Retro Film/Television Review: L.A. Takedown (1989)

in #aaalast year


In recent years Hollywood tried very hard to give new meaning to the word "remake" - meaning very close to the word "atrocity". Lack of ideas, lack of scruples, lack of talent and lack of respect for the cultural heritage - all that conspired to make cinephiles fearful of every new remake. However, there were some very rare instances of remakes being slightly better than original versions. Chances for something like that increased with remake and original being the work of the same individual. One of such cases is Heat, Michael Mann's 1995 action thriller which is a remake of L.A. Takedown, his own 1989 television film which had been designed as pilot for new TV series.

The plot begins with a gang of armed robbers attacking armoured truck in Los Angeles. The gang is led by Patrick McClaren (played by Alex MacArthur), career criminal whose utterly professional approach to each heist always kept him one step ahead of police. This time, however, Waingro (played by Xander Berkeley), last-minute addition to the gang, turns out to be disastrously wrong for the job and the result is unnecessary carnage that would pit Patrick against another top professional. Vincent Hanna (played by Scott Plank), leader of elite Robbery/Homicide unit of LAPD, begins the investigation, quickly identifies McClaren's gang as culprits and begins massive surveillance operation in order to find evidence. McClaren soon becomes aware of policeman's attention, but instead of running away, he decides to stay in Los Angeles and take the last big score - right in front of Hanna's eyes.

Since Heat borrowed most of the characters, plots, dialogue lines (and even some shot compositions) from L.A. Takedown, the latter is a good way to compare American television and feature films. Due to budget, time and censorship constraints, inferiority of 1989 original to 1995 remake is hardly surprising. On the other hand, poor editing and rather uninspired performance of Xander Berkeley as Waingro is definitely disappointing to all those accustomed to high standards of Michael Mann's film making. Interestingly enough, the casting is the most obvious thing in which L.A. Takedown is better than Heat; instead of stars, characters in the film are played by relatively unknown or character actors. Scott Plank and Alex MacArthur are very good in the roles, and the legendary cafe scene between the two works better in this film, simply because the viewers aren't distracted by the overbearing presences of such stars like Al Pacino and Robert de Niro. Despite its obvious deficiencies, L.A. Takedown represents good way to spend hour and half in front of screen; all those who like Heat would undoubtedly appreciate L.A. Takedown as companion piece to their favourite film.

(Note: The text in its original form was posted in Usenet newsgroup on August 14th 2003)


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