Michael Kenneth Mann (born February 5, 1943) is an acclaimed filmmaker, writer and producer. He's best known for his work in television (notably Miami Vice) and in the genre of crime drama, often taking place in cities which are explored in loving detail.
He's a major proponent of digital cinematography, having shot Collateral, Miami Vice and Public Enemies with High-Definition video cameras rather than 35mm film cameras. His visual style and action sequences are equally famous and distinctive.
If you were thinking of a different Michael Mann, such as the climate scientist, Wikipedia may be able to help you.
His filmography includes:
- The Jericho Mile (TV movie) - 1979
- Thief - 1981
- The Keep - 1983
- Miami Vice - The series (1984) and The Movie Miami Vice (2006)
- Crime Story (TV series) - 1986
- Manhunter - 1986
- L.A. Takedown - 1989
- The Last of the Mohicans - 1992
- Heat - 1995, a loose remake of L.A. Takedown.
- The Insider - 1999
- Ali - 2001
- Robbery Homicide Division (TV series) - 2002
- Collateral - 2004
- Public Enemies - 2009
- Luck (TV series) - 2011
- Blackhat - 2015
Tropes common in his work include:
- All There in the Manual: A lot of character traits are explained in depth on the DVD commentary or in detailed character profiles he writes for the cast.
- Badass in a Nice Suit: John Dillinger being only the latest. His antagonists generally wear nice suits, with Magua being an exception.
- Bittersweet Ending / Downer Ending: Frequently the end of his films.
- Byronic Hero: Many of his heroes.
- Cool Guns: Commonly found in his work.
- Dyeing for Your Art: If a character is supposed to wield a firearm, he makes them go through a full-blown multi-month tactical boot camp. For Blackhat, he had Chris Hemsworth take a course on computer programming to make his hacking scenes more realistic. For Collateral, he had Tom Cruise work on being good with disguises. For Miami Vice, Mann had co-stars Jamie Foxx and Colin Farrell observe real FBI drug busts, and Farrell was unknowingly put through a simulated drug bust to test how well he could act as an undercover Vice officer.
- Electronic Music: Notably by Tangerine Dream, and often used as long soundscapes rather than to intensify action.
- Film Noir: Much of his work leans heavily toward Neo Noir in their themes and aesthetic—especially Miami Vice (The Movie, more so than the show), Crime Story, Heat, Collateral, and Public Enemies.
- Grey-and-Gray Morality/Black-and-Gray Morality: Only Collateral shows a stark difference between the antagonist and protagonist. His other films? Not as much.
- Old Shame: He infamously does not like to talk about The Keep, to the degree he's largely responsible for it never being released on DVD or Blu-Ray.
- Playing Against Type: The Last of the Mohicans is his only film that does not take place in the 20th or 21st centuries. That doesn't mean there was any less painstaking detail put into the film.
- Production Posse: His usual go-to cinematographers are Dante Spinotti and Dion Beebe, while Paul Rubell and William Goldenberg are his usual editors.
- Shown Their Work: Mann is well-known for his insistence on authenticity, particularly when it comes to the handling of firearms as well as the methods of law enforcement and criminals. According to some sources, Mann is a licensed firearm instructor.
- Signature Style: He favours a minimalist composition shape and color, shallow focus and color coding to focus the viewer's attention on important elements; for example, he uses water and the color blue to convey calm and melancholy.
- Story-wise, he favors stoic characters, characters living lives where concerns like family and money are irrelevant, inducing Not So Different situations between the characters (for example, the similarities between Neil and Vincent in Heat), Lost Lenores, bittersweet or downer endings, and complex plots.
- Ever since Collateral, he has used digital cameras for his productions (he was one of the first to use them in a major Hollywood production) and prefers keeping the "video look" rather than altering the image in post to look more like film, with some combination of Shaky Cam during action sequences.
- Sliding Scale of Idealism vs. Cynicism: Always on the cynical side.
- The Stoic: A lot of his characters, if they're not byronic heroes.
- Vice City: A frequent setting of his work.