Mann and Men

In Heat, Michael Mann proved he knew how to stage a bank robbery: the film’s go-for-broke centerpiece heist may be cinema’s finest. So the fact that his next picture, Public Enemies, is about John Dillinger, one of history’s most famous bank robbers, is a good sign. The trailer looks slick and sharp, and, as always, it’s filled with hard men delivering hard lines like “I like baseball, movies, good clothes, fast cars, and you.” Mann’s oeuvre is an endless string macho power plays. No one does deadly serious tough guys like he does; he’s cinema’s ultimate purveyor of high-toned masculinity. Even at his most absurd — Tom Cruise’s silver-maned, I Ching quoting hitman in Collateral — he’s still riveting. All of his films are immaculately shot too — Heat and The Insider, especially, seem to call out for Blu Ray treatment, but only Miami Vice is available.

Public Enemies looks just as smooth and just as tough as anything he’s done, but the worry with it is that he’ll repeat himself, borrowing bank heist bits from Heat and character-based tension from The Insider, or that he’ll drown himself in waves of manly cool like in Miami Vice. If he’s got a failing, it’s that he thinks of masculinity as mood rather than action; for Public Enemies to succeed, he’ll need both.