Tag Archives: Michael Mann

Heat (1995) Review

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Heat

Time:  170 minutes
Age Rating: 860949[1] Violence & offensive language
Cast:
Al Pacino as Lieutenant Vincent Hanna
Robert De Niro as Neil McCauley
Val Kilmer as Chris Shiherlis
Jon Voight as Nate
Tom Sizemore as Michael Cheritto
Diane Venora as Justine Hanna
Amy Brenneman as Eady
Ashley Judd as Charlene Shiherlis
Mykelti Williamson as Sergeant Bobby Drucker
Wes Studi as Lieutenant Sammy Casals
Ted Levine as Detective Mike Bosko
Director: Michael Mann

Lieutenant Hanna (Al Pacino), a detective, decides to catch a highly intelligent seasonal criminal (Robert de Niro) who has vowed to pull off one last robbery before he retires for good.

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Michael Mann’s Heat is one of the most significant films of the 90s. I remember watching the movie for the first time many years ago, I remembered liking it quite a bit, but not much more beyond that. Having rewatched Heat now, it was actually way better than I remember. It’s a long yet fantastic crime thriller from beginning to end, directed excellently, and with an engrossing story and great performances.

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The screenplay for Heat is fantastic, the story is nothing short of intense, suspenseful and engrossing from its opening scene all the way to the end credits. The 2 hour and 50 minutes runtime is admittedly a bit daunting especially going into the movie for the first time, but the time flew by so fast and it never dragged because of its fast paced story. It’s really impressive how many small details about characters and the plot are really conveyed here. The movie also has a lot of subplots, but surprisingly they don’t feel overdone, instead they added quite a lot to the film. The dialogue is also amazing, there are so many stand out scenes of characters just talking. Looking at the premise, Heat could’ve easily fallen into the same category that other cops and robbers movies fall into. Despite the genre it is in, Heat makes an effort to stay clear of cliches. Michael Mann adds a great amount of humility and realism to the story and characters. Each character is fleshed out fantastically, even the smaller side characters. It may be a crime film, but it deals with a lot more than just the crime and robberies, it is very much a character driven movie. The story is especially great with how it treats its lead two characters. Heat is essentially the fascinating story of two men who are consumed with what they do and share striking similarities despite being on opposite sides of the law, playing a game of cat and mouse and utilising their talents to stay one step ahead. The movie itself is already very thrilling to watch as a crime thriller, but its also compelling watching their relationships to their occupations and personal lives. It really is a tale of lonely people within their own fields slowly touch with the world around them, it is more melancholy than you’d initially expect it to be. The final act is pretty much perfection, as the chase comes to an end in a satisfying climax.

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Heat is known for being the first movie where Al Pacino and Robert de Niro are in the same movie and share screentime together. The acting from the two is excellent, both fitting their characters very well. Al Pacino is explosive and magnetic as Hanna the cop, and Pacino really gives him such a depth that makes him one of the actor’s most fleshed out characters. Robert de Niro as McCauley the thief is thorough and collected, and he has such a great on-screen presence. These two legendary actors don’t share much screen time in the film, but the movie does a good job at making you really wait and anticipate it. The iconic café scene where the two finally meet face to face for the first time is spectacular, I won’t say much more beyond that as everything that can be said about that moment has been said already. From the basic setup of characters, it could be easy for any filmmaker to turn Hanna into a hero figure and McCauley into an antagonistic force, but Mann and the two actors never lets the film succumb to this, and they did a good job at not making it purely black and white all the way through with regard to their characters. The rest of the cast are great, in fact this movie is stacked to the roof with stars. The cast includes Val Kilmer, Jon Voight, Tom Sizemore, Ted Levine and more, all of them playing their parts very well.

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Michael Mann’s direction is simply fantastic through and through. First of all, Dante Spinotti’s cinematography is mesmerising and gorgeous. Every scene is beautiful to watch, especially the scenes that take place at night. Heat is especially known for its heist sequences and for very good reason. They are spectacularly directed, tense, and full of adrenaline, and they also feel so realistic. The sound design is excellent, with the sounds of loud bullets and the clicks of the guns and more being almost deafening, in a good way. Additionally, Heat has a fantastic score from Elliot Goldenthal, which can be very tense but it also knows when to be calm and serene based off the moments its used in.

