Discovering good movies, one bad movie at a time

If your chief hope from the movies is that they tell well-crafted stories in a logically committed way, then no, Blackhat probably would not seem very good. The script by Morgan Davis Foehl isn’t deficient, so much as it is vary puffy and disorganised, with no end to its dragged-out moments and inefficiencies, including a […]

The first thing I must get off my chest: if Public Enemies demonstrates anything, it’s that Michael Mann’s infatuation with high-definition video is becoming quite diabolical. When he used digital cameras to shoot Collateral, it made sense and it worked tremendously well; when he did the same for Miami Vice, it at the very least […]

Now for a very special moment in my Michael Mann retrospective: the first (and only) film that I’ve discussed on this blog before. Back in 2006, I was quite befuddled by Miami Vice, finding the narrative to be so messy that it almost had to be on purpose. Now, having tunneled through so much of […]

Michael Mann rebounded from 2001’s slack Ali with a film that – though you might not think it at first – is probably the most experimental and innovative of his career. 2004’s Collateral, though in some narrative respects a rather common thing, was one of the few films of the Age of Digital Filmmaking (maybe […]


And then the wave rolled back: after The Insider, in all its outsized magnificence, Michael Mann has never again made a film of such caliber. An indication of the state where he career landed itself in the ’00s can perhaps be squirreled out of the fact that for his 2001 follow-up (the two-year gap between […]

Even as Heat was hot of the presses, Michael Mann was already gearing up for his next project: it was in late 1995 that an professional acquaintance of his named Lowell Bergman, an investigating reporter for 60 Minutes, was caught up in a nasty bit of business concerning a former Big Tobacco executive gone whistleblower, […]

Confession time: when I first came up with the idea for this whole big Michael Mann retrospective, there was one overriding motivation for it. See, I was super-excited for the impending Public Enemies, but I couldn’t really explain why. “You have no reason to be enthusiastic for a Mann film,” I told myself. “You liked […]

Three years of silence followed the flat, tossed-off L.A. Takedown, in which Michael Mann wrote nothing, directed nothing, and produced very little – the longest period of inactivity in his career to that point. Then came 1992, and the release of what probably counts as the most atypical entry in Mann’s whole corpus: The Last […]

As I probably should have mentioned in reviewing Manhunter, Michael Mann didn’t just spend the 1980s directing movies – in fact, it’s probably the case that for half of the decade, he wasn’t even primarily thought of as a filmmaker. From 1984 until 1990, Mann was executive producer on the hugely popular TV cop show […]

And now we come to an important moment indeed in the development of Michael Mann’s directorial personality: his first experiment with film vocabulary. In this latter part of his career, he’s become famous – infamous, in some circles – for being an arch-stylist, which is a simpler way of saying that he likes to bend […]

In hindsight, knowing the kind of film that Michael Mann “ought” to make, The Keep seems like an inexplicably bizarre tangent for the future director of Heat and Collateral, wedged into his filmography like a square peg in a round hole to a degree that The Last of the Mohicans dares not even dream about. […]

Michael Mann’s first theatrical feature (in the United States, anyhow), Thief, has something of a reputation for being the Mann film that Mann fanciers haven’t quite gotten around to seeing even though they know that they ought to, because it’s supposed to be really good. Which, if it isn’t true that it’s really good, that’s […]