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"If you want to be making moves on the street, have no attachments. Allow nothing to be in your life that you cannot walk out on in thirty seconds flat if you spot the heat around the corner."
Neil McCauley to Vincent Hanna

Heat is the first movie billed almost entirely on featuring Al Pacino and Robert De Niro together. It's a 1995 Michael Mann film about the relationship between a cop and the criminal he's investigating. It is a loose Remake of Michael Mann's L.A. Takedown, a 1989 Made-for-TV Movie.

In this movie, Pacino plays Lt. Vincent Hanna, in the LAPD's Robbery-Homicide division, who is in the pursuit of master thief Neil McCauley (De Niro). Neil lives by one rule: when you feel the heat, you walk away. Never become attached to anything you can't leave behind in 30 seconds.

Both men are masters of their professions, but struggle with their personal lives. Hanna wrestles with his family, while Neil is forced to admit (to himself rather than anyone else) he may have feelings for the woman he's been seeing. The tangles of their personal and professional lives become messier as Neil reunites his crew for one last gig, a retirement send-off.

Despite the action trappings, and having one of the most memorable and realistic shootouts in movie history, the drama of the film comes from the internal strife of the two characters. On one hand, Vincent is obsessive about his job and oblivious to his failing marriage. On the other, Neil is successful and has nearly everything he wants, but is still painfully lonely. Neither man is happy or fulfilled, and each is looking in all the wrong places to find those missing pieces.

This is the film that helped put director Michael Mann (Collateral, Miami Vice, Public Enemies) on the map.

In August 2022, Mann released the sequel/prequel novel Heat 2, with the possibility announced that it may get a TV/film adaptation overseen by Mann.

Other members of the all-star cast include Val Kilmer (Chris, Neil's Lancer), Ashley Judd (Chris's wife Charlene), Tom Sizemore (Cheritto, also in Neil's crew), Danny Trejo and Dennis Haysbert (also on the crew), Hank Azaria (Alan, the guy Charlene is cheating with), Wes Studi and Ted Levine (cops on Vincent's squad), and Natalie Portman as Vincent's teenaged stepdaughter. Not to be confused with the Burt Reynolds movie of the same name. Or with The Heat.

"Because she's got a b— GREAT ASS. And you got your tropes all the way up it!":

