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So word on the street, it's okay to steal my stuff. I'm gonna kill the sons of bitches!
~ Roger van Zant declares his intention to kill Neil McCauley.

Roger Van Zant is the secondary antagonist of the epic 1995 crime-thriller film Heat.

He is an illegitimate businessman and a money launderer who was formerly the employer of career criminal Neil McCauley and his crew, but later double-crossed them when he attempted to have McCauley killed.

He was portrayed by William Fichtner, who also played the Bank Manager in The Dark Knight, The Accountant in Drive Angry, Butch Cavendish in The Lone Ranger and Eric Sacks in the 2014 TMNT film.

History

Roger Van Zant is a businessman who uses his legitimate business, Malibu Equity Investments, to handle investment portfolios for offshore money laundering and drug money. One of his armored cars carrying $1.6 million in bearer bonds is robbed by career criminal Neil McCauley and his crew. 

Though covered by insurance, Van Zant seemingly agrees to an offer to buy back the stolen bearer bonds from McCauley's fence Nate - thereby profiting off the robbery. In reality, however, he plans to have McCauley killed at the meeting - as he does not want word to get out that it is safe to rob him. This fails, however, and McCauley vows revenge against Van Zant.

Hiding in his office in fear for his life, Van Zant is approached by McCauley's rogue ex-crew member Waingro and the two form an alliance against McCauley. On Van Zant’s behalf, Waingro captures the wife of McCauley’s crew member Trejo to force the latter in leaking information on McCauley's next heist. Van Zant subsequently discloses the heist which Van Zant leaks to the police led by Lt. Vincent Hanna. This leads to the police ambushing the robbers as they leave the bank heist, resulting in a street gunfight that involves the deaths of both one of Hanna's fellow lieutenants and two of McCauley's crewmates.

In the heist's aftermath, McCauley suspects that Trejo has turned against him and goes to confront him at his own - only for find Trejo's wife dead and Trejo himself gravely injured after being tortured by Waingro. However, Trejo manages to implicate both Waingro and Van Zant in the incident to McCauley. Shortly afterwards, McCauley then executes Trejo to end his suffering at his own request.

McCauley executes Van Zant.

Thereafter McCauley goes to confront Van Zant at his home. He does so by breaking into Van Zant's house and holds him at gunpoint, before demanding to know where Waingro is. A shocked Van Zant insists he doesn’t know where Waingro is, just before McCauley then shoots him to death. Van Zant's death is later learned of by Hanna, who uses this opportunity to eventually kill McCauley just moments after the latter had ended up killing Waingro upon locating him. 

Personality

Roger Van Zant is arrogant and egotistical for a successfully illegitimate businessman. He also develops a self-serving and domineering streak when he sets-up his deal with Neil McCauley by trying to have him and his crewmates killed. In addition to this, Van Zant is majorly responsible for the ongoing events of the film when he conspires with Waingro to eliminate McCauley - regardless of whether or not Van Zant became aware of just how sadistic Waingro truly is from start to finish.

The moment Van Zant conspired with Waingro only added to his paranoid contemplations that McCauley would come after him for his betrayal.

Trivia

  • Despite having a fairly small role in terms of screentime, he plays a significant role in driving the action, as the heist of his armored car starts the film, and he later conspires with Waingro to tip off the police to McCauley’s next heist, which causes the street shootout which is a major sequence in the film.