Michael Mann's 'LA Takedown' Is Just a Rough Draft for 'Heat'

The Mann-iacs are back at it again: Rob Zacny, Nextlander’s Alex Navarro, and Waypoint Contributor Dia Lacina drill into Michael Mann's LA Takedown, a movie that ends up being a rough draft of his magnum opus Heat, emphasis on the rough. It’s surprising what a bigger budget and big name actors can do with what in some places is essentially the same script. You can listen to the first ten minutes of this Waypoint + episode below, or subscribe at WaypointPlus.com for access to the full episode and all our other episodes of Mannhunting, where Rob, Alex, and Dia work their way through the filmography of Michael Mann.

This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at https://www.vice.com/en_us/article/jgm774/michael-manns-la-takedown-is-just-a-rough-draft-for-heat

LA Takedown has been uploaded to Youtube right now, and best I can tell, that’s actually as high quality a version of this movie that still exists online. It could be whatever DVD version they found was slightly better quality, I doubt it. It really does look like a bad rip of an early 90s porn. (Doesn’t help the first scene is a filthy apartment in which two people bang, either.) while this version was 1:33:1, and IMDB says that’s the correct aspect ratio, I still wonder if maybe the movie was shot in wider screen and poorly edited down to 4:3 TV size. Even shot looks too zoomed-in and too claustrophobic. There are shot-reverse shots when the shadow of one actor’s head lands on their costar’s face. How did anybody let that go?

This really does look like some incredibly cheap straight-to-video exploitation movie that RedLetterMedia would cover on Best of the Worst at times. And then sometimes there’s a few random beautiful poetic shots when they manage to get the focus right and real artistry comes through. Then there’s camera pans that shake because either their rig was broken or they didn’t have a rig at all and the cameraman’s hands were shaking trying to turn left.

I came away slightly more charitable to LA Takedown than they were. I still think it’s an awful movie in terms of actual quality of the shots, and worse, it has an atrocious edit. I suspect the movie was never properly finished and Michael Mann really did give up on the project at a certain point. But Heat, even in it’s most Z-grade version, is a pretty exciting story and I don’t think the acting is that terrible. Alex McArthur has a solid Ray Liotta thing going on, he could have been the anti-hero star of a crime show. Scott Plank, despite being the theoretical lead, is only good enough to be a villain of the week, it’s all backwards. The shootout scene is pretty terrifying, maybe because of how rinky-dink the production is and you get legitimately scared for the actors at times.

I wouldn’t recommend this to… anybody, frankly, and Michael Mann should be embarrassed to have his name on this final product, I’m sorry, he just should, but is it irredeemable? Nah, it’s okay enough. It’s certainly a fascinating artifact.