© 2015 by James Clark
Mastery comes in many forms. A few nights ago we were rocked by a master at work, namely DeMar DeRozan. Who?! That night he put on a show the value of which could be doubted—but only by the blind. Professional basketball isn’t often included in avant-garde questions; nor, for that matter, are the films of Michael Mann. But let’s see if we can move the ball into that “new unknown” so palpably in the air but so hard to take seriously.
DeRozan’s righting that night a Raptor ship that had for weeks resembled a suicide/terror affair ineluctably headed for a murderous obstacle was a vivid case of shaking off protracted depressive blahs. The first 8 or 9 minutes our man of the moment was dogged but middling and generally easily squelched by a very good Houston Rockets quintet. His body language was more on the register of desperation than self-possessed poetry. But thereabouts the real DeMar smashed through that cockpit barrier and the sky became the limit. Kinetic dimensions of agility and authority (offensive and defensive) began to eclipse the ubiquitous and never-ending rock soundtrack rather mechanically groping for pizzazz. There was, for all to see (and possibly retain), a stunning enactment of self-control and precision lifting the proceedings to not only a fun victory but a fund of well-being going way beyond the NBA. (Pressed to play with few breaks, near the end of the game his now-exhausted performance became ragged—even free throws were missed, very rare for him. But a clinching 3-pointer in the last minute—he suspended in space, at one again with elementary particles—gave us to understand something unusual about the imperative of guts.
Whereas De Rozan’s patter in the post-game interview was standard jock taciturnity, the live-wires in Michael Mann’s Heat (1995), putting all their might into both career-level performance and careerist travesties, are seldom at a loss to articulate (for better or worse) a world-view so far from the optics and sonics of the history of planet Earth and yet deemed to be so necessary. A figure in that theatre of very big migration, master criminal, Neil McCauley, intones—almost in the function of a Zen chant—“Don’t let yourself get attached to anything you are not willing to walk out on in 30 seconds flat if you feel heat around the corner.” He flashes this proud shocker of a maxim (a sort of steroid-enhanced version of the old trench coat guy who would whip open his garb to reveal naughty pictures) in our presence on a couple of occasions. But I think the entryway to that self-serving bravado beckons to us during the instance of his right-hand man, Chris, being distraught and put off his game by conflict with his wife about his crime and gambling obsessions. Here Neil not only whips out the ruthless loner vision, but refers to it as having been the brainchild of another transgressor, Jimmy McIlrain. Chris had declared with good-old-boy sentiment (almost as if he were in the maelstrom of the actress [Ashley Judd] portraying his wife, Charlene, an implication in the country-western Judd franchise), “To me the sun rises and sets for her…” Thus, in such multiple setting in relief of an instinct to ape perhaps dubious players we are provided a means of fathoming this film’s in fact remarkable multi-media disclosure and coup.
Both McCauley and Chris in those vastly disparate self-conscious declamations show themselves to be partisans of an exciting truth, a truth which, embraced on its own, invites disaster. “Don’t let yourself get fixedly attached to anything” implies recognizing, as very seldom done, that engagements with people and acquisitions have to be carefully modulated. Free agency and its implication of solitude and hostility would have become extremely meaningful and challenging to McCauley since the days when Jimmy McIlrain was something of an oracle. Regarding a woman to be a goddess, as Chris does (even if largely rhetorically), lights up a dimension of sensual riches (far from confined to sex) that should indeed not be discounted; but likewise not be fetishized.
The cinematic groundwork of this turmoil of consciousness masterfully comes to take over our life for the 170 minutes of the saga. Phenomena upon phenomena are unleashed in the course of introducing those two connoisseurs of primordial truth (along with other associates) who somehow find themselves intent on devastating the precincts of LA (a long-standing film noir bailiwick but, with Heat, being refashioned almost beyond recognition). There is the steel and cement angularity of a platform of an outdoor rapid transit line in the night (curiously staging some kind of pall of motion), and there is a tense, eerie ringing in the air. A light train unit arrives, passing through steam not deriving from itself but from a static source across the way. Passengers drift distractedly toward the exit. One of them is McCauley. We find ourselves trailing him as he moves downstairs on an escalator within an interior forming a riot of rigid vertical beams, serving to underline his options of mobility. The previous shot was from above and the plunge implied moves on the order of his being in a flash into marching through the emergency ward of a hospital with a version of the very mainstream sculpture of the Pieta by Michelangelo out front. A flesh and blood patient lies on a stretcher with gunshot wounds to his gut. Our far-ranging protagonist treads authoritatively (he had in advance equipped himself with a uniform of the hospital’s ambulance service), into one of several vehicles parked just beyond the door. Next we see Chris at a construction (or destruction) supply centre acquiring the inert lumber-salient product lacking the topspin McCauley enjoyed. He instructs the clerk, “Make it out to Demolitions.”
