Michael Mann has been on a bit of a limp streak with audiences and critics. Back in 2006 he turned his once hit TV show into the glossy, digitally shot, but ultimately hollow feature film “Miami Vice.” Then came 2009’s “Public Enemies,” another digital entry in his cannon. But while the movie did some okay numbers, the film’s look, the intimacy and grittiness of its digital format, left many unmoved. And finally, this year, after a six year hiatus, he came back swinging with “Blackhat.” But even now, in an era when digital has all but taken over the industry, Mann’s low budget look that drops viewers into the action was unfairly overlooked. The film did awful numbers and was generally derided in reviews, though it has its fans around here (we even threw it on our 25 best action films of the century so far list).
To help parse out some of the finer points of Mann’s digital work is a new video essay, “The Unloved — Public Enemies.” The video, which was produced as a part of the RogerEbert.com video series, takes a closer look at the Johnny Depp vehicle, arguing that the film was unfairly stigmatized for looking “too real.” Written, directed, and narrated by Scout Tafoya, ‘The Unloved’ makes the case that Mann, more than any other filmmaker in Hollywood, is pushing the boundaries of digital filmmaking, utilizing the familiarity with it to unsettle audiences, and employing its immediacy to bring mega-stars like Depp back down to earth.
The truth is that while Mann hasn’t released a truly great film since “Collateral” (though, again, this writer loved “Blackhat”), he has nonetheless done some interesting and exciting work with the filmmaking format, and has managed to choreograph some of the finest action sequences in Hollywood, but the chilliness of his films (including their digital aesthetic) has left audiences out in the cold.
Check out “The Unloved — Public Enemies” below and let us know what you think of Mann’s work in the comments.