One of the few filmmakers to have a profound affect on both film and television tropes and styles.
His television work of the 1980’s, namely Miami Vice and Crime Story, foreshadowed the realist specialism of later shows such as The Wire.
His style is marked by a complicated balance of heightened realism with glossy visuals.
His scenes are often overtly graded (coloured) to evoke a mood or theme.
Strikingly shot nighttime cityscapes are a trademark of his direction.
One of the first high profile directors to make frequent use of handheld cameras and/or accentuate rather than disguise their use.
His dialogue tends towards technocratic specialism.
His characters are purposefully drawn with deliberate dialogue (marked by an avoidance of conjunctives).
Likes unorthodox shots from over the shoulders of characters and shows a preference in capturing subtle mannerisms a split-second before or after a cut.
Most, if not all, of his films focus on obsessional professionals.
Was one of the first producer/directors to not only use both law enforcement officers and criminals as script/technical consultants but to give them parts in his shows/films.
Insists his actors are well trained in any skills that their characters may exhibit. Mann himself is a former shooting instructor and was one of the first film-makers to insist his characters shoot two-handed and with the correct stance. The street shootout in Heat is used in military academies to demonstrate the correct method for a “leap-frogging” retreat.
Shows a strict adherence to traditional structure and avoids flashback, flashfoward, overlapping or dream sequences because he believes it compromises the realness of a scene.
Shows a preference for location shooting.
Has a proclivity towards needless sex scenes.
Since his successful experimentation with digital photography in his short-lived television series Robbery Homicide Division (2002), he has used that format in every film (Quentin Tarantino believes that is the moment when “we lost Mann as an artist”, though Tarantino has since shot on digital video himself).
Since 2001, his career has been marked by a growing preoccupation with the technical aspects to film-making to the detriment of story.