The Unheralded Brilliance of Michael Mann on Satellite TV


Michael Mann may not be a household name around the world, but anywhere in Hollywood his name has come to mean pure gold. From his early days as an Executive Producer of the Miami Vice series to his production of Hancock starring Will Smith, Mann boasts a brilliant resume in the art of cinema. Many of his masterpieces are now showing on satellite TV movie packages.

Among Mann’s efforts is Heat, the detective vs. expert thief showdown that starred Al Pacino and Robert De Niro often shown on HBO HD networks. Heat was the first film in which De Niro and Pacino acted together at the same time (previously, in The Godfather, they appeared in different time periods). Also starring Tom Sizemore and Val Kilmer, Heat features a tense tete-a-tete between the two leads who try to outfox each other in their respective trades. Neither is cast in a definitively good or bad light, especially Pacino’s character, the cop with a ruined household. Ashley Judd delivers a great performance of her own, as Kilmer’s wife who looks out for her own interests in a male-dominated crime culture. Mann set himself apart from his peers with his excellent direction of the cast.

Previously, Mann had the credit of bringing to the screen one of cinema’s most notorious characters in Hannibal Lecter. Manhunter, written and directed by Mann and released in 1986, introduced this complex villain to viewers around the world. Had it starred Anthony Hopkins, Mann might be as famous as Martin Scorsese. However, Brian Cox’s performance is as nuanced as they come. If you haven’t seen this fascinating film, check your satellite TV program guide and compare Cox’s Lecter to Hopkins.

Mann continues his amazing run with The Insider starring Russell Crowe as the tobacco industry whistle blower and Pacino again, this time as a 60 Minutes producer trying to get the story told. Mann’s tense direction and handling of these massive actors’ egos earned him the respect of his peers with seven Academy Award nominations.

Proving he could repeatedly deliver with A-list stars, Mann made Collateral with Tom Cruise. Not the typical pretty Tom in this film, Cruise plays a chilling professional assassin who hijacks a taxi driven by Jamie Foxx in a night of murders. Shot in a high definition video format, perfect for the scenes in L.A.’s twilight, Mann showcased that tropical noir feeling first seen on the Miami Vice series.

As a final statement on one of his creations, Mann next directed the film version of Vice starring Colin Farrell as Crockett and Foxx as Tubbs. Proving he doesn’t shy away from the Hollywood blockbuster — and will definitely put his personal stamp on any project — Mann shot on locations from South America to south Florida to recreate the classic series.

Mann’s upcoming projects have names like Leonardo DiCaprio and Johnny Depp attached, promising to be more of Hollywood’s best material. In the meantime, the movie packages of satellite TV can deliver his best work already in the can.

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