Welcome to Dissected, where we disassemble a band’s catalog, a director’s filmography, or some other critical pop-culture collection in the abstract. It’s exact science by way of a few beers. This time, we sort through the best and worst of The Mann. This list has been republished for Mann’s 80th birthday.
Watch enough Michael Mann films and you’re likely to become a professional at something. The Chicago filmmaker has long been a perfectionist fascinated with the lives of safecrackers, bank robbers, profilers, undercover cops, hitmen, and producers. Ever the scholar, he’s also studied the divine historical legacy of Ali, Dillinger, and the French and Indian War. It’s just his thing.
Simply put, Mann tells the stories he wants told. Which is possibly why the majority of his films are all distributed by different studios and companies. His strict conviction is something he shares with his own male protagonists, those tortured souls who act on their own accord despite the consequences that may be waiting for them.
Yet those risks explain why he’s cited as one of the greatest directors in American cinema and why his style and techniques are so often imitated. Christopher Nolan? David Fincher? Young auteurs like Nicholas Winding Refn? Most of their visual motifs (and even many of their aural cues) share a DNA with Mann’s long line of work.
Today is the 25th anniversary of his magnum opus Heat. In celebration, we’ve rounded up all of his feature-length films*, dissected ’em, and ranked each one for your leisure. It’s just you and me now, sport. And I’m going to teach you, goddamn it.
— Michael Roffman
*Know that we ultimately decided to avoid his television work, which means you won’t see his landmark small-screen wins like The Jericho Mile, Crime Story, or Miami Vice. Though, you should certainly seek it all out at some point in the future.