Michael Mann needs a hit.
With his latest, the cyber thriller Blackhat falling short with both audiences and critics, the director hasn’t made a lucrative impact at the box office since 2004’s Collateral.
Hacking is the wrong world for a filmmaker of Mann’s sensibilities to play in. He needs a genre worthy of his gritty approach to tradecraft and the emotional consequences therein; to stories about anti-heroes, the codes they live by and the ripple effect their actions have on very real, but dangerous, worlds.
With Christopher Nolan citing Heat and Thief as inspiration for his greatest work, The Dark Knight, maybe it’s time for Mann to turn to the genre that has no problem borrowing from him: Comic book movies.
Here are five books Mann should adapt into must-see films:
This fDC book from writers Marc Bernardin and Adam Freeman has been stuck in development hell for years at Warner Bros. Time for a guy like Mann to liberate it.
The book’s Lethal Weapon-like conceit, with the plot centering on two men of action who are getting too old for this shit, features some of Mann’s favorite thematic past times: Veterans of a certain tradecraft battling inner demons and their pending expiration date in between lots of shooting and badass dialogue.
The clever comic brims with machismo and inventive set pieces that Mann service well with his edgy approach to stories like Highwaymen. He could turn a guilty pleasure into a movie worthy of sharing space on your shelf with the likes of his previous hits.
We’re surprised Hollywood hasn’t made this one happen already.
Ed Brubaker’s gut-punch of a series is built on the backs of tough guys Mann has made a career out of deifying to a certain extent, unafraid to put them through a gritty, gun-metal grey lens as they find themselves struggling to bad things to worse people. The book’s first storyline, Coward, feels tailor-made for Mann’s sensibilities.
While the book is currently in development with director Kim Jee-woon (and a previous attempt with David Slade directing and Brubaker writing went nowhere), few could honor its slow-burn meditation on justice and all things noir the may Mann can.
While David Fincher and Matt Damon tried to bring one of Bendis’ best books (co-written with Marc Andreyko) ever to the screen, the dark material never made the transition. As troubled as the book’s development has been, the story of Elliot Ness vs. a serial killer using Cleveland as a hunting ground is one full of rich cinematic potential; it could be the movie From Hell tried to be but never was — a great film and adaptation.
The period setting could give Mann a mulligan for some of the things that failed to land in his previous caper, Public Enemies. And who wouldn’t want to see Mann lend his aesthetic to the story of white-hat Ness battling pitch-black evil?
Matt Fraction’s hit run with the Avenging Archer has all the makings of Marvel’s next great TV show. It could also, as a film, do for crime stories what Guardians of the Galaxy did for sci-fi epics.
Mann could give Hawkeye the boost he needs to hold his own opposite big guns like Iron Man on the silver screen; Hawkeye’s street-level serving of justice — one sleazy crook at a time — could give Marvel purchase in the crime genre. They did a spy thriller for Cap’s second movie, why not do a gritty caper for Hawkeye’s first?
Archaia’s R-rated chronicle of an international assassin’s kills and personal demons is one of those books you can’t read fast enough. Each page bristles with unflinching honesty, as the titular character bumps against the code he lives by and a world full of bad men getting in the way of that life.
If Michael Mann found a way to combine the tone of Collateral with the scope of Miami Vice and Heat, a movie based on The Killer has the potential with ranking up there with some of his greatest work. A book this good needs someone working at Mann’s level, and while the story’s canvas is large, the stakes and characters have a very immediate existence within it. The danger-close tension each story hinges on could help Mann rebound significantly from the misfire that is Blackhat.
This would be a movie worth waiting in line for.
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