“That is… my life. Nothing, nobody could stop me from making that happen.”
Buildings tower over Frank, never allowing us to see the rooftops. When we do, we see taller buildings from their surfaces. Mann describes the night sky as feeling more alive, an extension of Frank’s attitudes and worldview. The two perpetual ceilings over Frank’s aspirations. The night life is where he’s most comfortable, his true identity. During the day, in his tailored suits, expensive cars, walking around in broad daylight he’s only working up a facade to move on to his next real project. Surrounded by cold structures and institutions, steely blues and neon lights; all set to a hypnotic score by Tangerine Dream. The night is his home, infiltration is his livelihood.
Michael Mann’s protagonists often share similar virtues; a coded DNA that guides them in the structural nature of the world’s they inhabit. Mann’s interested in hardened men in unforgiving worlds, bound by their own code of ethics. Frank is bound by one: he is Joe, the boss of his own body. He doesn’t mess with anyone who doesn’t mess with him. The definitive “stay in your lane” mentality. Frank knows what he wants. It’s all in a photo collage.
Pieces of a past reassembled into a hopeful future. This photo is a window into something he longs for, something he fights for. To realize this dream, Frank decides to give up his professional autonomy in hopes of a quicker end to his criminal endeavors. It’s a naive approach to his aspirations. For a man so used to getting away clean, he can’t even see the score being pulled right in front of him. By Leo the crime boss, by the police, all trying to manipulate him. The freedom he fought so hard for is just another piece on the board to these people. So Frank changes the game, burning down the status quo he worked so hard to cultivate.
Frank leaves the picture behind along with his own enterprises, both capitalist and humanist, though he secures the foundations of his life. Only, it is no longer a present or future, it’s become his past. Frank walks alone into the night, alone and without a future. But just maybe, he’s secured someone else’s.