  • 555: When Neil is asked for the telephone number he is calling from so they can call him back from a different number, he looks at the payphone, reads a correct area code for Los Angeles County, 818, but the phone number he gives is a seven-digit number beginning with "1". For technical reasons, regular telephone numbers in North America - US, Canada and the Caribbean Countries - cannot start with "1".
  • Action Film, Quiet Drama Scene: Contains an especially famous moment where Hanna pulls over Neil and invites him to have coffee. They both know who each other are but have nothing against each other at that moment.note  It also epitomizes the Dueling-Stars Movie as a scene with just Pacino and DeNiro playing off each other, and you're not quite sure if it will turn violent.
  • Adaptation Expansion: Significantly so, especially in regards to the character's personal lives. Shiherlis' gambling addiction and Hanna's troubled stepdaughter are two elements among many that were not present in the original L.A. Takedown film.
  • Affably Evil: Neil may be a ruthless bank robber but he's not above polite conversation even with people he says he would murder if he had to, as witnessed by his genial encounter with Vincent. For example, when he takes the bank hostage, he says, "We want to hurt nobody. We're here for the bank's money and not your money. Your money's insured by the federal government, you're not going to lose a dime. Think of your families, don't risk your life, don't try to be a hero." He also tells those who are sick or have heart trouble to line up against the walls.
  • Agitated Item Stomping: The poor television set that Hanna did in did NOT deserve it.
  • Alas, Poor Villain: McCauley gives up a chance to make a clean getaway to get revenge on Waingro for the deaths of his crew, and by the time he tries to resume his escape plan, he sees Hanna coming right for him. He's forced to live up to his mantra of not getting attached by abandoning Eady, only to die anyway in a final showdown with Hanna. Neil lingers long enough to face death with dignity, and even Hanna is upset as he holds Neil's hand as he dies.
  • All There in the Script: In the original draft, Hanna was explained to have been a habitual cocaine user, thus enabling him to keep his "edge" at all times. This is never mentioned in the film, but Al Pacino used it in his performance anyway, thus offering some justification for his at times rather hammy performance.
  • Almost Dead Guy: Trejo is able to utter some final lines to McCauley before demanding to be shot.
  • And I'm the Queen of Sheba: When Richard (the brother of Vincent's snitch) tells Vincent he's just being a good citizen in telling him about stolen merchandise, Vincent retorts, "I'm Donald Duck."
  • Antagonist Title: Surprisingly, yes, even though the title is about the good guys. Because the focus of the film is evenly divided between Neil and Hanna, people on two opposite sides of the law, the title counts for this. The "heat" is a slang term for the cops, whom Neil needs to outsmart and run from to succeed in the end. It is personified in Hanna (Neil's antagonist), who eventually becomes the 'heat' for which Neil needs to drop everything he is attached to in 30 seconds flat to make his escape.
  • Anti-Villain: Neil is a thief, and he's not above killing, but he's a professional with standards, who avoids violence unless necessary and is loyal to his crew. He's also depicted as a somewhat pitiable figure as his mentality of never getting too attached to anything means he lives a very lonely life.
  • Anyone Can Die: By the end of the film, Neil, Breedan, Cheritto, Bosko, Trejo, Van Zant, and Waingro are all dead.
  • Apathetic Citizens: For some reason, none of the citizens on the street bother with the trio of guys carrying large bags and assault rifles nor the ununiformed police detectives, also with assault rifles, chasing after said trio.
  • Arc Words: The quote on top of this page; it's McCauley's credo in regards to his line of work. Disregarding it has disastrous consequences for any who pull it.
  • Armed Blag: The film opens with Neil and his crew holding up an armored car, shooting all three guards (though they had intended to leave them alive before Waingro needlessly escalated the situation), then escaping.
  • Arson, Murder, and Jaywalking:
    Hanna: You know, you can ball my wife if she wants you to. You can lounge around here on her sofa in her ex-husband's dead-tech, postmodernistic bullshit house if you want to, but you do not get to watch my fucking television set!
  • Artistic License – Gun Safety: Neil does a brass check in the hotel elevator, on his way to kill Waingro. While checking your pistol to make sure there's a round in the chamber when going into combat is a good idea, Neil does it by putting his whole hand over the barrel to push back the slide. If gone wrong, he could have blown his hand off.note  This is a rare example in a movie that otherwise notably averts much of this trope.
  • Back-Alley Doctor: After Chris is shot in the shoulder by Det. Casals during the bank robbery shootout, Neil takes him to one of these types of doctors. In a deleted scene, the doctor demands twice the normal fee.
  • Badass Bandolier: Realistic version: Neil wears a utility vest stuffed with spare magazines for his assault rifle during the bank robbery and the shootout that follows.
  • Bang, Bang, BANG: Averted. All of the shots you hear during the bank robbery shootout use the original on-site recording rather than dubbed in sound effects. That's the reason why the shots sound a bit scratchier compared to other scenes where guns are fired. You also hear shots echoing between the skyscrapers.
  • Bank Robbery: The last job Neil plans with his gang is a bank heist, meant to be a pre-retirement gig. It doesn't go well.
  • Bath Suicide: Lauren tries to do this, after she got seriously distraught that her biodad wouldn't give her the time of day. When he gets home from work Hanna finds her lying in his bathtub with her wrists cut. He immediately ties her arms and legs to stop the bleeding, and rushes her to the nearest ER.
  • Batman Gambit: About halfway through, there is a scene where Neil, Shiherlis, Cheritto and Trejo meet up in an intermodal yard, apparently to paint it as their next target, as well as to map out the viable escape routes. The whole time, Hanna's team surveys their activities from hidden vantage points. When Hanna and his team later assemble on the same location to break down Neil's gameplan, they quickly discover the worthlessness of the target location, as well as the absence of any effective escape routes. Hanna then breaks out in smug laughter, realizing now that Neil had wanted his team to get in the open so that he could "make" (i.e. get the lowdown the same way they did on his own team) them, and jokingly makes poses while Neil photographs him.
  • Bavarian Fire Drill: Mildly; Neil merely needs to look and sound like he belongs in order not to be challenged by the hotel staff. And also done right at the beginning of the film to steal an ambulance; Neil simply dons a paramedic's uniform and walks through a busy hospital to the ambulance bay in a manner that suggests he should be there while simultaneously not doing anything to attract anyone's attention.
    • There's an element to this with the bank job. Dressed in suits and sunglasses on a busy weekday in the financial district. No one really would notice the large duffel bags or the barrels of assault rifles poking out of jackets...
  • Beard of Evil: It is no coincidence that Neil has a natty little goatee while Hanna is clean-shaven. Waingro, who is clearly evil, has the bigger beard.
  • Because I'm Good At It:
    Neil McCauley: I do what I do best, I take scores. You do what you do best, try to stop guys like me.
    Vincent Hanna: I don't know how to do anything else.
    Neil McCauley: Neither do I.
    Vincent Hanna: I don't much want to either.
    Neil McCauley: Neither do I.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Vincent gets his the expense of Neil's life. Bosko, Cheritto and Breedan are killed during the botched heist. Trejo and his wife are brutally tortured, the latter succumbing to her injuries and the former mercy-killed by Neil. Chris survives but has to abandon his wife and son. Vincent is also very close to a divorce but it's left somewhat ambiguous.
  • Black Dude Dies First: Both played straight and subverted in the bank robbery shootout - Donald Breeden is the first of the crooks to die, which happens after bullets fired from Casals and Drucker pierce the windshield and hit him in the head. Sgt. Drucker is one of the cops left standing.
  • Bloodless Carnage: Zigzagged.
    • Straight and averted in the bank robbery shootout:
      • When Hanna shoots Cheritto during the robbery shootout, this trope is played. You see Hanna fire his rifle once as soon as Cheritto turns to face him, and then Cheritto falls backwards, but you don't see a bullet hole sprout on his face or any heavy bleeding.
      • Likewise, averted when Bosko is shot in the neck by Shiherlis at the beginning. When Hanna leans down to check Bosko's pulse, he's bleeding very extensively.
    • In the drive-in theater shootout:
