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Face-Off: Heat vs. The Departed

09.20.2012by: Paul Huffman
In last weeks Face Off, we pit two monster movies that have spawned sequel after sequel in the original Underworld vs. Resident Evil. Underworld ultimately scored the victory, guess the appeal of the films visual style and Beckinsale in leather just couldn't be ignored.

This week, for the release of the newest cop thriller End of Watch, we've chosen to throw together two of what we feel are the best of the best among law enforcement film. Heat served as the classic of the 90's with Michael Mann's distinct style and the uniting of two of the best actors of any generation in Pacino and De Niro. Its opponent, acting as the classic for a new decade is Martin Scorsese's The Departed, which sported a stellar cast and a balls to the wall ending. Which classic do you fancy more? Let's discuss.
Story
A retelling of a made for TV film L.A. Takedown, also directed by Mann. We get a classic good guy (cop) trying to take the bad guy and his crew of fellow baddies (robbers). For all the progress our hero makes, it seems like our antagonist is always one step ahead. The formula for a successful telling of a tale like this was all there, what propelled this story to greatness is the dynamic between the heroes and the villains that we were given, which I'll get to in a moment.
The script for the Departed (which was based on 2002 Hong Kong film Infernal Affairs) had a lot more going on. Organized crime boss Frank Costello takes a young boy under his wing and brings him up/trains him to become a mole within the Massachusetts State Police. On the other end of the spectrum, the staties bring in a rogue to attempt to flush the mole out. Betrayal, thickened plots, and mayhem ensue. Throw in a love interest that are banging both cops and you have a winner.
Cast/Characters
Pacino gave us a remarkable performance here and had so many memorable lines, and his talent was complimented by a three dimensional character. Here is a hero with flaws and I ate it up, very relatable. Robert De Niro showed up and was Robert De Niro and gave us a villain we couldn't help but respect, an opinion the cop that was chasing him ended up sharing after just one meeting with him. The supporting cast brought their A game and it seemed every single one of them were given enough time to make us care about them. Much appreciated.
The man who stole the show in my eyes was Jack Nicholson, his Frank Costello was so unhinged and genuinely insane but you hate yourself for liking him anyway. Leonardo DiCaprio was out of control and he really sold the desperation of his character. Matt Damon did a pretty good job with what he was given, he really shined in the films closing minutes. Mark Wahlberg stole every scene he was in, as did Alec Baldwin. A stellar cast in Heat, matched with another stellar cast that didn't slouch with their equally as enthralling roles.
Direction
Michael Mann has that distinct style when it comes to his direction. Insane action sequences, his dark somber tone especially in the case of this film. The man knows how to make an action film, probably better than anyone. When it's been said that a director like Chris Nolan pulled inspiration from your film to make The Dark Knight what it was, you know you did something right.
Scorsese is a legend for a reason, he brings certain trademarks of his into every film he does...while at the same time offering up a different feel, a different tone every single time. The soundtrack for this puppy was in your face, he shot the film in a way that made for wonderful suspense. The way he chose to shoot the scene that revealed the roles certain characters had to each other was brilliant. Scorsese is Scorsese, bottom line, need I say more?
Overall
Heat is a classic in the eyes of many for so many different reasons. The action, the suspense, not a single actor/character is wasted, and it brought together two actors that the public was dying to see interact since The Godfather Part II. Mann cemented himself as an action director to be reckoned with, and the story that complimented it so well made this film something that all films of the same elk should aspire to emulate. It has earned every critical accolade its received, and is loved by fans almost more so. And that my friends, is not always the way. Bravo for all involved for making a crime classic that will forever be timeless.
The Departed is not my favorite Scorsese film, but it is still an undeniable classic. All the elements that he has become known for bringing together so masterfully were present and accounted for in this film. Departed was everything a "mole thriller" should be, memorable characters, memorable lines, you never knew exactly what was going to happen...I was served with several WTF moments throughout its run time. The strong point of this film were the performances, without it I don't think the film would have worked as well as it did. As I stated earlier, there are a couple "cop thrillers" that could be deemed a classic in the 2000's, and The Departed earned that honor.
Heat
So there it is folks, The Departed is definitely a classic in its own right...but in my eyes Heat has yet to be dethroned. It's a film of style, substance, and I have to admit I'm biased for the famous diner scene between Michael Corleone and Papa Vito Corleone we were served with. Where do you stand in all this? Let us know!

If you have an idea that you'd like to see in a future FACE OFF column, feel free to shoot an email to me at paulhuffman@joblo.com with your ideas and some ideas for the critique to base your ideas off. Thank you and in the meantime...

Which genre film is your favourite?
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