After a brief miasma—intervening and hobbling the pace of eventuation, centering upon the other protagonist, Vince, a homicide lieutenant for LAPD—we are thrust into the cataclysmic armored car heist which the ambulance and the demolitions were designed for. We are struck by the elaborately calculated choreography going into the assault. But what really impacts here, at our introductory visceral engagement of these proceedings, is the ponderous, avalanche-like impacting comprising the heart of the bid to somehow attain to new heights of enrichment. McCauley has not only purloined an ambulance but also a mobile crane of inestimable weight. With it, one of his cronies blasts over the heavily armored vault as if it were a smart car. At this seismic event linked to a place with a seismic destiny, McCauley and Chris, having been parked in the ambulance (its logo—Goodhew) near the prey, snap on hockey goaltender masks and approach the wreckage. The dynamite from Demolitions rips open the door of the mobile safe (its shock waves shattering the windows of a row of cars parked along its recoil path) and, with cash all about, the ambulance crew ignores it, Neil rapidly flipping through packets of bearers bonds for one worth “a million six.” “80 seconds left,” one of the precision designers reports; and, though the loot is found in good time, a surprisingly loutish moment obtrudes. Needing an extra hand for this black magic, the four-man starting line-up brings on board a venturer far less rounded than they, in fact a deranged punk living for pushing his weight around. This more ordinary sociopath feigns being insulted by one of the guards and shoots him in the face at point blank range. This necessitates the more civilized outlaws to execute the remaining mainstreamers who would contribute to their being apprehended. (For instance, the crane truck driver had referred to the punk as “Slick.”) The smooth torching of the ambulance and escape in a car carefully stolen for tying up loose ends cannot dispel the fury of the 30-second avatar, Neil being his name to friends; and at a truck-stop after the troubling workday he smashes the newcomer, Waingro, into the Formica table top and with his friends marches the far-from-friend out to the parking lot to retire what he clearly regards as part of a universe with a huge garbage disposal problem. A cop car cruising through the lot distracts Neil for a split second but that is all a rat needs to find a sewer. However, the real point of this personnel nightmare is to identify it as somehow linked to the disconcerting entanglement in brute forces. Neil’s intensity about a heist that lacked a touch bearing upon celestial gratifications involves not so much Waingro’s foreignness as his being only too close for comfort. Even with the slight acquaintance we now have of him (and Chris, whose baby face registers ca-ca in regarding the outsider), it is abundantly clear that having to waste the armored car crew was an aesthetic/cosmological setback, not a humanitarian scandal by any measurable means at this point. Waingro had shattered the delicate and astronomical vibe—an unforgivable sin in the improvisational theology of a former Folsom Prison inmate who would have been doing more with his spare time than leafing through Playboy. (His mantra—right to his moment of death at the hands of Vince [who, along the way, had asked him, “Are you a monk?”]—“I’m not going back,” would be more along lines of having already graduated, or so he believed.)
McCauley, for all the startling otherworldliness of his presence, is not the only guy in LA working on a thesis of Nobel importance but never to reach the 30-second Scandinavians. Vince, the unlikely point man for upholding the status quo, strikes us from the get-go that he somehow lacks McCauley’s ability to savor breaking away from middling virtues. That aforecited interruption of Neil’s initial stroll on the streamliner, uncanny and audacious wild side consists of domestic glue—commencing with mechanical deep mouth coitus with his wife, followed by a quick shower, detached chagrin by the anxieties of his step-daughter regarding her no-good real father and a quick and blunt refusal to stay for breakfast because work comes first. After that all-too-normal hearth and home, he perks up noticeably on swaggering into the carnage and bombing of Neil’s enterprise. “Drop of a hat these guys will rock and roll!” In face of the precision and verve obviously devoted to this felonious swoop (never mind the rather incongruous gore), he issues a lip-smacking smack-down to an underling clearly not appreciative of the energies having just visited a tedious LA. “Does this look like a gang-banger break-in at 7-11?” But then he’s being pushed around by his wife, about dinner having been ready four hours ago and we realize he has no tolerance at all for undergoing this trash talk from what would always be a minor adjunct to his real game. It doesn’t take him long to put back his game face and tell her to fuck off, that his life with junkies who fry their babies in the micro is better for his general health than the “goddam chicken getting overdone…” (This, we soon learn, is his third marriage and it’s definitely headed for the same trash can as the one bearing the chicken and the previous two wives.)
