MixedThe NationHalf long-gestating passion project, half proof of concept for a future blockbuster, it’s a book that exists solely because its author has willed it ... anybody who reads Heat 2 and has already seen its source material—a Venn diagram that’s basically just a circle—will inevitably visualize Robert De Niro and Al Pacino into all the scenes featuring detail-oriented bank robber Neil McCauley and obsessive LAPD veteran Vincent Hanna (the Adamson manque) ... In passages like these, Mann proves himself simultaneously as a conceptualist, dramatist, and prose stylist, and Heat 2 has nearly enough of them to justify its forbidding 400-page expanse. What’s good in the book is pretty much the same as in Mann’s movies: long, clean dramatic arcs; an unerring sense of narrative convergence; the layering of vivid, documentary details (makes, models, and brand names) over hoary page-turning tropes. There are passages that shimmer with the same jazzy omniscience as Mann’s direction and editing rhythms, ... The problems arise when Mann doesn’t just evoke his older work but shamelessly copies it: The worst of his callbacks are like stress fractures in the titanium solidity of the project ... In the end, the book offers an opportunity to contemplate the razor-thin difference between juicy origin myths and lugubrious fan service.
MixedThe Nation... true to its title, is assiduous in explaining the who, what, where, why, and how of its namesake ... These and other nuggets of trivia have an undeniable, page-turning appeal, but...Frankel is primarily interested in movies as superconductors that channel the larger cultural currents around them ... As a piece of research and reportage, Shooting Midnight Cowboy is thorough without being exhausting; Frankel’s flowing, curvilinear style intertwines firsthand accounts with wide-angle scene setting, granular anecdotes nested in grander narratives. What does get a bit wearing, though, is the book’s insistence on an underdog triumphalism that either fails to interrogate the pat, deterministic aspects of the final product or else betrays disappointingly conventional taste ... Frankel is of course entitled to call Midnight Cowboy \'a dark, difficult masterpiece\' that “floats above other films and books of its era,” but such language gives his book the feeling of a victory lap on behalf of a movie already long since garlanded with prizes. As a historian, Frankel is rigorous and revelatory; as a critic—to paraphrase another, more classical ’60s western—he may be a bit eager to print the legend.