I have read almost 50 pages of Michael Mann Heat 2— the novel, co-written with novelist Meg Gardiner, tells the story before and after Mann’s 1995 crime drama — when I realized what was missing.
First, I should say: “lack of” may not be the right word. Heat 2 is a mini door shield, over 450 pages, and it couldn’t be taller than my alley. I have been a follower of Mann since Miami Vice came out when I was four years old and for whatever reason I was allowed to watch it. I was a Mann boy and now I am a Mann man, so to speak. I have followed his work for such a large period of my life that the way he presents things – the look and vibe of his work – has influenced many style choices. my own way. Mann is a panacea for me in so many: neoclassical films that have influenced his work, as well as films by other masters of highly stylized crime drama, from Abel Ferrara to John Woo. It’s no different from following the tough fictional legends of Dashiell Hammett and Raymond Chandler to modern contemporaries like Walker Mosley, Megan Abbott, and Laura Lippman. And while Mann has been a screenwriter for some of his best crime movies, I’ve been drawn to his stories because they look good and are engaging. Simply put, they are fun and cool: Mann understands how to balance the story with wild gunfights and great looks. Movies like Heat and Miami Vice appeals to me on many levels.
Heat 2 necessarily re-imagine how the Michael Mann story works, since it’s all on the page. Rumor has it it could turn out to be something more, but for now, the book feels like it fills a void for story creators rather than devout people like me. Which means: I’m perfectly satisfied with the nearly three-hour film on its own, and also curious as to how much more Mann has to add. But as soon as I started reading it, I began to understand why Mann would want this to exist. The novel explains how the film’s gang of thieves, led by Robert De Niro’s Neil McCauley, come together, in a sort of prequel. But we also get a sequel: what happened after events of Heat. Those are two separate stories that are linked together in the film. We get a glimpse of the gang’s early days, but also a deeper look into the life and mind of detective Vincent Hanna, played by Al Pacino in the film.
But by the time I looked at page 48 of Heat 2 and read “Alexander Dalecki — Alex, with the woman snorting at the living room table — standing naked at the kitchen counter, pouring Johnnie Walker Black into two glasses,” I know the feeling is different. That’s when it really sank in that I was reading comprehension a story by Michael Mann — that I would have to completely change the way he looked at his work. I like the challenge. I like that even though I can’t see the board, I’m pretty sure it’s made of chrome, maybe with a leather couch nearby. And what kind of glasses did they drink? I imagine heavy crystal, some things are not Baccarat. I don’t want to know these to nitpick, though. It is a book! And a sick book, there! It wouldn’t be fair to expect Mann and Gardiner to fully list the clothes, furniture, cars, and accessories in their novel. It could make a book worse. But that experience reminds me that Mann has always been a director obsessed with aesthetics and atmosphere. And while reading a Mann story is great, seeing and hearing it is an entirely different experience.
https://www.gq.com/story/heat-2-michael-mann-novel Heat 2 Brings Michael Mann’s Exacting Vision, Improbably, to the Page