In a recent interview this year Michael Mann told us to tune in soon to news of what may be his next directorial film project. Then 13th February Deadline posts news of Mann’s interest in an invite from Sony Pictures to direct crime thriller, ‘The Big Stone Grid’. I am a week late posting the news. I turned 40 yesterday, so call it age. According to Deadline, it is about two decorated detectives who uncover a terrifying extortion ring that operates within the secret underbelly of New York City. Many will say this is typical Mann territory, but in truth crime drama is just one of numerous different worlds Mann has created – Last of the Mohicans, The Insider and Ali – and are not what one might call noir crime drama. Yet, Michael Mann’s developing interest in crime as a basis for drama, writing for Starsky & Hutch, and his pre-occupation for cat and mouse conflicts between detectives and their flip side counterparts, has given him the reputation that sometimes I think Mann backs off from, but inevitably is given plaudits for.
The Big Stone Grid would therefore be fairly safe territory for both Mann and Sony Pictures, who would see this as a win-win partnership, both artistically and financially. Mann enjoys bringing out the internalized masculine soul for us to see, and finds extreme conflict a powerful way to emote this process. With the complexity of a protection racket, extortion and powerful guardians of this hidden crime world, I can see this would be a hard project for him to pass up on, if Sony Pictures are offering highly supportive financial incentive to get Mann on board. With Heat now at cult status, and Collateral the commercial success, Mann will have his work cut out to live up to that level of performance. It may be another opportunity to bring back either Al Pacino or Robert DeNiro to the project, but that could backfire. Would they even do it? We know Mann has his own “crew” for his “scores”, and that he is loyal to actors, inviting them back on new productions.
The Big Stone Grid is the latest twist to Mann’s indecision on what to direct next, and something out of the blue for those of us who were expecting Agincourt, Gold, Robert Capa, or even The Frankie Machine. All very different films in nature.
Deadline describes The Big Stone Grid script as having gruesome elements to the story. I am personally not a fan of gore, no matter for what artistic vision for realism. I watched Drive recently, which I thought was an extraordinarily creative expression – it was utterly unique to me. It is a film that nods to Michael Mann’s stylistic vision and directorial technique and Tarantino’s Kill Bill quiet man with the hammer and nail and the scorpion jacket. I made various jokes about the poor script to my friends in the duration, but the movie is in places genius. The soundtrack eclectic. But the gratuitous bashing in of the face in the lift, and the slicing of the arm is not my “cup of tea”, and I don’t think it is Mann’s. So some rewriting might be necessary. But Mann may decide it is necessary, to create the fear in the audience, if the film is made. I prefer violence implied, rather than gratuitously in your face.
Based on how the news rolled in, I would guess The Big Stone Grid is the film Mann will go for. But we will have to wait and see! I love the title.
In the meantime, roll on Luck. We all know it has been commissioned for another season. Will Mann’s influence continue, or will it wane following Mann’s gradual drift from the project as he pursues his next film? Let’s just enjoy the ride for what it is.
Note to Mr. Mann. Happy belated birthday. (5th Feb). Did you all know, I share my birthday with the great Ansel Adams, who was also born on February 20th? Ansel was the reason I got into photography, and Mann is the reason I love story in film. If you want a good month to be born, February is highly recommended!
Until next time Mann fans.
Oh, one more thing… Check out Philip Bloom’s website to see a behind the scenes of the new British gangster flick shot entirely on Canon 5D mkii, inspired in part by Michael Mann, according to the interview with its director.