Michael Mann is the king of American neo-noir. His directorial debut, 1981's Thief, should be required viewing for any filmmaker thinking about dipping their toes into the genre's waters. Manhunter and Heat, which deviate a bit left of center from typical noir, show Mann's knack for delivering complex narratives and winding crime mazes with a style that makes it all go down easy.
Mann delights in blurring the lines between good guys and bad guys and in eschewing happy endings in favor of more realistic tragedy. That all shows up Collateral, a criminally underrated movie that oozes paranoia and anxiety.
And for anyone who always suspected there was something more menacing hidden beneath Tom Cruise's cheesy smile and vacant stare, it was a real treat to watch him sink his teeth into the villainous role of Vincent.
Mann essentially turns his crime thriller into a road movie when Vincent forces an L.A. cabbie -- played by Jamie Foxx in his breakout role -- to drive him around from killing to killing. It's an unsettling but thoroughly riveting adventure that Mann navigates with a mix of purpose and reckless abandon.