      • There isn't much blood seen when the gun-wielding assassin is shot during the ambush at the drive-in theater, other than some streaks of blood that appear on the windshield of the station wagon when Neil runs over him.
      • Averted with the pickup truck driver, as blood splatters heavily when Cheritto empties a shotgun into the truck as it passes by at speed.
    • Averted with the armored car robbery, because when the guards are getting shot, you can only see the bullet hole appear in the first guard, the one that Waingro shoots. And though you don't see blood spurting when the other guards are shot, when Hanna comes to look at the scene, blood has pooled pretty extensively around the bodies of the three guards (we get a very decent look at the corpse of the third guard, the one who was shot three times by Cheritto), which comes as no surprise given that the second and third guards were each shot multiple times (the second one was shot five times with Neil's assault rifle and the third one was shot three times by Cheritto).
  • Bluff the Eavesdropper: Neil knows the LAPD is probably onto his next job but needs a way to smoke his tail and turn the tables. So his crew gathers in a shipyard and Neil lays out their target and escape routes for the benefit of the detectives listening in nearby. As Hanna's crew gather in the same spot later, and see a lack of both lucrative targets and viable escape routes, it hits Hanna that they've been successfully bluffed and smoked out.
  • Boom, Headshot!: During the armored car robbery, Waingro shoots the first guard in the face at point-blank range with his pistol. Also, the same effect with the third guard when Cheritto uses the Mozambique Drill on him. Cheritto himself also gets shot in the head by Lt. Hanna at the end of the botched bank robbery and Waingro is later the victim when Neil uses the Drill on him.
  • Break the Cutie: Lauren Gustafson and Eady. Lauren is a teenager driven to depression and to suicide because of her father's neglection over her and Eady gets speechless when Neil leaves her behind as he was been chased by Vincent Hanna.
  • Camera Abuse: Blood gets on the camera when Donald Breedan is given a Boom, Headshot!.
  • Car Fu: When a deal goes bad and a mook is creeping up alongside Neil's car in order to shoot him, Neil simply shifts into reverse, cranks the wheel hard, and floors it. The mook is literally ground between Neil's car and the one he's next to. He lives but is in pretty rough shape, barely able to stand, and is quickly sniped by Chris, who is covering Neil from a rooftop.
  • Central Theme:
    • The thin line between police and the thieves they pursue.
    • The price of devoting yourself to excelling in a particular vocation on yourself and those around you.
  • Chase Fight: The running firefight that takes place after a botched robbery.
  • Chekhov's Gunman: Donald Breedan is introduced in what appears to be a scene completely unrelated to the Hanna vs. Neil plot as he gets a job as a short-order cook at a diner. He doesn't appear again until much later, when we see Neil, Cheritto, and Shiherlis take breakfast at said diner and Neil notices and recognizes Breedan behind the grill, and then recruits him as a last-minute substitute for Trejo.
  • Cluster F-Bomb: The dialogue in the film has occasional bouts of swearing, but Lt. Hanna's dialogue stands out.
  • Coincidental Broadcast: This is how Donald Breedan's wife learns of his death in the bank robbery shootout. Somewhat justified in that it's a major breaking news story and he was killed in the midst of a pretty deadly shootout in the middle of downtown Los Angeles in which at least five people were killed (Cheritto, Breedan, a police detective, a patrol officer and a grocery store employee).
  • Contrived Coincidence: It's certainly a bit of a reach that, on the very day the crew's getaway driver has to cancel at the last minute, they just so happen to meet in a diner during the shift of an ex-con they know.
  • Cop Killer: In the first part of the bank robbery shootout, Chris shoots Det. Bosco. Several other cops are shot by Chris, Cheritto, and Neil later on in the second part of the shootout, but it's never established if they survived or not.
  • Covert Distress Code: Charlene warns Chris about the police trap to catch him at the last moment with a small hand gesture to tell him that it isn't safe. She may have surprised herself by doing so and done it on impulse when she saw how happy he looked to see her.
  • Cradling Your Kill: Hanna does something like this to Neil after the short gunfight at the airport; he doesn't exactly cradle him, but he does hold his hand and comfort him as he dies.
  • Crime After Crime: In the opening, the crew has captured an armored car, has blown the back door, and has lined up the guards outside. Waingro (in a mask) is upset becase one of the guards won't follow his instructions, and has to be told that because of the explosion, he can't hear. Waingro ignores explicit instructions not to kill anyone. Vincent, later investigating the robbery explains what happened. "So he pops one of the guards. This has now gone from an armed robbery to murder. Since they're all now eligible for the death penalty, why leave any witnesses? So they kill all the other guards."
  • Curb-Stomp Battle: Despite being overwhelmed by police and flanked on both sides, McCauley and his crew plow their way through the first police blockade, leaving at least a dozen policemen dead or wounded in their wake. Things however deteriorate further for both sides when the shooting resumes.
  • Daddy Didn't Show: Lauren's father was supposed to pick her up for the day but never came, which contributes to her attempted suicide.
  • Death Glare: During the scene at the truck stop diner, Cheritto delivers a very cool one to dissuade fellow diners from noticing Waingro getting beaten up.
  • Deer in the Headlights: The little girl Cheritto uses as a human shield while firing on Drucker and Casals gets taken hostage when she stands still, confused, rather than run away like everyone else when Cheritto approaches.
  • Diner Brawl: Neil starts to beat up Waingro while still in the booth at a truck stop diner. They follow up on the deed outside, but he's forced to stop the beating when Chris spots a police car nearby. They wait until the police car drives off, by which point Waingro is gone.
  • Disappeared Dad: Lauren's unseen father is clearly a selfish jerk not interested in her, but she nevertheless yearns to make a connection with him. His failure to bother with her eventually drives her to attempt suicide. Despite his own obsession with his job, Vincent at least tries to compensate and make some time for her, even as he pursues Neil McCauley.
  • Disposable Sex Worker: Waingro is not only an unprofessional spree-killer, he also turns out to be a Serial Killer targeting prostitutes.
  • Don't Ask: Neil says it to Nate at the parking garage when Nate asks what went sour during the armored car robbery.
  • Double Tap: Twice, a victim is killed being shot twice in the chest and once in the head — a technique known as the Mozambique Drill which would later be used in the later Michael Mann movie Collateral: Cheritto killing the third guard in the armored car robbery, and Neil killing Waingro at the hotel. During the crime scene investigation into the armored car robbery, Hanna notes this as one of several things that marks them out as serious professionals.
  • Dramatic Gun Cock: Averted by using the pistol press check instead multiple times.
  • Driven to Suicide: Lauren (Vincent's stepdaughter) slitting her wrists. Fortunately, Hanna gets there in time.
  • Drive-In Theater: Neil arranges to meet with Roger Van Zant's drop man in an abandoned drive-in. However, an assassin is hiding in the drop man's pickup truck. Chris Shiherlis covers Neil from the roof of the projection building. The two of them take down the assassin (which Neil has difficulty hitting because he's driving over the humps used to angle the cars to the screen). The pickup truck driver tries to flee, but just as he is about to exit, Michael Cheritto shoots him with a shotgun.
  • Epic Movie: Nearly three hours long. Interestingly enough, the legendary coffee scene ends almost perfectly at the midpoint—in the old days, it would've been the perfect lead-in to an Intermission.
  • Establishing Character Moment:
    • The first time we see Waingro, he demands a free coffee refill from a roadside cafe (where it's hinted he's already made himself a nuisance), then walks away as soon as he sees Cheritto's truck without either waiting for his refilled cup or telling the employees to forget it. He doesn't do much more than introduce himself before assuming he's part of McCauley's crew going forward, then glowers at Cheritto when the latter asks him to be quiet so he can concentrate. Even before his actions at the armored car heist, we already know he's an inconsiderate blowhard with anger issues.
    • Lauren gets one as well. She panics because her deadbeat father's half an hour late, then dissolves in tears when she realizes he's probably not coming. Her overreaction to her father's absence presages her suicide attempt late in the film.