From those premises now on the table Mann’s easily missed profound cinematic reflection gets down to a type of business never suspected by the standard cops and robbers adventures nor by film noirs per se, no matter how decoratively suggestive. Very much an unhurried master, he brings us McCauley after that ugly road trip, returning to his quietly dashing minimalist seaside condo, placing his handgun on the patio table and looking out to a big ocean and an even bigger sky. That would be not only solace to shattered nerves, but solace on the order of Surrealist painting, specifically Alex Colville’s “Pacific” (1967). A gun and a prospect repelling mere marksmanship. A prospect of elemental energy still sorely un-mastered. The most dazzling feature of this still and silent strategic flourish is, in drawing us into the heart of McCauley’s solitude, its taking the time to stake a claim that if you don’t know the avant-garde (in all its readily and profitably dismissed distances) you don’t know this kind of film. That gun on the table encompasses an infinity of hate needing to be tempered by yet another order of contrarian agility.
The immediate aftermath of the pregnant pause is about the ways of the heat bearing down upon both sides of the law to change. Neil checks out a bookstore because his comeback project has to do with stress allowance for various metals strategic for theft. Right after that, one of the store’s clerks, Eady, sitting next to him in a nearby diner, strikes up a conversation about his reading preference; and after rather rudely putting her off he rekindles his more humanly circumspective, investigative intent and smiles and says, “My name’s Neil…” After his effort in trying to respectfully broach her real métier of graphic design (“You go to school for that?”/ “Parsons” [Doesn’t ring a bell]), they are at her house on a hill (she calling it a dump with a [graphically] nice view) overlooking the Milky Way of Los Angeles’ lights. Our protagonist, well aware of the virtues of his own panorama by the sea and bidding to rise above previous shortcomings, observes, “Yeah, City of Lights…” This prompts him to tell her of the iridescent algae in Fiji. “They come out once a year in the water…”/ “You been there?”/ “No, but I’m goin’ there someday…” A quiet and eerie guitar motif has washed over this time of alertness and longing, of light and sea lore which has put a fertile inflection into their voices, their eyes and their hearts. She tells him of her family’s roots in Appalachia, and he says, “You have a tight family, I can tell.” But soon she will agree to turn her back on all that, for life with him in New Zealand. Here it’s way beyond seeing the night-time sweep of LA on the order of sub-humans. Now it’s a matter of finding close cause with phenomena seldom coming to shine, seldom attaining to reaching out; and the discovery they have both contributed to, leading them to embraces that far outshine those of Vince and his wife.
There is a cut to Vince arrogantly and cloddishly bullying and humiliating an informant (the first of a heavy flow of compromised deal-makers who clearly form the essence of this protagonist’s sleuthing and beg the question—why those awesomely long hours?) Albert, the Artful Dodger, explains the slow pace of producing his brother, who could have something damaging to reveal about Neil’s gang: “I’m a dancer!” [Gimme time]. (Vince’s assistant snorts, “I play jazz all day!” Is there no connection?) Vince, emoting at the level of the Three Stooges—“Gimme all ya got! Gimme all ya got!”—seems to count on idiocy to be the key to understanding in the real world as he sees it. He sneers at his unforthcoming navigator, “Did you fall in love last night?” (This idea would be no joke to McCauley.) Soon catching up with Albert’s brother (who has an extensive agenda, including having the LAPD remove a competing drug dealer), Vince eventually strong-arms that information dealer into divulging the name of one of Neil’s stalwarts (whom he got to know in the pen), and whom he bumped into, finding the latter’s protestations that he was out of the trade to be a tipoff that he’s involved with the biggest scores around. That that ex-con of interest was prone to call people “Slick” (a word a witness to the massacre heard) would raise his market value and lock Vince onto McCauley’s gang, in hopes of making his own assets more satisfying. Though Vince is as much a thespian as a lawman (on the way in to Albert’s club/hangout and the useful fink he comes up to the bouncer from behind and demands, “Gimme all your money!”), there is one hugely disaffected audience member, namely, his wife, who knows full well that a top cop can cut a legendary bit of optics and still be a bungling mediocrity. The purchase on “Slick” brings the lieutenant and his inner sanctum to the building across from a Chinese restaurant where McCauley and his gang and their