Heat (1987) – Review

2 1/2 Stars

Heat (Not to be confused with the 1995 Pacino/DeNiro classic) was to be Burt Reynolds’ triumphant return to the main stage after years of tabloid rumors and career free fall. During the developmental stages of the project, the movie was to be helmed by auteur Robert Altman. That was not to be the case, the final film had at least three different directors, including credited filmmaker R.M. Richards, who Reynolds punched out during production. So, it is kind of a minor movie miracle that the resulting film hangs together fairly well, but is undone by a unfocused screenplay from William Goldman.

Nick Escalante (Burt Reynolds) isn’t a violent man by nature; he’s just highly skilled in the art. Las Vegas is the setting for this crime thriller as Reynolds plays the retired special forces member turned soft-hearted bodyguard who’s out to protect and avenge his friends. One night, a mobster’s sexually perverted son brutally attacks a call girl, who happens to be an old flame of Escalante’s. This transgression will not stand with Burt and he takes it upon himself to make things right.

Meanwhile, Nick has also taken on the job of personal security for a nebbish computer salesman (Peter MacNicol) afraid to roam the streets of Vegas alone. All the while, Escalante really wants to gather enough money to retire to Venice Italy and start a new life. Except that his gambling addiction doesn’t allow him to walk away from the tables, even when he’s up $100,000 dollars at one point.

Reynolds is good as the enforcer with a big heart and quick fists, but the movie fails him. There are at least three plot strands going on at any given point and the stories never tie together in a satisfying manner. This is particularly surprising given that Goldman adapted his own book, perhaps this tale worked better in novel form. Heat is another in a string of mid-1980’s disappointments for the once unstoppable Burt Reynolds.

Director: R.M. Richards
Stars: Burt Reynolds, Peter MacNicol, Karen Young

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