  • "Eureka!" Moment: Hanna and his crew are baffled at a site Neil and his crew were gameplanning over, with nothing valuable in sight and no viable escape routes out. Hanna's right-hand man sighs "I thought we had them", which jars Hanna to what Neil wanted there all along: smoking out Neil's trail into the open to see exactly who is on their case.
  • Even Evil Has Standards:
    • Neil is willing to commit murder if he thinks it's necessary, but usually tries to avoid that necessity. Of the three heist attempts we see, one is after midnight at a business with no night shift, while the other two are carefully choreographed plans that rely on intimidation, surprise, and nonlethal violence (with the clear threat of lethal escalation if someone doesn't cooperate) to cow security guards and witnesses. As Hanna points out, the third armored truck guard was murdered because at that point, a third murder would cost them less than a live witness to the first two, and Neil is pissed about those first two. So pissed, in fact, that he and his crew try to kill Waingro for it.
    • Subverted when Cheritto tries to use a little girl as a human shield.
  • Expository Hairstyle Change: When Chris attempts to get back with Charlene and their son but instead has to flee without them, his blond hair is dyed brown and the long ponytail length has been cut, making his changed hairstyle look similar to Neil's.
  • Face Death with Dignity: Or resignation, at least, in Roger Van Zant's case.
    Neil: [With a gun aimed] Waingro. Where is he? Where is he?!
    Van Zant: [Resigned] How the hell would I know?
    [Gets shot]
  • Faceless Goons:
    • Neil and the crew become these during the armored car robbery when they don hockey goalie masks. However, you can still tell each guy apart based on what they are wearing and their voices:
      • Neil and Shiherlis start in the ambulance and both are wearing paramedic uniforms. To tell them apart, Neil has a white hockey mask and Shiherlis wears a black hockey mask (he's the only one of them to wear a black mask).
      • Cheritto has a visible tactical vest with a pistol on a crossdraw holster.
      • Waingro's mask is shaped differently from those of the other crew members. Also, compared to Neil, Cheritto and Shiherlis, Waingro's hair is disheveled and sticks out from beneath his mask. He's also only armed with a pistol, whereas the rest of the group all have automatic rifles.
      • Trejo is easily distinguishable because he runs across the street laying a spike trap for the cop cars while holding the distinctive-looking AK-47-copy Norinco Type 56 assault rifle, and also works the police scanner, audibly warning the rest of the crew.
    • During the bank robbery, when the gang have their ski masks on, Neil wears a dark black suit, while Shiherlis wears a gray suit (both carry Colt M733 rifles), and his ponytail is not entirely covered by his mask. Cheritto and Shiherlis have suits of the same shade of gray, but Cheritto is carrying a different type of rifle.
  • Failed a Spot Check: Cheritto realizes seconds too late that he failed to see Hanna take up a position behind him and get enough time to draw a bead on him. Boom.
  • Film Noir: Replete with morally ambiguous characters, dark urban photography, and brutal realism all layered with a thick proverbial coat of style.
  • Foil:
    • Vincent Hanna and Neil McCauley.
    • Lauren's unseen biological father is also this to Vincent. From what we hear of the other man, like Vincent he's apparently a successful workaholic in his career with a tendency to neglect those in his personal life, but the key difference is that Vincent clearly feels bad about his inability to be there for his loved ones in the way they want and need him to be, as represented by his attempt to at least make some time for Lauren, while it's heavily suggested that Lauren's father is just a selfish, uncaring jerk. This perhaps makes it oddly fitting that Lauren goes to Vincent's hotel room when she makes her suicide attempt, and he's the one to find and save her.
  • Foreshadowing:
    • When Hanna and Neil are dining together the former asks the latter if when Neil sees Hanna is about to come after him, will Neil abandon Eady. Neil responds that he would. True to his word, when Hanna catches Neil in the climax, Neil does abandon Eady to not be caught.
    • A few subtle bits of foreshadowing occur with the hockey masks Neil's crew wear during the armored car heist.
      • Of the four robbers who approach the truck, only Shiherlis's mask is black, while everyone else wears a white mask. He's the only member of the crew to survive the film.
      • Waingro's mask is shaped differently from the others, with a rounded chin making it closer in appearance to a Jason Voorhees mask. He's ultimately revealed to be a serial killer and rapist.
      • Trejo's face is completely (or almost completely) out of frame at any point in the robbery when he is wearing a mask, meaning his face is only seen uncovered. His death is a mercy killing at Neil's hands.
  • For Want Of A Nail: Neil's extremly competent and tight-knit crew is brought down by Cherrito's innocuous habit of calling people he dislikes "slick".
  • Freeze-Frame Bonus: We see a close-up on Hanna when he pulls the trigger to shoot Cheritto. As he pulls the trigger, the camera angle changes very slightly, ostensibly to edit out a cycling malfunction.
  • Friendly Enemy: Vincent Hanna and Neil McCauley. The two men are both dedicated to their professions (one is a cop, the other a criminal), but they understand each other very deeply.
  • From Camouflage to Criminal: Neil McCauley is a retired marine who has since become the leader of a gang of armed robbers. It's also a parallel to Vincent Hanna, who is also ex-military.
  • Funny Background Event: During the bank robbery shootout, there is a moment where Shiherlis crouches behind a car with the license plate "2LUP382" to reload his Colt M733 assault rifle. Per British Army terminology, this means "Second Lying Up Position", and this happens to be the second time Shiherlis is in this position.
  • The Gambling Addict: Chris spends all of his reward money from their heists gambling in Las Vegas and betting on the Super Bowl. It's why his marriage is falling apart.
  • The Generic Guy: Hanna's fellow policemen (Bosko, Casals, Drucker and Schwartz) get the short end of the stick as far as personality is concerned, though Drucker gets some development towards the end.
  • Gentleman Thief: A Deconstructed Character Archetype. Neil has the charm and all the connections, but he's painfully lonely, and won't get close to anyone for fear that the cops will be right around the corner. The one major job he's involved in goes terribly awry, and results in over half of his team being killed by the cops. Neil gets more violent as the film progresses, culminating in his revenge overriding his need to escape. He ends up proving his own adage right when he flees (and leaves his girlfriend) after he sees Hanna pursuing him, and winds up dead at the end of the film.
  • The Ghost: Lauren's father isn't so much as given a first name, but is repeatedly referenced by other characters nonetheless.
  • Go-Karting with Bowser: Or "Coffee with McCauley".
  • Good Guns, Bad Guns: Currently provides the page image for that trope. The police forces we see generally play this straight, most of them armed with Berettas, M16s and Mossbergs, and Hanna favoring a slightly-customized FNC. The bad guys zig-zag this, however, with the more sympathetic McCauley and Shiherlis making extensive use of shortened AR-15 variants (respectively the 654 and shorter 733 for the armored car, then both using the latter for the bank robbery), while Cheritto, a more stereotypical bad guy, uses a FAL for the armored car where he tries to be the voice of reason for the even more psychotic Waingro, but then carries the AK-like Galil ARM for the bank robbery where he stoops to taking a small child hostage as a shield.
  • Grey-and-Gray Morality: There are no truly good or bad characters. While Neil is ultimately a bad guy (as a career thief), he still has a handful of redeeming qualities. And while Hanna is ultimately a good guy (as a cop), he does have some detracting qualities. The movie exists to show that some cops and criminals are similar - Hanna shares many qualities with Neil and also with Shiherlis. Waingro exists purely to show how much better Neil is in comparison.
  • Gun Porn: Much less typical "Gun Porn" and more like "Proper Firearms Procedure And Close Quarters Battle Porn." The bank robbery shootout is full of it, with the robbers using assault rifles of various kinds and the cops using a variety of pistols, shotguns, and rifles. There is also a pretty exotic variety of rifles and pistols that Neil and his crew use during the armored car robbery.
  • Gut Feeling: Vincent Hanna and Neill McCauley have a bit of this towards each other. McCauley stops in the middle of a heist because he can sense that Hanna is watching him. Later, Hanna's investigation team is following McCauley's crooks as they seem to be casing a job. Everyone on the team is puzzled, as there seems to be nothing there worth stealing, until after a few seconds Hanna reads McCauley's mind and figures out that what McCauley and company have actually done is lure the police into exposing their surveillance team.
