It’s the best thriller of the year – by far, by far. “Heat 2,” by Michael Mann and Meg Gardiner, is a high-tension road trip, a devilish gallop over 470 tight pages, with over-compressed writing and a smoldering fuse throughout that threatens to rock the house. . Subtitled “1988-2000”, the book announces the color from the jacket: Los Angeles, at night, with the skyscrapers of the lower town, planted like watchtowers in the darkness of California. Michael Mann, 79, failed to produce the sequel to his 1995 film, which starred Robert de Niro, Al Pacino and Val Kilmer. So he made a book out of it. We don’t read it. We devour it.
It starts with the end of the film: “On Tuesday, September 7, 1995, at 11:32 a.m., the Far East National Bank located at 444 South Flower Street in Los Angeles was robbed by three individuals: Neil McCauley, Michael Cerrito and Chris Shiherlis. A fourth, Donald Breedan, is driving the car…” Thirteen minutes later, the neighborhood became a war zone. The film ends like this, in an eruption of total violence, much in the manner of Michael Mann, who loves the elegance of fire, the power of action, the precision of lasers. Neil McCauley (Robert de Niro) and Michael Cerrito (Tom Sizemore) leave their skin there. Only Chris Shiherlis survives, warned by a slight wave of the hand from Charlene, his wife (Ashley Judd), whom he will never see again. The adventure thus fails in a bitterness of stolen or failed lives like that of Vincent Hanna (Al Pacino), the suicidal cop obsessed with darkness and despair. From now on, there remains therefore, of all the team of “Heat”, only one man: Chris. He hides in Koreatown, injured, delirious, unaware that his leader, Neil, has just been killed on the airport tarmac. Let’s go to the book. where the chapters prequel and the chapters sequel alternate.
“I am only what I track down”
We begin with a flashback: in 1988, the three men attack the supply lines of one of the biggest drug cartels, which imports its dope by truck from Mexico. Ultra-dangerous, meticulous robbery, which the big scum of the mafia do not forgive. At the same time, Vincent Hanna the cop must face a gang led by a psychopath, whose specialty is to enter occupied houses, to rape and kill, and to empty the house. Hanna defines herself: “I am only what I track down” he said to his wife, Justine. McCauley’s attacks are superimposed on this villainous delinquency of the unknown rapist, lives are shattered. Flash-forward: in 1995, Chris Shiherlis managed to flee (after the end of “Heat”), and reinvented himself in a zone of lawlessness in Latin America under the thumb of an ultra-powerful Chinese mafia. Consumed by remorse, on the verge of losing his corroded soul, Shiherlis thinks of his family – out of reach. To his past of violence – which resurfaces. To his need for power – which leads him to resume dealing with Asian crooks. Two stories thus intersect: yesterday and tomorrow, before and after. The kinetic power of these two wagons causes a literary shock: impossible to put down this damned book. We spend nights there, out of breath. Words generate adrenaline. We close the pages, with beating hearts. Really.
Michael Mann’s intimate engine is the engine. He loves the cylinders, the roar of the bonnet, and moves around in a Ferrari so low that you shouldn’t drag your hand along the bodywork while driving: you’d lose your fingers on the tarmac. I know it: I got in the car with him in LA. The 24 Hours of Le Mans, next door, is a thing of chicks drowsy with Pouilly fumé and Turkish delights. Moreover, Mann has a principle, imprinted on him by a thief fifty years ago: “As soon as you sniff it getting hot, you gotta be able to snap in a minute, give it all up instantly”. In English : one minute flat. From “Solitaire” (1981) to “Ferrari” (his next film), via “The Sixth Sense”, “Miami Vice” and “Public Enemies”, this is the principle (and a phrase that comes up). We don’t hang around, we run. We don’t explain, we do. “Heat 2” is to thrillers what a nitro injection is to a tractor: only the flames of the exhaust remain. Mann dictated the plot to Meg Gardiner, author of “Memories of Blood”. She must have learned shorthand in overdrive, I imagine. Because speed is Michael Mann’s very blood. He’s like a shark: if he doesn’t move forward, he dies. FF
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Heat 2, by Michael Mann and Meg Gardiner, 470 p., Harper Collins, $23.19.