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Michael Mann has directed many outstanding films but Heat really is his magnum opus, and it’s easy to see why its so iconic and had a massive influence on other movies made since then. It really is fantastic on all fronts with writing, directing and acting, all of it is pretty much perfection. Absolutely essential viewing.

Manhunter (1986) Review

Time: 120 minutes
Age Rating: 860949[1]
Cast:
William Petersen as Will Graham
Tom Noonan as Francis Dollarhyde
Dennis Farina as Jack Crawford
Kim Greist as Molly Graham
Brian Cox as Dr. Hannibal Lecktor
Joan Allen as Reba McClane
Stephen Lang as Freddy Lounds
Director: Michael Mann

FBI criminal profiler Will Graham (William L. Petersen) is called out of early retirement to assist on a serial murder case involving a killer known as the “Tooth Fairy” (Tom Noonan). Graham enlists the help of imprisoned serial killer — and cannibal — Dr. Hannibal Lecktor (Brian Cox), who is the reason Graham took an early retirement. Soon, Graham and the FBI are entangled in a deadly cat-and-mouse game between the Tooth Fairy, Lecktor and an interfering journalist (Stephen Lang).

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Manhunter is a movie I’d been meaning to get around to for some time. What I knew was that it was the first adaptation of a Hannibal Lecter book, that being of Red Dragon, and that it was directed by Michael Mann. I wanted to check it out, I like most of Mann’s movies (the ones I’ve seen at least), and it was the only live action Hannibal Lector adaption I hadn’t gotten around to yet. I will admit that although it’s decent, it didn’t completely work for me, and I do have my issues. Nonetheless I don’t regret watching it, and I think it’s worth a watch.

It is worth pointing out that Manhunter came well before the name Hannibal Lecter (or the other characters) was a cinematic household name. With this movie, they took the story of Red Dragon and took it in their own direction, and I at least admire that they wanted to do their own thing with it. I won’t hammer in my problems with how it’s different, just the ones where I find the changes made the story less compelling. It seems much more procedural and less psychological, and with that it didn’t really interest me as much. For the most part across its 2 hour runtime, Manhunter is well paced enough, but at times it can feel a little drawn out. The most disappointing part of the movie was the third act. The climax is an incredibly simple fight, even putting aside the fact that it was much different from how the book handled things, it was much less compelling and was simplified. While most of the movie was a bit of a slow burn, the climax of just being this conventional fight scene just didn’t fit in with the tone for me and felt really out of place.

William Peterson plays Will Graham, I thought Edward Norton was good in the Red Dragon movie as Graham but Peterson really seemed to embody what I imagined him to be in the books a little more. He seemed like a troubled person who really gets inside the killer’s mind, and that really seemed to take a toll on him. I really liked a lot of the ways that they portrayed him in the movie, like the possibility that he could go over the edge and turn into one of the killers that he’s hunting down. Hannibal Lecktor (not spelt as Lecter in this version) is played by Brian Cox, who receives as much screentime here as he did in the Red Dragon book (if not less), which is to say not very much. While I still love Mads Mikkelsen and Anthony Hopkins’s versions more, Cox’s version is no doubt unforgettable and one of my favourite parts of the movie. If you were to ask me what a real life version of Hannibal Lecter would be, I’d say it would be this version. He’s not as overtly charismatic as you’d expect, he’s a fast talker, and seems more natural, yet incredibly intelligent. Not overtly scary but nonetheless chilling in how real he feels. Tom Noonan plays the main killer Francis Dolarhyde/Tooth Fairy, surprisingly you don’t see him until much later on in the movie. It’s definitely a much more eerie version than other versions of the character on screen, and Noonan plays the role well. Joan Allen plays Reba, a blind woman who becomes a love interest of Dolarhyde. I wasn’t really a fan of how the relationship was handled, it felt so underdeveloped and you really felt nothing for it, so there wasn’t even any tension throughout. The movie and mini series definitely handled that aspect better. It’s hard not to spoil it, but let’s just say that there’s less conflict with Francis in this version, and so overall I just didn’t find it as interesting. He seemed to be at the same stage throughout the story, and he ended up being more interesting offscreen in the first half than he was when he was on screen. To the film’s credit, his presence in the first half of the movie was very effective and that was an aspect that was handled very well.