  • Ham-to-Ham Combat: Averted. With Al Pacino chewing large chunks of scenery elsewhere, and Robert De Niro himself not unknown to it, their first scene together, ever, should easily have been one large hamfest. Instead, on purpose, we got a low key chat in a diner over coffee.
  • Hash House Lingo: We get bursts of this when McCauley offers Donald Breedan a job as getaway driver. McCauley makes the new order $12 million to go!
  • Hate Sink: Waingro is easily the most hateful, vile, depraved and despicable character in the entire film. He lacks any kind of Evil Virtues or sympathetic qualities, being a petty, sadistic jerkass who is not particularly smart. And for bonus, he's also a Dirty Coward. His interference also ends up resulting in the deaths of Neil's entire crew, save for Chris, whose life is destroyed.
    • Lauren's negligent biological father is pretty despicable too, and he never even appears on-screen.
  • Hero Antagonist: Hanna is one from Neil McCauley's POV, since the movie's screen time is evenly divided between Vincent and Neil as a Villain Protagonist.
  • Hollywood Density: The bank robbers have to run from the police while carrying big duffel bags that are absolutely packed with paper currency. A full duffle would be able to hold enough stacked and bundled bills to weigh between 150 and 200 pounds.
    • A re-enactment emphasizing how difficult (but not necessarily impossible, but not moving the way the actors do) this would be wound up on an NRA TV show (Media Lab) that got a bit of a Colbert Bump over on Last Week Tonight with John Oliver.
  • Honor Among Thieves: Neil's team of robbers are mostly this: despite some bad habits, they mostly watch out for each other. Except for Waingro, who is too inhumane to count. Neil had to know going after Waingro would leave him exposed to the cops chasing him, but he had to make the bastard pay for what happened to Trejo and Trejo's wife. See Revenge Before Reason below.
  • Human Shield: During the robbery shootout, a little girl is left alone when Cheritto grabs her to dissuade cops from shooting him for fear of hitting the little girl. Lt. Hanna, who circled around, shoots Cheritto after taking careful aim not to hit the hostage.
  • I Cannot Self-Terminate: Trejo begs Neil to put him out of his misery after being beaten to a pulp by Waingro.
  • Idiot Ball: For such a smart crook, Neil attacking Waingro in a crowded restaurant, and then trying to execute him in the middle of a parking lot aren't the actions of someone who's trying to keep a low profile. Factoring in his decision to go after his sociopathic partner at the end when he's almost home free, this might just be evidence that Neil isn't as practical and detached as he'd like to believe.
  • Improperly Paranoid: Normally after a master criminal promises to kill you for your betrayal, it would be smart to take action to kill him first. What Van Zant doesn't realize is that the police pressure put on Neil has caused him to put vengeance on the back burner. At least until Van Zant hires Waingro in an effort to get Neil and his crew killed, at which point Neil kills him in retribution for the death of his friends.
  • Instant Emergency Response: Nicely averted. In the armored car robbery, the crew knows that they have three minutes to do their work from the moment the driver makes the radio call for help to when the first police car arrives. They accomplish the job, though they come very close to using up that time window when Waingro shoots the first guard, necessitating Neil to shoot the second guard and Cheritto to shoot the third guard. The spike strip that Trejo lays out keeps the police from chasing them if they should be spotted while they're driving away from the scene.
  • Interrupted Suicide: Hanna intervenes when he finds out his stepdaughter slit her wrists, and rushes her to the ER. After several emergency surgeries, he and his wife are told that she's gonna make it.
  • Ironic Echo: "Told you I'm never going back."
  • It's Personal: For Neil, after Trejo's death.
  • Janitor Impersonation Infiltration: Neil confronts Charlene at the motel where he makes the call to Van Zant's drop man and bluffs his way into her motel room by pushing a janitor's cart to outside her door. No disguise is used.
  • Kansas City Shuffle: A minor version - Neil, Chris and Michael discuss their possible escape routes from their next heist right in plain sight where the cops can overhear them (despite being a group of professional thieves). Cue Lt. Vincent Hanna and his team heading down to the scene for additional clues, only for Hanna to realize that it was probably misinformation they were fed, and that the entire meeting was to get the detectives in the open, allowing Neil to counterspy on them and learn their identities. Indeed, we see Neil taking pictures of them from the same vantage point Hanna was using earlier.
  • Karmic Death: Admit it, you cheered when McCauley gave Waingro the Mozambique Drill (two in the chest, one in the head) treatment. Although the third guard to be shot in the armored car robbery is also killed in this way, he was shot by Cheritto with a semiautomatic rifle, while Waingro executes the first guard at point-blank range with a pistol.
  • Karmic Thief: Neil and his crew only target high-value targets like precious metal depositories, banks and corporate money vans. Invoked during the bank robbery scene when Neil says, "We want to hurt nobody. We're here for the bank's money, not your money. Your money's insured by the federal government, you're not going to lose a dime. Think of your families, don't risk your life, don't try to be a hero."
  • Know When to Fold Them: Averted, despite McCauley claiming to live by this trope (see page quote). His failure to escape when he has the opportunity gets him killed.
  • Knowledge Broker: Neil consults Nate for intelligence on potential heists and police opponents. Also Kelso, the man who provides Neil and his crew with the intelligence they need for the bank robbery; when Neil asks him where he gets this stuff he replies that it just comes to him through the air (his house is festooned with antennae and located on a hill above Los Angeles).
  • Large Ham: Al Pacino.
    "She's got a... GREAT ASS!! And you got your head ALL THE WAY UP IT! Ferocious, aren't I?"
    "I had COFFEE with McCauley HALF AN HOUR AGO!"
    • The Director's Cut edits out Vincent's line, "Ferocious, aren't I?" But Drucker still grins at Vincent, hinting that Vincent is a Large Ham in-universe.
  • Leave No Witnesses: In the opening robbery, Waingro kills a security guard for not following his instructions. Another guard draws a pistol and is also shot. The last guard doesn't resist, but the gang exchange a Meaningful Look and kill him too. As they've already committed multiple homicide, there's no incentive to leave a potential witness alive.
  • Leave the Camera Running: The film ends with a fifteen-second shot of Lt. Hanna standing framed in the lights of Los Angeles International Airport holding Neil McCauley's hand as he dies.
  • Married to the Job: Vincent, at the expense of his marriage. And his previous marriage. And the one before that. Neil also, at the expense of any kind of fulfilling personal life whatsoever. It is one of the threads they have in common.
  • Match Cut: When Waingro kills a young prostitute. Waingro lunges and grabs her hair, then the film cuts to a beer cap being snapped off by a bottle opener.
  • Mean Boss: What Breedan deals with as a short-order cook is a boss who treats parolees like shit.
  • Mercy Kill: Neil mercy kills Trejo after he's been tortured by Waingro and is dying.
  • More Dakka: as Vincent predicts at the scene of the first robbery Neil's gang will "Rock and roll in a heartbeat!" which is exactly what they do when the ambush is sprung, unleashing torrents of automatic fire. In this case it is entirely justified, they know more and more police (including SWAT) will be on their way so either they use maximum firepower to break through the cordon now or they are doomed.
  • Never Going Back to Prison: During his meeting with Vincent, Neil voices his determination to avoid going to prison again at all costs. After being shot at the end, Neil uses his last words to say "Told you I'm never going back."
  • Noble Demon: Neil. He is a ruthless, violent criminal willing to commit murder when it is necessary, but he takes no pleasure in it and makes every effort to minimize innocent casualties as much as possible. This explains why after the armored car robbery, Neil is pissed at Waingro for shooting the first guard, forcing him to shoot the second guard and Cheritto to shoot the third guard: there was no reason to kill them because all of the attackers were wearing hockey masks to hide their faces. One gets the idea that he'd be a pretty decent guy in a different profession.
  • Non Violent Initial Confrontation: The famous scene with Neil and Vincent at the cafe.
  • "Not So Different" Remark: When Neil and Vincent sit down at a cafe together and reach this very conclusion.
    Vincent: I don't know how to do anything else.
    Neil: Neither do I.
    Vincent: I don't much want to, either.
    Neil: Neither do I.
