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Crime Story

Plenty of directors get their start on the small screen, but few willingly return to television, especially someone as unfailingly cinematic as Michael Mann. Mann worked in TV before directing the existential crime classic Thief, but after the failure of The Keep, he went back to his roots. The massive success of Miami Vice ensured that Mann never had to work small again, but the director continued to dabble in television. The cult favorite Crime Story, which premiered in 1986 but barely lasted two seasons, served as an odd companion to Vice. Another moody cop show, this time set in the early '60s, the series pitted tough Chicago cop Dennis Farina against hotheaded would-be kingpin Anthony Denison in a world populated by greasy character actors (including Ted Levine, Jon Polito, and a young David Caruso) and peppered with imposing, rain-slicked alleyways. Though directed by maverick Abel Ferrara, the violent 90-minute pilot readily displays the hand of executive producer Mann. Several of the Chicago locations used in Thief show up, and a heist even uses the method preferred by James Caan's character in that film. An effective score (another Mann trademark) veering from synthesized mood music to period rock 'n' roll comes courtesy of Todd Rundgren, while visually the hardboiled pilot falls squarely between classic gangster films and the eerily lit, modern milieus explored in such subsequent Mann films as Manhunter and Heat. Setting Crime Story in 1963 proved a stroke of genius, as few films or TV shows address the period with anything other than nostalgia. Pure Mann in its grit, wit, and style—big screen or no—Crime Story's attention to detail makes the setting fresh and convincing. Cop dramas are a dime a dozen, but few are as strong as the promise of this pilot.


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