women and children are having a sedate and warm little celebration for Slick-man’s wife’s birthday. (Neil being the only soloist, he feels a bit off key and phones Eady to meet again. She says, “I was afraid it was just one night.” He says, “Not for me it wasn’t.” “Me neither,” she iterates.) On the heels of this data surge, there are Vince’s crewmen and their women, at a similar night spot, who, on the basis of their behavior there, could have been mistaken for a pocket of organized crime and their oversexed girlfriends. Vince and the little lady try too hard to be cool dancers, and she laughs disconcertingly at his unfunny jokes. Another instance of homicide cuts into this quality time, Vince racing off to grace the mishap with his celebrity assurance. When he returns to the party the party is over, and his wife is sitting in a darkened shoal of empty tables. It’s late, she’s exhausted and so she hands us a redundant moment that the saga urgently needs. “You never told me I’d be excluded.” He’s always exhausted and so he hands her and us another redundant speech we need to hear out. “Before we married, I told you that you were gonna have to share me with all the bad people and all the ugly events on this planet.” She has a well-honed aphorism for that cue: “Sharing? This is just leftovers.” Then she becomes another Charlene, fitting comfortably into Nashville melodrama. “I love you fat, bald, money, no money, driving a bus (he does cover Ralph Kramden very well)…You have got to be present like a normal guy, some of the time…You search for signs of passing, for the scent of your prey; and then you hunt them down… You live among the ruins of dead people [dead people, she might have added, he was completely at a loss to protect]… That’s all you’re committed to…” Vince’s reply may be something not published till this time of complete alienation: “I gotta hold onta my Angst. I preserve it because I need it. It keeps me sharp, on the edge…” Here we have all we need to hear to be apprised that beneath his showy martyrdom is an ecstatic departure from common probity as multi-dimensional as that plunder on the part of McCauley.
(The discovery of just how minor a lawman Vince in fact is is made more difficult by an infusion of that puzzlement seemingly de rigueur in noirish productions. That rude rallying of the career-informant as initiating a relative having found a satisfying second profit centre in Vince’s Gimme, gives us a lieutenant swaggering, smoking a big cigar and meeting the relative’s protesting getting pushed around—“I’m a citizen!”/ “I’m Donald Duck!—with that same universal contempt spilling out of Neil’s maxim to the effect that in the last analysis humans are marvellously dispensable. This brings the posse onto Neil’s gang’s tail. Their tentacles include Charlene [who had pointedly—“Husband and wife trouble”—repelled soloist Neil’s effort to fashion a reconciliation with gambling addict Chris], and her Las Vegas-based boyfriend. A man in a wheelchair who has proto-hacked into the security system of a concern containing 12 million tells Neil [a fellow-cosmologist and thus dynamics specialist] that the pulsation to open doors “flies through the air… you gotta know how to grab it!” McCauley, showing even more superb instincts, infers from a noise by a clumsy gunman on Vince’s team that the heist should end with them empty-handed—a bit of discipline that leaves Vince pissed off but appreciative of that master’s touch. Though soberly sizing up a suddenly and surprisingly lucid opposition [“Where the fuck did this heat come from?], McCauley musters the confidence, nerve and sense of play to sucker the rival and his men to imagine he was scouting out the next score, when in fact he and his crew were up on a roof taking snapshots of them. On realizing this, Vince shouts over to the as yet obscure (save for criminal record) rival, “OK, Motherfucker!” He’s not accomplishing anything, but he’s having some fun. A bank heist in the heart of the financial district is next up; and here we have Trejo, Neil’s lookout, Waingro and the treacherous bond overseer, Van Zant, all vying to sell them out, in view of the generous deals Vince was eager to offer, to show some semblance of direction to his self-celebration. [Albert’s brother refers to Cheritto, the link that complicates Neil’s life, as having a peacock tattoo. Vince should have one.] The in-house Fink, Trejo, gets beaten to the point of death and his wife gets murdered by Waingro in the scramble to be the favored fink. After the hyper-military, almost inter-planetary gunfight at and around the bank, Neil makes his way to now-suspicious, late scratch Trejo’s modernist beach house, and accedes to the latter’s request he put him out of his misery. The flash and report seen from afar is a far cry from the beach house extremis of Kiss Me Deadly. And it underlines the handicapping making things shine must face.)