    • Also implied at the scene where, after surveilling the robbers at a completely unlikely location for a heist, the cops arrive there to try and figure out exactly what they were targeting only for Vincent to eventually realise that the only reason the robbers went there was to lure the cops out so that they could surveil and research them. He mockingly poses for the cameras. Neil, who is the one taking the photos, smiles respectfully once he realises that Vincent's caught on to what's happened.
    • Hanna also shares a lot with Chris Shiherlis in terms that their marriages are falling apart, with both of their wives cheating on them.
    • One scene has the cops go out to dinner with their families at a nice restaurant. Another scene, which comes right after the shootout at the drive-in movie theater, has the criminals go out to dinner with their families.
    • This trope is subverted, however, in one very important way: when all is said and done, Neil is a sociopath, while Vincent is not. Michael Mann is quick to point this out in the director's commentary and behind-the-scenes features on the DVD and Blu-Ray. Note that when Vincent and Neil meet in the coffee shop, Vincent tells Neil point blank that he will kill him if "it's between you and some poor bastard whose wife you're gonna turn into a widow" while Neil says he'll put Vincent down because "I will not let you get in my way." The difference between them is graphically illustrated during the bank robbery shootout: Vincent does everything he can, at his own risk, to get innocent bystanders out of harm's way; Neil fires into a crowd to cause confusion, and we see at least one bystander go down.
      • Driven home in particular by the resolution of each character's relationship with the women in their lives. Vincent saves Justine's daughter from a suicide attempt, which, while still leaving their relationship in limbo, at least gives Justine a chance to understand the kind of man Vincent has to be and the world he lives in. Also, while Vincent doesn't believe he and Justine can work as a couple, he clearly cares very much for her and Lauren and hopes he can still be a part of their lives. Conversely, Neil does exactly what he said he would do if he ever spotted the heat around the corner with Eadie.
  • Not Staying for Breakfast: Neil is shown leaving Eady in the night, after making love. Neil is a professional thief, and has vowed to have no attachments as to be able to walk out of his life in thirty seconds if the heat turns up. And then subverted when he gets back together with her a day or two later.
  • Obfuscating Insanity: Hannah does this.
  • Oh, Crap!:
    • When Cheritto turns around and sees that he's failed to spot-check behind him while firing at Drucker and Casals, as Hanna has drawn a bead on him. Hanna shoots him just as he's beginning to realize.
    • A simultaneous example: Neil does sentry duty when the crew attempts to rob the precious metals repository. The job goes well, until he hears a small clang coming from the Aztec Linen trucks parked in the nearby lot (caused by a SWAT member in Hanna's truck banging his rifle against the wall). Neil freezes staring in the truck's direction while Hanna is wide-eyed, holding his breath watching Neil on the video feed. Neil instinctively realizes that the police are hiding and watching them, and quickly walks in to withdraw Cheritto and Shiherlis.
  • One-Handed Shotgun Pump: While running to get into place before the bank heist, Drucker shakes his left hand to pump his shotgun.
  • One Last Job: Robert De Niro once again, planning one last bank heist, before retiring.
  • Only One Name: Waingro is only ever addressed or mentioned by that name, presumably his surname.
  • Outranking Your Job: Robbery Homicide Lieutenant Vincent Hanna acts as lead investigator for every crime in the film, from the climactic bank robbery to the murder of a prostitute. Hanna does have subordinates under his command, but their duties are limited to assisting in the larger cases by running down leads, not handling cases of their own. Though we don't know if those detectives — Detectives Bosko, Casals and Schwartz, and Sergeant Drucker — are on any other active cases.
  • Paper-Thin Disguise: Neil does this twice: at the beginning of the film, he wears a paramedic uniform to steal an ambulance. At the climax, he is able to walk through a hotel swarming with police merely by stealing a security guard's jacket and tie. He makes no other attempt to disguise his appearance. He knows enough that he mostly just needs a Bavarian Fire Drill and act like he belongs. Where he acquired the paramedic uniform might be an interesting Noodle Incident.
  • Pistol-Whipping: Waingro does this to one of the three guards in frustration during the armored car heist when he orders them to step back. As the guards were deafened by the shaped charge explosion devised by Neil McCauley's crew, one of Neil's henchmen, Cheritto, advises Waingro to cool off and understand that their eardrums were shot by the blast earlier. Waingro, however, lets his impulsive ruthlessness get the better of him and starts gunning down one of the officers; this, in turn, forced the crew to finish off the remaining two officers in order to leave no witnesses behind, eventually complicating matters with Waingro later.
  • Pop the Tires:
    • In the armored car robbery, Neil and his crew have timed the police response to three minutes. They are driving away from the scene just as the first police cruisers hit a spike strip laid down in the middle of the street by Trejo and screech to a halt, with two of them fishtailing.
    • In the bank robbery shootout, Sgt. Drucker shoots the left rear tire of the getaway car. Donald Breedan struggles to control the car, until he is shot in the head by a police round and killed, and the car crashes into the back of an abandoned vehicle.
  • Pragmatic Villainy: Neil and his crew are milder cases but still, they don't seem noticeably upset about shooting the guards during the armored car robbery. And during the bank shootout, they don't show much concern for the many innocent bystanders they're endangering (when we see Neil shoot a burst at Hanna in the parking lot, one officer gets shot, and it looks like at least one bystander also gets hit as well, possibly fatally). But they're disgusted with Waingro because he escalated the armored car robbery into a bloodbath and his reckless actions are a liability to them.
  • Precision F-Strike: The precious metals repository stakeout has this when Neil, on lookout duty, hears a metal clanging caused by a SWAT officer sitting down in Hanna's truck, which leads him to sense that they are being watched. Neil tells Cheritto and Shiherlis to withdraw and they depart, and Sgt. Drucker informs Hanna that the men aren't carrying any loot.
    Lt. Vincent Hanna: [over the radio] OK, let 'em go.
    Police Captain: What do you mean? We can take 'em...
    Lt. Vincent Hanna: On what? What are you gonna take 'em on? Breaking and entering? They didn't steal anything yet. Don't you get it? It gets knocked back to some chicken shit misdemeanour, they do six months and they're out. No fuckin' way.
    Police Captain: I'm not taking the heat from my boss just 'cause you let 'em go! They're not walking.
    Lt. Vincent Hanna: That's exactly what they're gonna do. They're gonna walk. This is my operation. I have tactical command that supercedes your rank! They will walk away and you will let them! [slams his radio down] Fuck!
  • Pre-Mortem One-Liner: Neil says one to Waingro before shooting him
    Neil: "Look at me." (Puts two rounds in Waingro's chest and one in his head)
  • Psycho for Hire: Waingro. First time by Neil, though he pushed his Berserk Button for killing one of the van's guards. Second time by Roger Van Zant as both shared a common enemy in Neil.
  • Psycho Party Member: Waingro starts the movie as a member of a professional crew of thieves, but becomes such a kill-happy madman that Consummate Professional Neil McCauley risks attempting to execute him in public after their first heist turns into a bloodbath due to Waingro's sadism. After Waingro escapes he allies with Neil's enemies in the underworld and does everything he can to bring Neil down, but then goes above and beyond when he rapes and kills the wife of a member of Neil's crew and beats the crew member to near death when the guy attempts to avenge her, all for no reason other than because Waingro is an uncontrollable nutcase. By this point Neil is so furious with the psycho that despite being the subject of a police manhunt Neil takes time out of his getaway to hunt down Waingro and kill him properly.
  • Punctuated! For! Emphasis!: Hanna rants at Ralph when he finds out that the latter is having an affair with his wife. Simple, "I'm angry. I'm very angry, Ralph. You know, you can ball my wife if she wants you to. You can lounge around here on her sofa, in her ex-husband's dead-tech, post-modernistic bullshit house if you want to. BUT YOU DO NOT! GET TO WATCH! MY! FUCKING! TELEVISION SET!"
  • Rabid Cop: Vincent's basic routine around criminals is to act like an especially eccentric version of this until he scares/confuses them into telling him something useful. An early script draft showed Hanna as a cocaine addict, explaining his random outbursts. Even though it was removed from the script, Al Pacino still used it as his starting point.
