By Robert Stefoski
The ending of Michael Mann's HEAT has often been debated on this forum and many others. Here are two alternative endings from Lee Russell Wilkes and Robert
For reference here are the main characters in the movie:
Lt. Vincent Hanna
Robert De Niro
ALTERNATIVE ENDING 1 By Lee Russell Wilkes
Hanna and McCauley
Let’s consider their flaws – Hanna is a driven super-cop who does the right thing to the point of self-destruction. McCauley is a super-criminal with a rigid code. Both of these traits are why the ending is flawed - there is no character development for either of them and neither bends – hence one shots the other in a classic cop-out that contradicts the obvious bond the two men have. Watch LA Takedown – the obvious script problem is Waingro. McCauley has to seek his revenge; we want Waingro to meet a nasty end. So:
Neil sets the fire alarm off in the hotel. This sets Hanna (outside) and Waingro (in his hotel room) to their guard. Waingro is clever and changes room (so, to the room opposite as its occupant leaves due to the alarm) and waits. Neil enters the empty room, gun drawn. Waingro, now in the corridor, pulls his weapon on Neil (or they scuffle and he gets Neil’s gun). Lift opens, Hanna and one of his crew (say, Wes Studi), appears. Waingro fires at Hanna, hits Studi. Neil hits back, allowing Hanna to kill the armed Waingro. Neil is unarmed – Hanna has a man to save. So now is the choice – does Hanna save his man or capture Neil?
Hanna is tired of death – his daughter is in the hospital; his friend is injured. Hanna gives McCauley the nod, says “retire”. He hits the lift button to take Studi to medical care. McCauley leaves with Eady. Hanna, in the hospital, covered in blood, chats with his wife. Studi’s wife thanks him for saving her husband. McCauley and Eady holding hands, iridescent algae. Moby. Fade out.
No cop-out ending; only choices that complete arcs.
ALTERNATIVE ENDING 2 By Robert Stefoski
Michael Mann's decision to not allow Neil McCauley to get away was the correct one in my opinion. What I found lacking with the movie was in the way his capture or demise was executed. It was too abrupt and left the viewer totally deflated after most of the movie carried them at great heights.
My revised plot enters at the final shootout, but instead of Hanna mortally shooting McCauley when the plane lights hit, McCauley wounds Hanna by shooting him in the shoulder. In a split second decision Neil McCauley opts to not finish Hanna off and makes his way back towards the airport where Eady was.
Neil finds Eady in her car. He enters and tells her to "just drive." They make their way out of the airport area but have to pull into a petrol station to refuel. Just as Neil is about to exit the car Eady pulls a gun on him and tells him to put his hands up. McCauley stunned says, "What the fuck are you doing Eady?"
"Put em up," responds Eady tears streaming down her face.
Flashing lights and sirens swarm into the Petrol station. Two suited officers approach the car while others surround it with an arsenal of weapons.
One officer says, "Put the gun down Officer Waingro."
Eady is sobbing. "Officer Waingro put the gun down. We'll take it from here."
Eady puts the gun down. Fade out.
Why? During the movie we only know Eady by her first name. Similarly we only know Waingro as Waingro. As it turns out Eady is Waingro's sister, and an officer herself. Eady Waingro. We don't tell the audience all this but it's something for them to ponder and think about and maybe work out well after the movie has finished.