Perfidy and luck, not discernment or a staggering work-ethic, are crucial to Vince’s workplace. And as we see him bringing off a conference with Neil, savoring the delicious optics of a helicopter swoop amidst glamorous skyscrapers, the course of law and order is not a paramount concern. “What do you say I buy you a coffee,” Vince asks Neil on having, drugstore-cowboy-style, ditched his chopper for a squad car and flagged down the counter-culturalist on an expressway. The host begins by probing into McCauley’s Folsom years (7 in all, with 3 in solitary confinement) and hearing that his rival will not settle for capture. “So you never wanted a regular type life?” he moots. “What the fuck’s that? Barbecues and ball games?” is the rather harsh lunge at the hot-button concern Vince would find to resonate far more compellingly than the cause of lessening crime (he, as we already know, showing only a smidgeon more interest in that topic than McCauley does). Riding the anti-social course at full-tilt, he warns, “I’m never going back.” Vince, an ardent provocateur and consumer of dead ends at home and abroad, does a cop impersonation in saying to that, “Then don’t do scores.” McCauley counters by citing the stalemate (far, in fact, from the heart of his activities), “I do what I do best. I take scores. You spend all your time chasing guys like me.” McCauley, sensing the subtext of the cordiality on tap here, lobs his own exploratory mush ball: “This regular type life… That’s your life?” Smiling broadly, Vince puts on the record, “My life? No. My life’s a disaster…” An admission that his marriages were about hopeless impasse draws from Neil the formulaic (30 seconds) verity that such a dismal roster can and should be ruthlessly ditched. This, in turn, draws from Vince the provocation, “What are you, a monk?” This brings into the skirmish Neil’s unprecedented treasure in Eady. “I have a woman.” Being, for all his self-indulgently impulsive cynicism, haunted by loved ones (and, moreover, a far wider cast of characters) who make him sick, the lawman wants to know if McCauley has been burned by that paradox. “What do you tell her?”/ “I tell her I’m a salesman” [as it happens, exactly the line of work to master, if ever traction is going to work]. Vince, like a chess player thinking he can see a checkmate, then puts forth this teaser: “So if you spot me coming around that corner, you gonna walk out on her?” It’s clear McCauley hasn’t begun to solve this test of primordial logic turning up the heat. But he has to save face, in the absence of which he’d look like a bush leaguer. “That’s the discipline… I don’t much want to do anything else.” Vince then tells him of a dream he often has—“All those who have been murdered are staring at me…I look into their eyes and they look into mine” [which is to say, others, however creepy, have to be attended to and rallied, precisely because the “shambles” is a pristine form of life]. Neil chips in his recurring dream about drowning [being in over his head]. Vince opines that it’s about not having enough time [or is that not taking enough time?]. All the heavy lifting done for the night, there is Vince’s overlay of blarney recapping a melodramatic paradox of their being enemies to the death. “Here we are, like a couple of regular fellas. I won’t like it, but if you make a widow of someone you kill doing a score… then brother you’re goin’ down” [a pretty phrase, indeed; but arresting in view of his having ruthlessly produced 3 widows of his own]. Apropos of nothing, actually, after the grownup chess game that settled nothing, Neil, still trying to impress with a lousy hand, taunts back, “What if I have to put you down?” “That’s the way it will be,” Vince self-dramatizes. Or maybe we’ll never see each other again…” The small smiles each emits then are far more true to life.
The shill of having easy access to vast respect in view of upholding civilization—a position he finds much easier to manage in the abstract than in the concrete—endows the energies of Vince to be adulterated to a pronounced degree. His brash goofball style is animated in dark ways by a gut realization that those he’d like to seriously represent do not actually meet his motives. He acts like a man who knows his facade to the world is bullshit. But not absolute bullshit. The showdown with his wife flares up after he returns from tending to the murder of a hooker at the hands of Waingro. Shown a photo of how the police team found her, ass-upward in a garbage can, he exhales and says, “Nice…” The girl’s mother arrives, understandably distraught, and races toward her daughter’s corpse. Vince intercepts her end run around the police cordon and wraps his arms around her. His face is more than routinely ravaged. Accordingly, when his step-daughter slashes her wrists in the bathtub of the hotel room to which he has eventually decamped (somehow preferring her step-father’s “disaster” to her mother’s wholesomeness), he rises to the occasion, with tourniquets and an authoritative rush into an emergency ward. He is for once on the same page as his wife, now fully geared toward divorce (with a “normal” boyfriend she can’t fool herself into taking seriously), and at the hospital he holds her at the same pitch of tempered grief he showed with the mother of the girl in the garbage can. She moots giving the marriage another shot (“Is there any way that it could work out with us?”). He tells her, “I wish I could say yes… Like you said, all I am is what I’m going after. I’m not what you want, Justine…” Adding, “You’re going to be OK,” and then racing off to intercept Neil, Vince gives her and us body language that makes clear that he knows he’s not going to be OK.
