Michael Mann’s The Insider saw him team up again with Al Pacino, this time as the TV producer-journalist who helped expose the deceit undergirding Big Tobacco companies’ business practices. Russell Crowe earned acclaim playing a research chemist-turned-whistleblower, and the film won numerous awards. The biggest question is whether this film is a quiet masterpiece that remains relevant to today’s audiences, or is it a historical curio to be studied at a distance?
Al Pacino. Robert DeNiro. Michael Mann cast two of the most respected actors of a generation opposite each other in 1995’s epic crime drama set in Los Angeles. A stellar supporting cast, including Val Kilmer and Ashely Judd, added more energy and anticipation. The reception was largely positive. It’s been cited as a source of inspiration for filmmakers AND criminals. Did Mann find the perfect balance for this Director’s Definitive Edition, or has he overthought the heist?
After 1986’s Manhunter bombed, Michael Mann didn’t return to big screen direction until 1992’s The Last of the Mohicans, a sweeping adaptation of James Fenimore Cooper’s novel that also served as a remake of the 1936 film. Rising star Daniel Day-Lewis was cast as Hawkeye, adopted son of the last Mohican, swept up in the British and French’s war for dominance in North America as he discovers love and his place in the world. The theatrical cut was a beloved smash success. But now we have only the Director’s Definitive Edition available...does it still work, or has the legacy been tarnished?
1993’s Philadelphia was intended to make audiences examine their assumptions and perspectives about the homosexual community and the AIDS crisis. It opened to general accolades, won numerous awards, and changed Tom Hanks’ career trajectory. But is there merit to the criticisms that lauded its goals but found it heavy-handed and slow?
Critical and audience reception aside, 2001’s “Hannibal” was a massive success. Producers took the hint and went back to the original book to create a prequel so Hopkins could play Lecter one more time alongside Ralph Fiennes and Ed Norton. Is this prequel a worthy addition to the Lecter oeuvre or a slavishly uninspired adaptation?
Released in 1991 and turning Sir Anthony Hopkins into a household name, The Silence of the Lambs remains a cultural landmark of filmmaking with an influence that’s lasted decades. Houselights starts its 1990s Demme retrospective with the essential question: Does it still resonate, or is it a great work “for its time”?