Los Angeles – the home of Hollywood! It’s full of style, atmosphere, and iconic landscapes, and these features are best portrayed by veteran director Michael Mann.

Michael Mann is one of my absolute favorite directors and is someone I don’t think gets the credit he deserves. Sure, he’s been nominated for Academy Awards and is praised among film buffs, but he’s never truly been that household name that the general public know as one of the best.

Mann's most iconic film

Mann’s most iconic and well-known film is probably "Heat" (1995), which brought Al Pacino and Robert De Niro together for the first time and heavily influenced Christopher Nolan’s "The Dark Knight" (2008).

In my opinion, "Heat" is the movie. Does that mean I consider it to be the best movie ever made? Not exactly. It is one of my favorites, however, and I do believe it is indeed one of the best movies ever produced, so what do I mean when I say it’s the movie? Well, what usually comes to mind when we think of movies or Hollywood? To me, a movie can be anything, but a story usually starts with a protagonist and an antagonist. Cops and robbers constantly trying to outsmart one another, cleverly crafted heists, explosive shootouts in gorgeous locations, noirish character arcs; these are the elements of storytelling that are often found in Hollywood’s most iconic films, and Mann explores these elements brilliantly in his 1995 crime drama.

While staying true to the iconography of Hollywood’s classic traits, Mann also created a realistic dynamic between the characters. In "Heat", both the hero and the villain are more alike than either of them are comfortable with. Yes, it’s the classic story of cops and robbers, but there’s a twist. These are real people. They have their principles, they have their goals, and they’ll kill each other to stay alive.

And yet, both Vincent (played by Pacino) and Neil (played by De Niro) need each other to do what they do, much like Batman and the Joker in "The Dark Knight". They can both relate to each other more than they can any other person. They’re on the same spectrum, just on opposite sides.

Realism in Mann's movies

The score/soundtrack, that can go from romantic jazz to a head-bashing guitar solo drives the development of these characters, culminating in perhaps the greatest shootout in any film, period.

These characters, who are on-edge since the start, finally collide and this time it’s not over coffee! Mann had the actors use deafening blanks to create a realistic sound for the gunfire, meaning there was no need for any sound effects to be added in post-production. During the shootout, we also see the actors reloading in real time and handling the automatic weapons as any expert would. That’s because they were all trained to know exactly how to handle, reload and shoot real guns. This type of stuff is very rare in Hollywood, but it pops up in more than one Michael Mann movie (more on that later).

The shootout scene was so realistic and genuinely awesome that it inspired a real-life robbery in North Hollywood, and I’ve even heard that police reference the scene when training recruits.

"Heat" is cinema at its finest. Mann’s repertoire made him the perfect choice to direct it, but there is another film of Mann’s that I believe more people should see, and it works great as a double feature alongside his 1995 crime-classic.

"Collateral" (2004), albeit on a much smaller scale than "Heat", is every bit as loud.

Mann has a highly recognizable repertoire. His film’s common traits are indeed visual and audible, but literary, too. Thematically, Mann is known for telling the same story in different ways – a story of a man who wants something more than anything but eventually does something to ensure he never gets it.

Tom Cruise has given some magnificent performances throughout his career, but none of them match his electric, focused intensity as Vincent (coincidence?), a lonely, pessimistic, super-deadly hitman who goes from friendly to killer quicker than you can say ‘Scientology’.

Once again, the film takes place in LA, and it’s the same kind of ‘City of Angels’ we see in "Heat". It’s a lonely place filled with people on-the-edge that are destined to fail due to the actions of no one but themselves.

Jamie Foxx, in perhaps the last role before he became the coolest guy in the room, plays Max (not Dillon), a cab driver and pushover who wants to start his own limo service but, let’s be honest, probably never will. Then Vincent gets in his cab, and his life will never be the same.

Cold logic

Vincent brings stone cold logic to Max’s life. Vincent is the kinda guy that makes no excuses, give him a task and he’ll get it done. When Max tells him about his plans for the future, Vincent knows exactly who this guy is – he’s heard it all before.

"Someday? Someday my dream will come? One night you will wake up and discover it never happened. It’s all turned around on you. It never will. Suddenly, you are old. Didn’t happen, and it never will, because you were never going to do it anyway," explains Vincent.

Some fans want to see a prequel, but I think that’s a terrible idea. The point of the film is to let the audience follow these two guys around for just one night and see where they end up.

At one point, Max asks about Vincent’s past in an attempt to find some humanity in this psychopath, to which Vincent responds with a joke about killing his dad. It’s clear that this man probably had a horrible childhood, and it’s a tragedy that he ended up the way he did.

"Collateral" is stylish, just like "Heat", and is also similarly realistic. Yet again, Mann had Cruise train with real guns. Together, the two worked to craft a character who at all times had both eyes open, scouting for potential danger. He’s a silver fox, patrolling Los Angeles and is one of the most compelling characters I’ve ever had the pleasure of watching.

"Heat" and "Collateral" is one of my favorite double features. It offers a stylish, cinematic view of LA and a highly compelling cast of characters who reflect the city itself.