Who is Michael Mann?

Michael Mann is my favorite film director of all time. Watching, observing and relieving a Michael Mann movie is like being involved in some realistic stylish awesome voyage, in which you will be engaged with the poetics of the cinema in the grandest of possible ways. From the splendid and elegant of HEAT, to the raw and tribal of The Last of the Mohicans. From the groovy and impressionistic of ALI, to the mysterious and lyrical Collateral, Michael Mann is the perfect film director. I admit that I’m not watching The Keep yet, but in my personal encyclopedia, Michael Mann’s is the only director that never disappoint me. He always live to the hype. Every single one of his movie is like a Pure cinematic excitement that actually matters and can be as mainstream as Martin Scorsese’s or Brian De Palma’s and at the same as classy and artsy as Akira Kurosawa’s or David Lynch’s

The most important part of Michael Mann’s way of film making is his visual approach. While other great directors like Burton, Del Toro, Lynch or even Scorsese often shoot their movie just like the equivalent of their own personal painting or storybook, Michael Mann takes it the other way. Mann is giving fiction the REALITY ink from the visualization point of view that every movie actually need, to make it believable and feels like a real world story that could happen right here right now in front of us. There’s no single film in the mainstream cinema that breathe realistic oxygen of life like Michael Mann’s. Even in an absurd script like MIAMI VICE feature film, he still get the style, attitude, the music, the combat/action done right and once again, believable.

Other huge point of his visual approach is Michael Mann’s sense of urban hip or attitude. Its like Michael Mann know how to make something look very urban, and icy cold in a very cool way. In HEAT, Mann manage to create a very large criminal city stories that maintain its poetic sense in the subplot(one of the Christopher Nolan The Dark Knight Inspiration), powered by minimalist take on Neil McCauley’s place and a spectacular fight-to-the-death in the climactic moments on an beautiful airplane runway. In COLLATERAL, Mann manage to transform the disconnected city of angels into 2003’s version of Blade Runner’s Los Angeles. MIAMI VICE makes me came out of the movie feeling like I wanted to go clubbing, drink Mojito’s and driving around Miami in a Ferrari accompanied by Phil Collins’s in the Air Tonight.

Airport Scene from "Heat"


Miami Skyline thru Viper Digital Camera in Miami Vice

Visualization maybe Mann’s greatest arsenal. Still, we are talking about Movies, not commercial for some random product. Film with great visualization or cinematography is a major crap without a great script/story or acting. But believe me when I say, I’m yet to find a very bad or even good but pretentious from any Mann’s movie. MIAMI VICE plot might be silly, dumbed down, and detached, but it get covered by solid performance from Farrel, Foxx(contrary to majority people, I love the duo and Colin Farrel Haircut) and Gong Li, even the chemistry between them is almost zero. My feelings of PUBLIC ENEMIES might be too Johnny Deep-Bad version-esque, but the very authentic script and excellent performance of Contilard and Christian Bale covered its flaws. Aside from that two minor error, every single Michael Mann’s movie is filled with acting powerhouse and great script. MANHUNTER introduces us to the very underrated performance of Brian Cox as the great Hannibal Lecter, and comparing this film to the 2003’s version(Red Dragon) is like comparing Infernal Affairs to the Departed. Even by the time this entry is written, Russell Crowe’s performance in THE INSIDER is still his very best. And no need to dispute what many have written about Al Pacino, this is the actor that give 187 percent of his performance in every single movie he’s acted no matter how stupid the movie is(Gigli and Simone). Putting him in Michael Mann’s movie is like placing a bet on Mike Tyson if Tyson is boxing against random blind old man. THE INSIDER is totally devoid of sex, violence, gunshots, car chases, huge explosions, cliches’ or cute furry animals, but it is the strongest, most-intense and most-absorbing Mann’s movie in term of storyline. Its like you’re living in the deeper emotions, philosophies, and motivations of Lowell Bergman and Jeffrey Wigand. COLLATERAL, my number one favorite movie of all time teach me that Tom Cruise can act and at the same time didn’t activated his over-acting mode. I guess Cruise will never get an Oscar, because this is his best performance, EVER. I can go on and on about COLLATERAL, but this is a Michael Mann’s Article. THIEF, is a rare a thriller film that has a lot of character development and also retains a fast pace throughout. While in current time, that kind of movie doesn’t uncommon anymore, THIEFprobably the first one that attempt to do it in a very accurate way in terms technicality.

Even though I tell you that Michael’s Mann movie is as mainstream as Martin Scorsese’s, De Palma’s or even Ridley Scott’s,  its still hard to find some movie goers that really worship Mann’s work like I did, at least in my country. People tend to treat Michael Mann’s movie in the same level as any other director that specialized in action or fast cut modern technique directors like Anthony Fuqua or Tony Scott. Don’t get me wrong, those are fine directors. But Mann’s power is way classier and cutting edge than everybody else. Probably the reason Mann’s movie not as famous as any major five stars movie because not a lot of people could get the quick cuts, unconventional camera angle, the true meaning behind Mann’s poetic shots, or authentic real sound of guns. Or is it because Michael Mann’s movie didn’t have any imaginary fantasy to sell and powered only by realistic and authentic detailed script? Whatever it is, I already get Michael Mann. And ever since he change the way I view movie, I never look cinematography the same way again and made me comparing almost every single aspect of other movie to Michael Mann’s. He set the standard.

My top 10 Favorite Michael Mann’s Film Moment

  1.  Club Scene, Collateral.
  2. Opening Scene, Ali
  3. Opening Scene, Miami Vice, Theatrical Edition
  4. Legendary Meeting between De Niro and Pacino, Heat
  5. Chasing The Bandit, Christian Bale’s First Appearance, Public Enemies
  6. Hunt Scene between Cruise and Jada Pinket Smith, Collateral
  7. How to get close to your enemies, Harbor Scene, Heat
  8. Wigand television appearance, The Insider
  9. Silent Combat and QCC brawl without music, Miami Vice
  10. Burn the British, The Last of the Mohicans


Filed under Movies

5 responses to “Who is Michael Mann?

  1. awrenfro

    Nice to see another Michael Mann fan. I am about to run some stuff on him myself. I watched Manhunter yesterday and I was just blown away, again, by the power of that movie. Best Hannibal movie out there, in my opinion.

  2. I like your description that Mann brings an element of urban class to his films. I think that is a very apt description.
    Also, I think your description of COLLATERAL as BLADE RUNNER depiction of LA is pretty interesting. I’ll have to go back and watch both movies to compare them.
    That being said, Mann’s PUBLIC ENEMIES never really impressed me. Mann’s films always seem deliberate, confident, and with clear direction. Personally, PUBLIC ENEMIES seemed to amble and meander. Of course, maybe I’m being too harsh.

    • You’ll find something interesting and new every time you’re going back and put another two hours in any Michael Mann’s movies.

      Yap. But still, even though Public Enemies not the usual Michael Mann’s good package, it’s still a decent flick compared to other shitty Hollywood trash. You gotta love the high definition cinematography that Mann used which perfectly captured the essence of criminal’s life in 1920-1930’s. Meander? That sounds right.
      Thanks for reading, man. Glad to know another Mann’s fan.

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