Michael Mann’s direction was one of the standout parts of the movie. If you’ve seen any of his other movies, you can tell just from the cinematography that he directed Manhunter. Despite the great look to the movie, some of the sets and production design at time was a little lacklustre. I’m aware this is the 80s and I didn’t necessarily expect the environments to be particularly flashy, but some of the surroundings looked kind of bland at points. The score for the most part worked but other aspects of the music were just silly, especially towards the last act with some horrendous song choices.

Manhunter is pretty good for what it is. As for how I feel about it compared to Red Dragon (the 2002 adaptation), the latter generally sticks closer to the book and storywise does things I like more than Manhunter. With that said, Manhunter has a lot of merit to it as well. It is separate from the book and it really is its own movie, and you have to be aware of that going in, I was and I liked it mostly for what it was. It’s directed pretty well by Michael Mann, the cast is good, and it was certainly an interesting take on the source material. I definitely recommend at least checking it out, even if you still like the other Hannibal adaptations more.

Collateral (2004) Review

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Collateral

Time: 120 Minutes
Age Rating: 2773-o[1] Violence
Cast:
Tom Cruise as Vincent
Jamie Foxx as Max
Jada Pinkett Smith as Annie
Mark Ruffalo as Fanning
Director: Michael Mann

Max Durocher (Jamie Foxx) is a night-shift cab driver in Los Angeles. One night, he picks up a passenger named Vincent (Tom Cruise) who seems like another ordinary passenger. But when he drops Vincent off at his location and waits for him as asked, a body falls on his cab, and it becomes clear that Vincent is actually a hitman, and he’s got four more stops to make. Max is forced to drive Vincent around the City of L.A., unsure if he’ll live to see sunrise.

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Collateral is one of those rare surprising movies that come around every so often: a movie that can balance character, action and dialogue at the same time. The concept of the movie seems pretty straight forward but it also has many complex ideas that are put into play. This movie isn’t quite an action movie, even though it has action in it, it’s more of a thriller. Whenever there aren’t any action scenes, the dialogue has to carry the movie. Fortunately, the dialogue between characters is well written. The two main characters are the most developed in the movie and are the most interesting. Like I said earlier on, this is not an action movie, so a lot of the time you will be hearing Max and Vincent talk but the action scenes are also placed in the right times. The story takes quite a few twists and turns. The film mostly follows Foxx’s character and occasionally follows Mark Ruffalo who plays a detective investigating the murders happening.

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Jamie Foxx is really good in this movie. This movie and Ray (2004) helped him get more noticed and his performance here rightfully earned him an Oscar Nomination for Best Supporting Actor (The same year he won for Best Actor for Ray). The most surprising performance in this movie came from Tom Cruise. It’s rare to find Tom Cruise in the role of the antagonist of a movie, with the possible exception of Interview with the Vampire (1994). This truly is Cruise’s best performance and is quite possibly the most fascinating character he has played. In his conversations with Max, hints of some of his past are implied, instead of just telling us, which allows the audience to speculate who he really is. Even some of the supporting cast like Jada Pinkett-Smith and Mark Ruffalo are really good, for what little amounts of scenes they were in.

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If you watch this movie, you will notice that the look is quite different to most movies. One of the best things about Michael Mann as a director is that he can make a movie look incredible. The city of LA looks beautiful under his direction and gives it a presence, and almost makes it a third character to Foxx and Cruise’s. Arguably the best filmed sequence is the one taking place inside a night club. He gets to play with a lot of lighting effects and it seems to flow smoothly. It there’s one thing I can say about the cinematography in this film, it’s that it flows and it never seems abrupt. The sound effects are very realistic, Michael Mann is known for having gunshot sound effects louder than most action movies such as movies as Heat and Public Enemies. The soundtrack is picked out well and each song is perfect for the moment. It goes from Green Car Motel, to Audioslave, to music composed by James Newton Howard and so on. All of these things combine to make the film seem almost dreamlike and wondrous, as well as puncturing the moments with the realistic gunshots.

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Collateral works as both as a suspenseful thriller and a character study. From the unique style to the fantastic acting from everyone, this makes a movie that is worth watching. A truly underrated and overlooked film, it deserves more attention than it has received. It is more of a thriller than an action flick but still is very entertaining as either, along with being an investing watch.