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
- The Last of the Mohicans - 1992
- Heat - 1995
- 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: His actors are extensively trained on how to use the firearms they use onscreen.
- 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 into this—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.
- The Lost Lenore
- 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.
- Shown Their Work: Regarding the law's enforcement, its breaking, and his settings. Heat in particular is very accurate in how the actors handle their firearms. Blackhat is also notable in this regard, being rather accurate in its portrayal of computer security.
- Signature Style: He favours a minimalistic composition shape and color-wise, 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), with some combination of Shaky Cam during action sequences.
- Strong advocation for authenticity. If a character is supposed to wield a firearm and do tactical stuff, he doesn't makes the actor go through a weekend course—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.
- Sliding Scale of Idealism vs. Cynicism: Always on the cynical side.
- The Stoic: A lot of his characters, if they're not byronic heroes, they're this.
- Vice City: A frequent setting of his work.