  • Rape as Drama: Happens offscreen to Trejo's wife. And to the underage prostitutes that Waingro kills.
  • Reality Is Unrealistic: A number of critics complained that the bank shootout was too over-the-top and broke their Willing Suspension of Disbelief. This was two years before the infamous North Hollywood shootout. Since then, the scene is widely regarded as one of the most realistic and intense shootouts in all of film.
  • Remake Cameo: Xander Berkeley, who played Waingro in L.A. Takedown, plays Justine's new boyfriend Ralph.
  • Retirony: The bank job was meant to be the crew's last case, and would have gone without a hitch if not for past mistakes coming to bite them in the ass. Some people read Neil and Chris as probably likely to have taken more scores even after the heist (Trejo doesn't indicate one way or another), but definitely true for Cheritto.
    • Invoked for Cheritto. Neil tells him this decision is his alone, and he has a long pause of consideration. He's probably the most financially established and careful man in the crew. You can see he's weighing up the rewards against the very real risk. He decides to go for it for the thrill more than anything else. At the bank, you can detect fear and desperation in his actions. Then he calms down and chuckles once inside the "safety" of the getaway car... before Hanna's team swoop in to take them down, with Hanna personally shooting Cheritto. To rub more posthumous "salt in the wound", we see his wife suddenly pay attention to the news story. She had no idea what he actually does for a living, and now she's about to lose everything she ever loved about him.
  • Revenge Before Reason: By the near end of the movie, Neil has an opportunity to leave the country with Eady (his girlfriend) and leave behind his life of crime forever. However, he jeopardizes (and ultimately destroys) that opportunity just so he can pay back Waingro for betraying him and killing Trejo (his friend). It goes against his personal code of dropping everything if the "heat" is on. He can't drop the revenge, and it prevents his escape from Los Angeles.
    • Roger van Zant would have collected 100% on the insurance for his stolen bearer bonds and made an extra 40% by buying back the bonds from Neil and his crew at a discount. Instead, he tries to have them killed as a message to the underworld that stealing from him is a bad move. Unfortunately for him, this backfires horribly and Neil not only had survived the assassination attempt, but eventually hunted van Zant down and killed him for his troubles.
  • Robbing the Mob Bank: It turns out that the bearer bonds stolen during the opening heist by Neil and his crew belonged to Roger van Zant, a banker who does business for a drug cartel. On realising this, the crew curiously doesn't panic, but instead calmly approach him with what they feel is a reasonable deal — having not known the bonds belonged to him, they offer to sell his bonds back to him at a generous price which, on top of the insurance he'll receive for them anyway, will see him lose out less than he would have had they sold them to a third party. Unfortunately for them, van Zant isn't in the mood to be reasonable and so orders a hit out on them. Interestingly, the hit backfires and Neil, himself now no longer in the mood to be reasonable, promises van Zant he's pretty much going to die painfully. Van Zant is consequently the one who spends most of the movie fretting for his life — until he gets hooked up with Waingro, at which point things go From Bad to Worse for pretty much everyone concerned.
  • Rule of Symbolism: As Neil and Eady drive away from L. A. they go through a brightly lit tunnel that only seems to get brighter until it looks like it's about to Fade to White... until Neil decies he just has to get Waingro after all, and steers the car into a barely-lit highway exit and back into the night.
  • Sacrificial Lion: Breedan is the first casualty during the botched heist, which marks the point where things start going downhill for Neil's crew and where the film delves into Anyone Can Die territory.
  • Saying Sound Effects Out Loud: Det. Bosko uses, "Bang, bang, bang-bang-bang," at the scene of the armored car robbery to describe the death of the second guard (the one Neil shoots with an automatic rifle as he's trying to draw his service weapon).
  • Scenery Gorn: The streets of L.A. after the shootout.
  • Semper Fi: Hanna and Neil were both in the Marines making the already obvious similarities even more apparent. This detail is created from one of Neil's tattoos and the fact that Hanna's normal sidearm is a Colt .45 pistol.
  • Sexual Karma: Deconstructed. After the opening robbery scene, it introduces Hanna and Justine via morning love-making. However, this ultimately proves to be an illusion as the movie goes on, with their marriage clearly on the rocks and that despite being on opposite sides of the law, Hanna's personal life isn't much more fulfilling than Neil's.
  • Shoot the Hostage Taker: Hanna takes out Cheritto with a headshot when the latter uses a little girl as a Human Shield after the bank robbery.
  • Shotguns Are Just Better:
    • Drucker wields a shotgun during the bank robbery shootout.
    • Cherrito uses one in the drive-in shootout.
    • Subverted with Hanna as he tries to use one during his cat-and-mouse chase with Neil towards the end. He expends all shells on Neil but misses and runs out of ammo. Hanna then ditches the shotgun for his pistol instead.
  • Shown Their Work: This was the film that cemented Mann's reputation as a director who goes above and beyond the call when it comes to accurate usage of firearms and combat tactics. Much attention is paid to firearms handling procedures and small-arms tactics. This is Michael Mann's movie, and he usually insists in putting his stars through combat boot camp if they'll be anywhere near a gun. Examples include:
    • Watch the pistol press check, use of a breaching shotgun, room clearing in Hanna's raid on Hugh Benny's place.
    • Use of cover during the bank shootout. Neil and Chris Shiherlis both use cars as shields when they are raking the police cars, putting the engine blocks between themselves and enemy gunfire from that direction. You'll notice that at one point when Hanna ducks behind a car to reload as Shiherlis fires a burst at him, he's using the engine block to protect himself as well.
    • Aiming through iron sights, even with a shotgun (Hanna, when chasing Neil at the airport. There are at least three or four police officers, Drucker included, firing shotguns during the bank robbery shootout, but these don't count given that you'd risk getting shot trying to get a perfect hit off with a shotgun).
    • Good trigger discipline in general, along with characters reloading weapons frequently during the bank shootout (although only Shiherlis's is given focus, the others can be seen reloading in the background of several shots). In fact, the shot of Shiherlis reloading his Colt M733 during the bank shootout has allegedly been used as instructional footage by U.S. Army trainers, due to how efficiently performed it is.
    • Hanna, Casals, and Bosko each use assault rifles for the bank robbery shootout, just like Neil, Cheritto and Shiherlis are using. The one difference is that the robbers are shooting their guns in automatic mode, but the cops who use assault rifles are firing them as semi-automatics. That's because even when under fire from heavily armed gunmen like Neil, they want to try taking him and the others out without running the risk of endangering bystanders (this seen when Hanna gets pinned down at the parking lot and is unable to shoot back at Neil because of bystanders running amok in his line of fire as Neil opens up).
    • Even a bounding overwatch: when Neil's crew is split in the bank firefight, they provide suppressive fire for each other in an alternating advance up the street. They also lay down lines of fire that overlap.
    • Donald Breedan provides a nice, and interesting case. He is a recently paroled ex-con determined to set his life straight with his wife's support. However, when he applies for a job as short-order cook at a diner, the Jerkass manager extorts him and treats him like dirt (and we are given hints that imply he has been known to do this in the past). He cannot resist when Neil comes by and asks him to substitute for Trejo as the getaway driver. Breedan's story arc is a realistic portrayal of a sad truth: a number of people do not want to give ex-cons a chance to start their life anew, often forcing them back into the criminal life they were trying to leave.
    • When Hanna arrives at the scene of the armored car robbery, Detective Bosko informs him that according to a homeless man who for the most part, witnessed the heist ("Well he was hiding. He heard it mostly"), one of the robbers called a guard "slick". The truth, which only we the audience know, is that when Waingro Pistol Whips the first guard, Cheritto tells him, "Hey, slick! See that shit comin' outta their ears? They can't fucking hear you! Cool it!" It initially looks like a continuity error or a dialogue mistake on Bosko or the script writer's behalf. In truth, eyewitnesses are not 100% reliable and multiple witnesses can give contradictory accounts about events, and this homeless man was stating what he thought he saw and heard. He may or may not have seen Waingro pistol-whipping the guard, and even if he did, they were all wearing hockey goalie masks that hid their mouths, making it harder to tell who was talking to who.
