It’s official: HBO Max’s hit crime series Tokyo Vice will return for a second season. Starring Ansel Elgort and Ken Watanabethe acclaimed show is loosely based on US journalist Jake Adelstein‘s memoir and account of the Tokyo Metropolitan Police in the late’ 90s. A breakout exclusive for HBO’s streaming service, Tokyo Vice has been hailed by fans and critics for an engrossing narrative, taut suspense and vibrant storytelling.
The first episode of Tokyo Vice‘s eight-episode first season was directed by none other than Michael Mann, Chicago native who’s been heralded as a master of the crime drama for decades. Mann’s distinct style, style being the key word here, as he always had it in spades, is soaked into the hit new series. These are Mann-directed feature films that best exemplify the auteur’s signature.
A high point for Mann, and maybe even Tom Cruise‘s best movie ever, Collateral is a neon-hued nightmare to get lost in. With a silver gray hairpiece that reminds one of Barbara Stanwyck‘s phony coif in Double IndemnityCruise plays a steel-eyed, relentless hitman who entangles a good-natured cab driver (Jamie Foxx) in a killing spree across Los Angeles.
Collateral balances thrills with philosophy and morality, and it’s an early marvel of feature-length digital video (for reference, Attack of the Clonesthe first entirely digital Hollywood blockbuster, was released two years earlier). Collateral‘s brutal shootouts raise the pulse, but there’s so much more here that lingers in the mind.
Generally considered Mann’s masterpiece, and certainly his most popular film, Heat stars Robert De Niro and Al Pacino (both operating at the peak ot their powers), as a career criminal and an LAPD detective, respectively. An exploration of the characters’ relationships, their families and more broadly the conflict between criminals and cops, Heat runs nearly three hours, but it’s entirely electrifying thanks to complex characters and exhilarting gunfights.
Co-starring Val Kilmer, Tom Sizemore, Ashley Judd, Jon Voight, Diane Venora and Natalie Portman, Heat is often considered, possibly, the best heist movie of all time.
A half-decade before Jonathan Demme‘s The Silence of the Lambs defied all expectations to become a zeitgeist-ruling cultural behemoth, Mann directed the first big-screen appearance of Hannibal Lecktor (Succession‘s Brian Cox), in a gripping, pulsing adaptation of Thomas Harris‘ Red Dragon. William Petersen co-stars as Will Graham, FBI agent tracking a serial killer known morbidly as the “Tooth Fairy.”
With no Clarice, and a less theatrical if no less captivating Lecktor (it’s Hannibal Lecter everywhere else but here) Manhunterdoes not have the level of crossover appeal of The Silence of the Lambsbut it’s since become a bona fide classic.
Miami Vice (2006)
What’s Mann’s most underrated movie? That’s an easy question to answer. It’s Miami Vice, the assured, unjustly dismissed aughts adaptation of the 80’s TV hit. Mann served as executive producer for much of the iconic show’s 5-season run on NBC.
Starring Colin Farrell and Jamie Foxx (two years after he was Oscar-nominated for Collateraland won for Ray in the same year), Miami Vice blends buddy-cop formula with Mann’s neo-noir pallette, as two MDPD partners go undercover to fight drug trafficking. Unjustly dismissed by some critics in 2006, Miami Vice‘s reputation has grown steadily for years.
The Insider (1999)
The final year of the last millennium is arguably as strong a year as any in Hollywood history; it was as if every major voice wanted to get one last word in. One of the best films of arguably Hollywood’s finest year reunited Mann with Heat star Pacino.
Co-starring Russell Crowe, Christopher Plummer and Diane Venora, The insider is based on real-life tobacco industry whistleblower Jeffrey Wigand and attempts from CBS and his former employer to suppress his testimony.The Insider is a perfect crime drama, and as fine an argument against smoking as you’ll ever come across. Nominated for seven Oscars including Best Picture, Best Director and Best Actor (Crowe).
James Caan stars in a grim, meticulous and thriller, as a jewel thief who wants to score so big he can leave his life of crime. Like the best of Martin Scorsese‘s films, and bolstered by a great performance from Caan, here is an unexpectedly sympathetic portrait of man who actions aren’t excusable.
Based on the 1975 novel The Home Invaders, Confessions of a Cat Burglar, Thief is essential Mann: stylish, but not slick or overproduced. The smart script understands the ins and outs of career crime. The heist stuff is exciting, but the character stuff is even more engaging.
Public Enemies (2009)
An overlooked entry of Mann’s career, and also of Johnny Depp‘s, is an odd, uneven but often inspired mix of modern digital filmmaking and period piece. Christian Bale and Marion Cotillard co-star in the biographical drama about charming Depression era bank robber John Dillinger and his public sparring with the then-fledgling FBI.
Borderline experimental Public Enemies does not measure up to Mann’s top-tier, but it’s an above-average genre entry that tackles a theme that runs throughout Mann’s oeuvre: that the criminal and the cop are two sides of the same coin.
NEXT: The 10 Most Stressful Movies of All Time