I generally like Michael Mann’s movies. I grew up with Miami Vice and although I was much younger and easier to impress back then I remember it, for the most part, fondly. As the years went on I remember the show became weirder – like pre-X-Files weirder – and it served as my introduction to Mann’s Post Modern Noir chic that stretched my patience but also my mind at the time.
Next up was Manhunter, a movie I saw when it first came out on video probably not too long after Miami Vice had ceased to exist. I remember being pretty entranced by segments of the film, especially the denouement featuring Iron Butterfly’s Inna-Gadda-Da-Vida, (an album I immediately pilfered from my father’s L.P. collection* and used to seed my eventual love of altered states). And at an age where I didn’t pay attention to directors yet I knew inherently Manhunter was the work of the same man who had done Vice. This essentially made Michael Mann the first director I ‘followed’. Years later I would at first refuse the post-Silence of the Lambs remake Red Dragon based on my love of Mann’s version. I refused it that is until one night in a hotel I would see Dragon and find it unmistakably superior due to A) its lack of faux-actor extraordinaire William Peterson (remember, ‘Haunches’ from what? my second blog here) and the marvelous ‘Painting-eating’ scene.
Heat lost me. I remember seeing it opening day, not too long after Casino, same year, and feeling like it was maybe five times as long as Scorsese’s Casino, which I believe was actually longer. Compared to Casino, or pretty much any other crime movie ever, Heat was like ‘wow, there’s too many characters, Pacino sucks** and convoluted doesn’t even begin to describe this mess. I remember thinking despite the Heavy Hitting cast that Heat might have been Mann’s last film for a while if anybody ever found out his secret – because clearly he must have killed and buried his editor to prevent him from chopping some fucking sense into the super-stylized mess. However, the whole world seemed to love Heat based on such trivialities as ‘Wow, we finally get Pacino and Deniro together again’, regardless of the fact that both were beginning their decline from greatness. All I could do at the time was nod my head and say, ‘Ah, yeah. Say, those machine guns sounded fucking awesome on the big screen but otherwise…”
After Heat I tried Thief with James Caan – no dice. I won’t comment because it’s been a long time and maybe I’d get it now, or at least be able to analyze why I didn’t.
What else? Insider – great. Gave me chills at times. Another I’m not as familiar with so I’ll hold off, but I definitely felt it was a plus.
Then came the good time…
Collateral was one of those flicks I wanted to dislike because
I always want to dislike Cruise Missile Tom but I’m sorry, it was
great. A wicked example of the kind of genius and atmosphere Mann is
more than capable of producing while hitting every expected mark –
artistic, but not too much; commercial appeal? Check. And that
Post Modern Noir? BIGTIME. That scene with the coyote in the road –
Collateral led right into another win in my book, the revamp of his
earlier concept Miami Vice. Old concept streamlined and removed from the 80’s time warp the show no doubt would be if we watched it now, Miami Vice was another in the realm of Collateral and Mann seemed
to be finding his groove – and reanimating his editor.
Imagine then my surprise when I went to see Public Enemies recently and had the exact same reactions to it that I did to Heat over ten years ago. Of course this time it’s Bale who sucks (someone lock him in a fucking room until the next Dark Knight, please!?!), another editor must have disappeared from Hollywood (unless the drunken Soderbergh-esque technique employed is the work of someone other than the director’s ego) and well, the machine guns still sound awesome on the big screen (but the dialogue often disappears to a low-volume hum at the front of house, which in thinking about it, may have been a tactic to hide Bale’s lack of interest and Marion Cotillard’s ridiculous attempt at a, ha, excuse me, hahahaha, Chicago accent? I don’t hold this against her per se, it’s just one of those things I can’t believe a movie that cost this much by an obviously talented man got through quality control.
Do yourself a favor, go see Ice Age 2 in 3D instead, I wish I had. I’m sure the CG banalities will be through the roof, but hey, at least they’re cartoons and their in 3D. What’s Bale’s fucking excuse?
Two thumbs sawed off and impacted firmly up Bruce Wayne’s ass.
* One of about three rock records surrounded by the likes of things it would take me years hence to appreciate, ie Burt Bacharach and the Chambers Brothers
** WHOO-AHH Bitch!!!