Manhunter

Will Graham (William Petersen) is a profiler for the FBI who, after getting too close to his previous case, has taken a leave of absence, or possibly even retired, to recuperate and get his head back together with his wife (Kim Greist) and young son. However, his former boss Jack (Dennis Farina) has a case he can’t crack, and must pull Will out of retirement for one last job. A serial killer, dubbed the Tooth Fairy because of the bite marks he leaves behind, has so far massacred two families with several young children each, but he only strikes on the full moon. With the next one a few weeks away, time is running out for the FBI to find the guy, and with no leads to go on it is up to Will to get into the criminal mindset, and to do that he must meet with a former conquest of his, the incarcerated, highly intelligent but ruthlessly vicious mass murdered Hannibal Lecktor (Brian Cox).
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Collateral

Michael Mann takes a break from shootouts and dogged cops hunting master criminals in favour of a more laidback, narrative-driven movie about Jamie Foxx’s ambitious yet stunted taxi driver Max carries his fares around the neon-lit streets of L.A. That is, until he picks up Tom Cruise’s hitman Vincent, and Max’s night, and his dreams, are thrown into turmoil as the body count rises.
Cruise seems like an odd choice to play a fairly villainous guys, but he proves spot-on, retaining his usual casual charm but with a steely glint and wolfish menace to go with his salt and pepper hair, leaving Foxx to submit lie in his shadow.
The script relies too much on luck and coincidence, and leaves some pretty gaping plot holes you could drive a cab through, plus those paying attention should see that there’s really only one way the film can end, with a last act twist clearly signposted in seemingly throwaway lines. The writer even resorts to a low cell phone signal and battery as a means of moving the plot along; generally the laziest idea anyone could use.
The film evokes memories of much better films – Leon’s hitman, Taxi Driver, The French Connection’s subway stand-off, every buddy movie ever made – reminding you that there’s little original here. So whilst it’s watchable, it’s by no means worthy of a place on the list, and was wisely cut from the 1001 book some years ago.
Choose life 5/10

Public Enemies

Michael Mann likes the central plot of Heat – expert cop and master thief and their teams on a destructive path towards one another with disregard for their personal lives – that this is the third time he’s made it, after the TV-movie L.A. Takedown, the DeNiro/Pacino classic and now this depression-era take, pitting Johnny Depp’s public enemy number one John Dillinger against Christian Bale’s FBI man Melvin Purvis (whose name is almost an anagram of Mr Evil Penis, but is one for vermin pelvis). (For all I know this is also the plot of Miami Vice and the Last of the Mohicans, I haven’t got round to watching them yet but it seems unlikely.)
The parallels with Heat run deep – the first criminal act, an opening prison break, is almost botched by a trigger happy accomplice soon removed from the group – but the key difference is the pivotal central scene where our two leads meet. In Heat, DeNiro’s thief McCauley and Pacino’s cop Hanna share a mutual respect, that they are dealing here with the other side of their own coin, a talented man with opposite morals. Here, Dillinger and Pervis despise one another, disgusted that they are within the other’s presence or mentioned in the same breath. This complex central relationship was key to the layered texture of Heat, and its absence is felt.
Depp has always been better at characters (Scissorhands, Sparrow) than he has emotions, and Dillinger is bland and lifeless in his hands, yet still more likeable than Bale’s cold, business-like Pervis. DiCaprio would probably have been a better fit for Dillinger, but as FBI director J. Edgar Hoover appears here as Billy Crudup this would have made DiCaprio and Clint Eastwood’s current biopic of the man problematic.
All this in account, this is still an entertaining action/crime movie, with plenty of period gun porn for those that way inclined. Mann’s attention to detail is perfect, and there is some of the best comedy ever seen in a 1930s set cop movie – see Dillinger wondering around the offices of the FBI department out to catch him, casually asking the score of a sports game. Smarter and more thought provoking than most gun-happy movies, this is definitely worth a watch.
Choose film 7/10

Heat

Most crime films tend to pick a side early on, focusing on a ‘means to an end’ band of criminals thieving because they have to, or a team of patriotic, all-American supercops able to match their never-ending machine gun clips with a limitless supply of one liners, but Michael Mann’s Heat, a remake of his own 1989 made for TV movie L.A. Takedown, takes a different path, giving Robert De Niro’s gang of seasoned thieved and Al Pacino’s police squad equal screen time, equal motivation and similar levels of compassion, so you get to decide who you want to win. Though the two main characters; De Niro’s master thief Neil McCauley and Pacino’s dogged detective Vincent Hanna are sworn enemies, they are still two sides of the same coin, separated by their own opinions of the law, but brought together by a deep mutual respect. Neither one is the villain of the film, there are more than enough scumbags among the supporting player to take that role, yet neither is necessarily the hero, although in the end it’s Pacino who grabs the most heroic moments.
Surrounded by an incredible ensemble cast (deep breath: Val Kilmer, Tom Sizemore, Danny Trejo, Dennis Haysbert, Natalie Portman, Xander Berkeley, Hank Azaria, Jon Voight, Jeremy Piven, Mykelti Williamson, William Fichtner, Tom Noonan, Ted Levine, Ashley Judd), some perfectly choreographed set pieces (the opening truck heist and mid film bank robbery/street shootout) and ability to show the effect their chosen lifestyles has had on these characters and their personal lives, or lack thereof, this is a tremendous film, even if it does give in to the occasional cliché, but these can be forgiven for the fact that they use weapons that actually, from time to time, need reloading.
Choose film 9/10