There is, as briefly alluded to above, a remarkable skein of rootin’ and tootin’ after the coin toss at the coffee shop. Neil has fashioned a blackout as to the gang’s whereabouts, but once the bank job is approached the lookout, Trejo, looks out for himself, bringing the law onto the playing field. Particularly the image of Neil and Chris using automatic weapons several times more powerful than those carried by the public servants—after standing and delivering in the open deluges of hot lead slicing the property values of downtown LA to pre-War levels—gives us to understand that the action is closer to that of a cyclotron than classical kinetics and classical drama. But for all its seismic remarkableness, the hard times of McCauley’s Rebs—betrayed from multiple angles and more than holding their own—boil down to a protracted revelation of visionaries caught up in a degree of difficulty reminiscent of those Fiji organisms. In the middle of giving many fractures to security staff at the bank of interest, Neil barks out to customers and tellers, “We want to hurt no one! It’s not your money… Yours is insured.” (Hard to believe he’d have said that before meeting Eady and revamping [somewhat] his skeptical topspin.) Cheritto is urged by Neil not to risk his solid assets and his family by joining the bank blast. The man with the peacock pauses for a few seconds and then reasons, “For me the action is the juice!”[Yes and no.] Neil enlists a Folsom associate to act as a driver in the heist. His parole had locked him into work as a grill man at a diner where the owner humiliated him and siphoned off a quarter of his earnings. Though a strong and affectionate woman was a factor in his enduring this demeanment, it doesn’t take him long to go for the juice, beginning with throwing his enemy into the pots and pans. Both of these action men die in the military action. Did they know what to do with legal options? Charlene, positioned at a Venice Beach safe-house as bait to apprehend Chris, warns him by a brief hand signal to go and don’t come back. (Hurtin’ to the end.) Her complaint to gambling junky, Chris, “We’re not making forward progress,” had been trumped by juice she hardly knew she wanted.
Having finally, by virtue of the 6 o’clock news, realized the kind of selling Neil does, Eady first of all flinches, a Charlene moment without the bitchin’. And then she gets back to the big picture. He admits, “I don’t know what I’m doin’ anymore. Life is short. You walk on your own or choose to come with me. [His very efficient fence had arranged a flight and customs clearance to New Zealand, where newness and zeal would, probably, surface once a year.] All I know is there is no point in going anywhere without you…” Touching words, and impressive to Eady; but his cherishment proves very susceptible to a gust of action-informed juice, which is to say, sheer murderous hatred, his old 30-second discounting of, in Vince’s words, “…all the bad people… on this planet.” They’re at the edge of the LA airport when he hears from his only too informative fence that Waingro is at an airport hotel (working on brownie points from Vince by serving as bait to lure McCauley). Neil had been able to handle the heat pertaining to walking away from the other trap. But not here. He kills the rat. His careless assumption that they can still catch their flight proves very wrong. Vince gets his chance to be even more legendary. And, out by the tarmac, amidst checkerboard structures and dazzling, brief-lived flashes of the big lights of big planes and their deafening noise, marksman Vince (who had dispatched Cheritto even though he was using a little girl as a shield [juice going very sour]) kills Neil. He comes up to his victim, probably the closest kin he’ll ever encounter, takes his hand and the lost look on his face fails to assure us that he’ll ever think of Fiji Island algae that struggles to light up the night. Neil’s fatuous dying words, “I told you I’d never go back,” lead us to imagine that even with all-systems-go in New Zealand a field of fertile layering would never be more than a faint refrain. (Robert De Niro’s Neil and Al Pacino’s Vince find their way—masterfully—to the heart of this quite astonishing film.)