Mattes, A. M. (2014). Action without regeneration: The deracination of the American action hero in Michael Mann's Heat. Journal of Popular Film and Television, 42 (4), 186-194.
Michael Mann is one of the most respected auteurs operating in commercial Hollywood cinema, and it is no surprise that his films continue to be the subject of scholarly investigation. This article approaches Mann’s Heat (1995) in the context of broader American mythical impulses, in relation to Richard Slotkin’s “regeneration through violence” paradigm. “Regeneration through violence” has been used by both Lisa Purse, and, especially, Eric Lichtenfeld, as a conceptual framework for investigating commercial Hollywood action films. However, Slotkin’s paradigm fails to account for the fundamentally pessimistic end game of numerous action films such as Heat. Mann’s mapping of Los Angeles as a city enabling perpetual movement without destination reflects the fundamental lack of any higher purposive, existential meaning for his heroes, Vincent Hanna (Al Pacino) and Neil McCauley (Robert De Niro), and for his narrative at large. A more accurate model, perhaps, for understanding Mann’s cinema (and, indeed, a large number of other American action films) might be “action without regeneration.”
Michael Mann, action cinema, Richard Slotkin, Heat, Los Angeles, The Western