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Management styles in movie characters

January 29, 2007

When it first came out on video about ten years ago, I watched “Heat”, a Michael Mann film with a great plot, tons of action, and an all star cast headlined by Al Pacino and Robert De Niro who lead small teams on opposite sides of the law.

The first time through the film, I was dazzled by the story line, the suspense, and of course the non-stop action for the almost three hour run length.  Upon seeing it a second time, I really noticed the personalities of Pacino and De Niro that come through the characters in all their films.  Where do the characters end and the real life men begin?

Watching the film a third time, I got past being entertained by the plot, the headliners, the deep supporting cast, and began to notice some aspects of the changes going on with the characters.  De Niro’s character begins the film as a loaner, who by his own rules keeps no attachments and can walk away from anything or anyone in 3o seconds.  Over the course of the film, he begins to break his own rules and develops more attachments to a love interest and to the welfare of this crew, and ultimately takes matters personally, rather than professionally.  Pacino, starts out as a family guy in the midst of a 3rd, rapidly failing marriage due to the fact that he lives his life as if isolated and alone.  I also began to note the management styles of each of the characters.  Pacino, as the ever driven detective is brilliant and authoritative to the point of being completely autocratic.  He barks orders and drives his team round the clock with little regard for their personal lives or well being, always focused on the objective of taking down the bad guys.   De Niro’s character leads by example, sets objectives and assigns tasks.  However, his style appears deeper in that he pays close attention to the personal lives of his team, and intervenes as necessary to ensure there focus on the mission, and ultimately their success.    In some scenes, he switches from the authoratative style, and builds buy in for the next heist by trying to talk his team out of it (perhaps a bit reverse pyschology, or simple benevolence), and works toward consensus building.  He actively considers risk, takes steps to mitigate those factors, and assigns tasks based on the skills of his team members.    Pacino’s character in contrast, is bullish, and treats all the other officers as interchangeable cogs in his operation. 

In the end, I found I related more to De Niro’s character and style.   To be sure, scenes from “Heat” will likely never be used in leadership training classes the way “Apollo 13” has been, but still, there was enough depth to the characters that I took notice of the styles used.  It lent authenticity.

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One Comment leave one →
  1. Tim Supples permalink
    February 2, 2007 5:17 am

    Excellent insight into the movie, I have admittedly not watched the movie from what perspective. Awesome flick regardless, one of my favorites. Mann, Pacino, DeNiro, what more can one ask for???

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