  • Sir Swears-a-Lot: Several of the men swears throughout the movie, but Lt. Hanna stands out.
  • Sixth Ranger Traitor: Waingro, Psycho for Hire whose impulsive ruthlessness ends up botching the armored car heist and nearly gets himself killed by Neil during the diner meeting for his troubles until a momentary distraction caused by a police car patrolling the area allowed Waingro to escape with his life. He would later be hired by Roger Van Zant, who secretly plots the elimination of Neil's team.
  • Small Role, Big Impact: Despite being the main antagonist who fuels the second half of the story, Waingro has less than ten minutes of screentime.
  • Smug Snake: Waingro certainly seems to think he's badass but, in reality, he has no brains and can't overpower anybody unless he's holding a Star Megastar pistol at a deafened and unarmed guard or bashing in the head of an underage prostitute.
  • Sound-Only Death: Trejo's wish to be shot is granted by McCauley. However, we only see a flash of light accompanied by a gunshot from outside the house.
  • Spanner in the Works: Hanna's team has Neil's crew dead to rights without the latter any wiser during the precious minerals repository heist, but a bumbling SWAT officer inadvertently makes a sound while sitting down in their concealed vehicle, spooking Neil and causing him to instruct his men to abort the heist. Hanna is thus forced to let Neil's crew go as a premature arrest would only yield a meager misdemeanor charge.
  • The Starscream: Waingro becomes this after the botched armored car heist.
  • Stay with Me Until I Die: Vincent shoots Neil, then stays with him out of companionship.
  • Stealth Hi/Bye: Waingro's ability to disappear without a noise when Neil, Cheritto, Shiherlis and Trejo are preparing to kill him at the truck stop, but are distracted when a police car appears on the street. Fortunately, the cop suddenly drives off responding to another emergency call, but when Neil, who had his pistol trained on Waingro's head a moment before, looks back to prepare to finish the guy off...Waingro is gone.
  • Steel Eardrums:
    • Averted in the armored car robbery scene. Waingro starts yelling at the guards, "Get back!" but when they don't move, he pistol whips the closest one in frustration (the guards were deafened from Shiherlis blowing open the back doors; and since Waingro was wearing a hockey mask they couldn't even tell he was talking at all). Cheritto turns to him and says, "Hey slick, see that shit comin' outta their ears? They can't fucking hear you! Cool it!" The robbers themselves don't have this problem because Shiherlis shouts "CLEAR!" before he mashes the detonator, giving them plenty of time to plug their ears.
    • Played straight in the bank shootout. The robbers suffer no hearing damage from three automatic assault rifles being fired out of the car. They should not be able to hear each others' yells unless they had hearing aids and earplugs, and two-way radios.
  • Surprisingly Realistic Outcome: Of Neil's crew only Chris manages to get away clean. (Unless you count Nate) But he still loses everything he's likely worked for years to build for himself, has to abandon his wife and child, loses his closest friends, and is left to an uncertain future. To say nothing of the fact he is still a wanted criminal who must hide his identity from that point forward.
  • Sympathy for the Devil: Lt. Hanna to Neil.
  • That Poor Car: Subverted in the armored car robbery. When Shiherlis sets off a charge to blast open the back doors, the shockwave shatters a row of car windshields, yet we don't hear the standard cacophony of car alarms that would normally happen with this trope. Then again, these cars are in a dealership and their alarms may have been disabled on purpose.
  • There Is No Kill Like Overkill:
    • Donald Breedan is shot in the head by Hanna, Casals and Drucker all at once. And Drucker has a shotgun.
    • The thugs at the drive-in; the assassin is sideswiped by Neil, shot by Chris and Neil from both sides, and then run over by Neil, while the driver receives three blasts from a shotgun, courtesy of Cheritto.
  • They Knew the Risks:
    Neil McCauley: He knew the risks, he didn't have to be there. It rains... you get wet.
  • Title Drop: The Arc Words.
  • Tragic Mistake:
    • Neil's downfall can be directly traced back to the moment he tells Hanna about Eady while having coffee with him. After Neil kills Waingro at the hotel, Hanna arrives and picks Eady out in the crowd, a woman who looks to be waiting anxiously for a loved one. Hanna is able to put two and two together and Neil is forced to flee, setting up their final, fatal confrontation.
      • Similarly, Neil and Eady would have successfully made their escape had Neil not decided at the last moment to go back and kill Waingro, attracting a ton of police attention and leaving Eady in a position to be spotted by Hanna.
    • Cheritto opting to stay on the bank job (he didn't need the money at all and was just in it for the "action") didn't really work out for him either, also leading to a final, fatal encounter with Hanna.
    • Donald Breeden agreeing to serve as getaway driver for the bank job, largely out of frustration with the shitty job his parole officer arranged for him.
  • Trojan Ambulance: Before the first heist, McCauley steals an ambulance and two paramedic's uniforms. He uses the ambulance to block the road, holding up an armoured bank car long enough for Cheritto to ram it off the road with a second vehicle.
  • Two Lines, No Waiting: The movie shifts between Neil's and Hanna's separate, intersecting stories, though they are mostly separate for a while.
  • Unnaturally Blue Lighting: In contrast to its name, this is a very cool-looking film, with lots of dull, icy greys and blues, especially in indoor and night scenes.
  • Villainous Friendship: Neil and his crew are a tight-knit bunch that care about each other. He lets Chris crash at his place after a fight with his wife, Charlene, then convinces Charlene to give him another chance instead of leaving him for her lover, and advises Cheritto against going on a risky job with him since he's in a financially stable place. Neil ultimately endangers his shot at freedom to get revenge on Waingro for causing the deaths of Cheritto and Trejo, and the near-death of Chris.
  • Villain Protagonist: Neil McCauley, who shares the role of protagonist with Lt. Hanna.
  • Villains Out Shopping: Or having dinner with their families, in this case. And both sides do it.
    • In addition to the scene of the criminals going out to dinner
    • A deleted scene shows Cheritto mixing his criminal and family careers together, by purchasing hockey masks for the armored car robbery while also buying a dollhouse for his daughters, which if retained in the final film would have fallen after the scenes of Neil stealing the ambulance and Shiherlis buying demolition charges.
    • Neil runs into Eady at the bookshop where she works, while purchasing a book on different types of metals (implied to be him planning for hitting the precious metals repository).
    • When Neil finally hunts down van Zant, the cartel banker is... relaxing at home watching a hockey game.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: Chris drops out of the movie after his wife warns him the police are onto him at the safe house. Did he get caught by the police later? Did he manage to leave the country, as his boss Neil planned to? Did he retire and wind up going legit, or did he have to return to crime? Your guess is as good as anyone's.
  • White Shirt of Death: All of the participants in the armored car robbery at the beginning of the movie except for Chris Shiherlis wear white hockey masks. Chris, who wears a black mask, is the only one of them to still be alive at the end of the movie, while everyone who wore a white mask is dead.
  • Wild Goose Chase: It's implied that Michael Cheritto ditched his police surveillance by putting the transponders on a bus to San Clemente.
  • Worthy Opponent: Particularly how Vincent feels about Neil, and sometimes Neil about Vincent.
    Vincent: I mean, is this guy something or is he something? This. Crew. Is Good.
  • You Do Not Want To Know: Hanna says this when Justine confronts him after he is called away from her at a party to go view one of Waingro's victims:
    Justine Hanna: I guess the earth shattered?
    Lt. Vincent Hanna: So why didn't you let Bosko take you home?
    Justine Hanna: I didn't wanna ruin their night too. What was it?
    Lt. Vincent Hanna: You don't wanna know.
    Justine Hanna: I'd like to know what's behind that grim look on your face.
    Lt. Vincent Hanna: I don't do that. You know it. Let's go, come on.


Video Example(s):

Alternative Title(s): LA Takedown


Face to Face

Detective Vincent Hanna and Master Criminal Neil McCauley sit down and discuss their situation.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (3 votes)

Example of:

Main / ActionFilmQuietDramaScene

Media sources: