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The Essential Michael Mann

Last updated on: August 07, 2009 

The Essential Michael Mann

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Raja Sen

He's back.

Michael Mann is now 66, and his latest film, Public Enemies, hits Indian theatres this Friday.

In case you haven't caught up with the director's work, here are the essential Mann DVDs:

Heat

Part of the punch Heat packs is because of the awesome casting. Robert De Niro plays the gangster, Al Pacino plays the cop. And somewhere in the middle Val Kilmer stands, weilding a gun.

The cat-and-mouse crime film has never been as palpably explosive, and this saw both Bobby and Al at the heights of their respective talents, even if they were only given one scene together. The dialogue crackles with intensity and the actors work it beautifully.


Image: A scene from Heat

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The Insider

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Mann did brilliantly in The Insider, a true story of an expos of the American tobacco industry. Russell Crowe shines in a career-defining performance as a tobacco industry whistleblower, while Al Pacino provides journalistic muscle as firebrand journalist Lowell Bergman.

The screenwriting is a delight, as is Dante Spinotti's intrusive cinematography, taking the viewer right under the skin of the squirming subjects.


Image: A scene from The Insider

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Ali

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You have to hand it to Michael Mann for picking comedic action star Will Smith and throwing him in at the deep end. Smith plays Cassius Clay, later known as Mohammed Ali, in this searing dramatic biopic.

There are some scenes where Smith is startlingly good, as are Mario Van Peebles as Malcolm X and Mykelti Williamson as Don King, and even this film might not in entirety deliver a knockout punch, the acting certainly does.


Image: A scene from Ali

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Manhunter

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Many have tackled the Hannibal Lector character in cinema -- most notably Anthony Hopkins in The Silence Of The Lambs -- but Mann's film is arguably a grittier take on the character, here played by Brian Cox.

The 1986 film has a very 'television' look, from the unsaturated palette to the synth-driven soundtrack, helping the viewer relate to the film as from a different era, immediately establishing an almost factual, seen-before air of credibility to the proceedings.

The film wasn't a commercial success but remains, to many, the definitive Hannibal movie.


Image: A scene from Manhunter

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Collateral

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There are very few directors better equipped to handle the fierce animosity contained between the lines in a truly well-written cat and mouse encounter, and Michael Mann takes Tom Cruise and paints him villainous in this undeniably engaging film about an assassin and a cabdriver, the latter played by Jamie Foxx.

The dialogues are sharp as a tack, the film's finest scene far, far removed from an explosive climax: it's in a jazz bar, talking about Miles Davis over a drink. Nice.


Image: A scene from Collateral

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