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Neil McCauley

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A guy told me one time, "Don't let yourself get attached to anything you are not willing to walk out on in 30 seconds flat if you feel the heat around the corner." Now, if you're on me and you gotta move when I move, how do you expect to keep a... a marriage?
~ Neil McCauley during his conversation with Vincent Hanna.

Neil McCauley was a career criminal and the leader of the robbers. He serves as one of the two main protagonists, as well as the protagonist villain in the 1995 crime film Heat.

He is the counterpart to the film's other protagonist, Vincent Hanna, whom McCauley forms a correlative interaction with as well as his archenemy.

He was played by the acting veteran Robert De Niro.


McCauley is a former convict who wants a new life and soon became a career criminal who formed his own heist crew.


Neil McCauley first appeared when he came off a train station in Los Angeles. It soon turns out that he and his crew, including Chris Shiherlis, Michael Cherrito, and Trejo, are preparing to launch a heist the following day.

The heist becomes successful until Waingro, the crew's latest recruit, deliberately kills one of the three guards, causing McCauley to execute a second before allowing Cherrito to kill off the third. McCauley becomes infuriated with Waingro and later plots to have him killed, but he escapes when the police arrive on the scene before driving away.

Afterwards, McCauley meets up with his fence Nate to discuss the idea of selling the bonds they've robbed during the heist back to his employer Roger Van Zant, who agrees but secretly instructs his men to kill McCauley at the meeting. With backup from his crew, McCauley thwarts the ambush and then calls Van Zant to warn him that he'll be coming for him.

As time passes, it soon revealed that McCauley is living in a solitary life while his crew have families of their own as seen during a meal at the restaurant. Despite this however, he earlier interacted with a woman called Eady and ended up forming a relationship with her. He also appears to honor his crew's issues upon noticing that Chris is having troubles with his relationship, and later warns his wife Charlene to give him another chance to make amends for his mistakes.

Later on, McCauley orchestrates another heist with Chris and Cherrito that is soon prepared to be carry out. On that night, however, McCauley later realizes that the police are secretly watching and ends up calling off the robbery. He soon plots to orchestrate a bank robbery worth $12 million.

During this time, he is pulled over by police lieutenant Vincent Hanna and offered to go out for coffee. Having accepted, McCauley ends up interacting with Hanna in a cafe and becomes surprised to discover that he has a lot of comparison within Hanna. McCauley describes his own criminal life before warning Hanna that he will not hesitate to kill him should they confront each other in the upcoming heist.

On that day, McCauley manages to escape with Chris while Cherrito is killed in spite of McCauley's earlier attempts to cut him loose. He later finds out that Trejo was coerced by Waingro into betraying his crew as carried out by Van Zant. Having executed Trejo, McCauley confronts Van Zant in home where he kills him after failing to interrogate him into exposing Waingro's whereabouts.

After making amends with Eady when she became aware of his criminal activities, McCauley finally gets word of Waingro's location whilst traveling with Eady to the airport to flee to New Zealand. He quickly confronts Waingro and kills him before heading back to Eady, only to catch Hanna perusing him upon arriving. With a change of heart, McCauley abandons Eady and soon engages in a final showdown against Vincent. In the ensuing confrontation, McCauley takes refugee until a interfering circumstance from a plane and lights causes him to expose his position, allowing Hanna to mortally wound him with a few gunshots. In his last moments, McCauley has one last conversation with Hanna and reciprocates into taking his hand just before he succumbs to his wounds and dies peacefully.


McCauley is a career criminal who is perfectly honorable towards both himself and his crew; though it depends whenever he is doing this to motivate them into focusing on their next heist.

Despite his interaction with his crew and Eady along with Hanna later on, McCauley appears to be living in a solitary life as he lost his family while he was convicted before becoming a criminal. Because of this, McCauley would go on to accept his fate against Hanna after taking care of every loose ends that infuriated his life.


  • Although considered to be the film's primary antagonist, Neil appears solely as the protagonist villain who acts as an anti-hero as well as a sympathetic villain due to his respectable nature, while his latest recruit Waingro appears a lot more sinister and violent than McCauley.
    • Because of this, Waingro appears as the true main villain of the movie since he had bigger plans and acted a lot more dangerous than McCauley himself.

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