On a day with many distinguished names, our headliners are a pair of prominent writer-directors.
Michael Mann turns 74 today. He began working on directing commercials while attending graduate film school in London, and also made a short film called Jaunpuri. He returned to the US in the 1970s and worked as a writer on crime series like Starsky and Hutch and Police Story, before making a TV movie called The Jericho Mile in 1979. He followed with his first feature film, Thief, starring James Caan as a master burglar, in 1981.
Thief set the pattern for much of Mann’s career—the core of his filmography has been realistic, intense urban crime dramas of various sorts. His specific subjects have varied: he has made films about heist artists or crews (Thief, Heat), serial killers and the Feds hunting them (Manhunter, adapted from Thomas Harris’s Red Dragon), urban cops battling drug trafficking (the film and TV series Miami Vice), hit men (Collateral), Depression-era bank robbers (Public Enemies), and hackers (Blackhats). Most of these films have plenty of potent action, but also quieter drama and character development.
I picked up “Unfinished Business” on a whim at Redbox, based on the trailer. High art this isn’t, and it was pretty universally scorned by critics, yet there are some interesting things happening within the project as a whole that kept it mostly watchable.
Vince Vaughn plays Dan Trunkman, who works for a corporate ice queen, oddly named Chuck, and played by Sienna Miller. Dan arrives at work one day to find she has reduced his commission for his latest deal, and the confrontation becomes personal. And in some ways, unrealistic as most managers aren’t going to tell someone to their face that they’re replaceable, in front of a roomful of people. Yet because of how stuff happens in workplaces in a less overt manner, what the scene portrays will still resonate with a lot of people.