‘Heat & Vice: The Films of Michael Mann’
Feb. 5 through Feb. 16
Like the thieves and cops and occasional Colonial America badasses who haunt his films, director Michael Mann does his job. When his characters fall, they fall hard. When they win, their wins are fleeting, suspect. Mann himself has been lucky. He’s had his share of bombs, in addition to bona fide hits; his posters can always boast that he made “The Last of the Mohicans,” “Heat” and “Collateral,” or that he was the showrunner of that most ’80s of ’80s shows, “Miami Vice.” But he’s always been able to make movies, and ones only he could, or would, make. Even when few are paying attention, he’s hard at work.
“Heat & Vice: The Films of Michael Mann,” the filmmaker’s first ever full retro (in New York, at least), arrives in the wake of his biggest ever bomb: last year’s “Blackhat.” The fleet, globetrotting, retro-yet-modern thriller tanked, but it was instantly adored amongst its admirers (this one included). One day it may join the ranks of previous Mann failures that became future successes. Few at the time saw his 1981 debut, “Thief,” starring James Caan, or 1986’s “Manhunter,” the first film made of Thomas Harris’ “Red Dragon” and the one that features Brian Cox’s original, superior Hannibal Lector (spelled “Lecktor,” as it were). Alongside “Miami Vice,” they seeped into the culture anyway, their brooding, synth-heavy, tough guy vibe turning them into eventual classics.
The story of Mann’s career is one of stubbornly sticking to principles while being the first to hop on new, sometimes scary trends. His films are about men (and occasionally women, but mostly men) defined by their jobs. From the cops and robbers of “Heat” through the noble, besieged upon heroes of 1999’s “The Insider,” they live fatalistically, turned on by dwelling on the edge of death or destruction. Their personal lives are wrecks, littered with righteously angry spouses or lovers. The only Mann hero with a healthy romantic life is Daniel Day-Lewis’ Hawkeye in “Mohicans,” and even his courtship happens amongst unimaginable bloodshed and gore.