and with careworn features, career criminal Neil McCauley had spent some 25 of his 49 years in and out of prison for a string of crimes ranging from theft to murder. But in spite of his repeated brushes with the law, McCauley had no intention of going straight.
The conversation between the cop and the criminal, as recounted by Adamson himself in The Making of Heat, could have come straight from a Hollywood thriller:
Adamson: Why don’t you go somewhere else and cause trouble?
McCauley: I like Chicago.
Adamson: You realize that one day you’re going to be taking down a score, and I’m going to be there.
McCauley: Well, look at the other side of the coin. I might have to eliminate you.
Adamson: I’m sure we’ll meet again.
One year later, McCauley and his gang followed a security gang to a supermarket, before storming the building and seizing a large sum of cash. Unbeknown to them, Adamson had been on their trail for weeks, and was now sitting outside the building, waiting for McCauley and his gang to leave. They well knew that any attempt to apprehend them inside would result in a bloodbath (“There were too many people… God, it would have been awful,” Adamson would later recall.)
As the crooks attempted to flee the scene in a getaway car, Adamson and his partner opened fire. An on-foot chase ensued, with McCauley ultimately brought down on a local resident’s front lawn by one of Adamson’s bullets. It was an abrupt end for one of Chicago’s most prolific career criminals, and McCauley’s story would eventually be retold – albeit in fictionalised form – almost exactly 30 years later in Michael Mann’s crime thriller, Heat, that stark exchange above forming the basis of its similarly intense meeting between Pacino and De Niro.
There’s more at the link.
I’m going to make time soon to watch the movie again. I don’t watch many films, and I don’t enjoy most of them, but this is a noteworthy exception.