It’s a pulpy, expansive crime novel that feels of a piece with Mann’s filmography, from its hypercompetent, ambitious characters to the richly detailed underworlds they operate in ... At times, Mann and Gardiner use the prequel portion of the book to directly explain the origins of iconic moments from the film, but even those instances tend to feel motivated by the story rather than like cheap ploys to get readers to do the Leo pointing meme ... part of the fun of Heat 2 lies in watching its authors pull ideas and tiny details from across Mann’s entire filmography ... Heat 2, though, paints complete enough portraits of its characters to allow you to imagine them separately from the stars who played them, making a film adaptation with new actors easier to imagine.
As in the original Heat, Heat 2 tees up intricately choreographed set pieces—a foiled home invasion (where would Mann’s oeuvre be without home invasions?), a daring raid on a cartel money house, a climactic shoot-out on the L.A. freeway—that play in the mind’s eye and pump the accelerator with mounting, marauding excitement, marvels of controlled chaos. The novel is nothing if not action-packed, a drive-in feature sandwiched between hard covers. Unfortunately, it is sometimes nothing but action-packed, a perpetual-motion collision machine manufacturing tension and suspense but offering no incidental moments of beauty, no lyric flourishes, just fine-tooled functionality ... To compensate for the absence of mise-en-scène, Mann and Gardiner furnish tony weather updates, spiritual taglines, moisturized odes to female perfection, and similar prose ornaments that just sort of hang there ... What I miss amid all the orchestrated mayhem is the mind-play and gamesmanship of true rivals.
This hopscotching in time enriches the characters but costs the book in pacing and tension, traditionally Mann strengths. Mann’s 170-minute film races toward its inevitable-but-satisfying climax like a bullet. Mann and Gardiner’s 470-page novel ambles along in fits and starts, intermittently picking up narrative steam only to let it dissipate. It’s frustrating ... What’s more damaging is the arbitrary character-as-device that Mann and Gardiner use to bridge the 1988 and 2000 segments—a sociopathic home invader and sex offender named Otis Wardell, who crosses swords with both McCauley and Vincent Hanna...Wardell is a frightening, if indistinct character, but his role hinges wholly on coincidence spanning a dozen years and half a continent ... That Heat is plotted as tightly as a Swiss watch makes the shapelessness of this follow-up all the harder to forgive. And the writing, alternately terse and florid, isn’t elegant enough to disguise the sloppy storytelling. Mann’s cinema may be poetry, but his prose is … well, prosaic.
[Mann and Gardiner] have achieved a rarity with their novel Heat 2: a screen-to-page sequel that stands tall on its own ... watching the movie first isn’t a must to enjoy the book, just a pleasure ... Mann and Gardiner play with time, weaving prequel tales for McCauley and Hanna with a present-day storyline for Shiherlis and Hanna. But such cleverness doesn’t overlook expanding these characters, and each one gets a new facet to a self-destructive trait: McCauley’s cynicism, Shiherlis’ sensation-seeking and Hanna’s anger. Slick as a Neil McCauley heist and as intense as a Vincent Hanna chase, Heat 2 is just dynamite.
The female characters in Heat 2 are notably underdeveloped compared to their male counterparts and there is at times a preposterousness to the book's plotting that was absent, or perhaps better camouflaged, in the film. Yet anyone concerned that the result might besmirch their memory of Heat can rest easy. Mann's long relationship with his central protagonists, and fondness for research, are evident on almost every page of this propulsive universe-expansion. His core characters fascinate as they approach, and attempt to survive, a string of action sequences which culminates in a piece of LA highway mayhem capable of rivaling anything in Heat were Mann to bring the book to the screen ... reading this novel, and it's cliffhanger ending, definitely leaves you wanting another book set in the same world.
Half 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.
We sense early on that these new plots—Chris’ involvement with the Liu family, Hanna’s obsession with stopping the truly evil home invaders—will somehow come together, but we can’t begin to anticipate the legerdemain with which the authors manage that feat, employing characters from the pre-Heat period as the connecting tissue. It’s no surprise, however, that the novel concludes with a spectacular conflagration that parallels the ending of Heat. Still, the best thing about this innovative tale is the way the fully fleshed human stories support and even transcend the often-breathtaking action.
The world of international drug cartels and crime syndicates has never been so gripping. Heat was a cinematic spectacle, and this sequel manages to create the same immersive experience in written form. The opening details the 1995 film, so prior knowledge is unnecessary, though interest should also spike for that film ... This novel takes time to tell the story while slowly ratcheting up the suspense to nearly uncomfortable levels. Gardiner and Mann are legends, and this book will be a best seller that leads the cry for a film version.