„Heat 2“ – How Do You Craft a Sequel to a Masterpiece?
Sequels are a tricky business. The good ones seem few and far between (“The Godfather Part II” springs immediately to mind, along with “Mad Max: Fury Road”), while the terrible ones litter the pop-culture landscape (as much as I loved the original “Fight Club” novel, I find its two graphic-novel follow-ups unnecessary and terrible).
With that truism in mind, I picked up an advance copy of “Heat 2,” a new novel by Michael Mann and Meg Gardiner, with some trepidation. Mann’s “Heat” is a genre-redefining masterpiece of crime cinema, of course, and features arguably his best work as a writer and director. Gardiner, meanwhile, wrote “UNSUB,” which is probably the best serial-killer novel of the past decade. In other words, two masters at the peak of their respective craft; but a lot can go wrong when you’re trying to add to something that’s already perfect on its own.
I needn’t have worried: “Heat 2” is a propulsive thriller that gives many of the characters from “Heat” new and interesting layers. It’s both a prequel and a sequel, jumping between Chicago and the Mexican border in the late 1980s to Los Angeles and points beyond in 2000. Neal McCauley (the bank robber played by Robert De Niro in the movie) gets a tragic backstory that explains his chilly, almost nihilistic attitude toward life; Chris Shiherlis (Val Kilmer) becomes something more than a thief; and Vincent Hanna (Al Pacino) finally gets the chance to close a case that’s bothered him for decades.
“Heat 2” also serves as a backdoor retrospective of Mann’s entire career. The early scenes in Chicago are reminiscent of his movie “Thief” (in which James Caan played an ultra-efficient, ice-cold thief who takes down complicated scores); the middle scenes, which largely take place in the South American city of Ciudad del Este, echo his remake of “Miami Vice”; the finale, bouncing between Los Angeles and Asia, features the same thematic DNA as “Collateral” and “Blackhat.”
Beyond the shooting and vault-breaking and tough-guy speeches, the book also offers something else: the evolution of crime, or at least crime practiced by capable, intelligent people. In many ways, the robbers of “Heat,” despite their planning and sophistication, were a dying breed. With the birth of the internet, and the increasing sophistication of logistics, banking, and shipping, the true illegal riches aren’t in knocking off a physical structure for the physical cash inside—it’s all about illegal cross-border transactions arranged in online chat rooms, pulling in talent from multiple countries.
Throughout the book, Chris Shiherlis grows to recognize this transition, and much of the suspense is generated by his choice to align himself with the future: Can he become more than a bank robber? Is he smart enough to survive in a new, larger world of ruthless international players? It’s one thing to crack a safe or shoot it out with the LAPD; those kinds of skills don’t really help when you need to ship stolen air-defense systems to a country blocked by international sanctions, or arrange for a bunch of Israeli-trained mercenaries to ambush your competitors.
If there’s a downside to the novel, it’s that we’ll never see a cinematic adaptation. Pacino and De Niro are too old, and Kilmer’s health problems will likely prevent him from ever taking on another action-oriented role. But it’s fortunate that Mann and Gardiner decided to write a prose sequel—it’s a great enhancement to “Heat,” which is high praise indeed.
Michael Man, Meg Gardiner: Heat 2. William Morrow, New York, out Aug. 8th 2022 – Deutsche Ausgabe ab 23.08.22 bei HarperCollins.
Nick Kolakowski is the author of „Maxine Unleashes Doomsday“ and „Boise Longpig Hunting Club“ as well as the Love & Bullets trilogy of novellas. His noir fiction has appeared in Tough, ThugLit, Mystery Tribune, Plots With Guns, and various anthologies. Brandnew: his „Payback is Forever“ (Shotgun Honey 2022), inspired clearly by the novels of Richard Stark. Our review here (in German).
Nick Kolakowski, geboren 1980, aufgewachsen in Washington. D.C., hat Geschichte in Chicago studiert. Er schreibt Romane, Kurzgeschichten, Lyrik und Essays, viele davon über Crime Fiction und verwandte Themen. Seine Texte erscheinen u. a. in der Washington Post, in Shotgun Honey, North American Review, The Evergreen Review, Rust & Months. Kolakowski lebt in New York City. Eine Besprechung des von Parker inspirierten „Payback is Forever“ in unseren Bloody Chops.
His column „Gunsmoke“ with us:
4 Ways Tarantino’s “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood” Novel Stands Out From the Film.
On „Heat“: Manhunter Takes Down Thief: How Michael Mann’s Early Career Led to ‘Heat’
The Most Honest Nihilism – on „The Way of the Gun“
No, Time to Die – The latest James Bond movie digs into the fatalism at the iconic spy’s core.
Cormac McCarthy’s Overlooked Masterpiece? – „The Councelor“
„Nightmare Alley“ – How Guillermo del Toro’s Film Alters a Masterpiece Noir Novel
David Cronenberg – The Carnal Crime of “A History of Violence” and “Eastern Promises”
With Parker, Donald E. Westlake Pulled Off Crime Fiction’s Most Spectacular Magic Trick
Guy Ritchie’s Return to Crime Films is Worth Watching