In later seasons, The Sopranos would too often threaten to disappear up creator David Chase’s asshole as he ruminated, sometimes vigorously, sometimes ponderously, on the mysteries of American family life. But the first season has none of that leisure, expertly modulating stretches of comedy and drama en route to those crucial moments that leave you gasping.
Simultaneously a tough guy and a sap, a realist and a romantic, director Michael Mann has for decades now been making movies about what it means to be a man. He chooses to tell these stories in familiar settings, setting his fairly measured character studies in the kind of testosterone-soaked milieu that has been favored by a century of manly filmmakers. Mann has made movies about cops and robbers. There’s one about a cab driver and an assassin, one about a whistleblower and another about a great athlete. He’s even made a supernatural horror movie set among Nazis. But he keeps returning to the subject of heroes and villains, about the role-playing that takes place when good guys go head-to-head with bad guys, and about what happens when the line between antagonist and protagonist gets blurred.