Last time we heard from former ”Miami Vice” guru-turned-mega-director Mann, he was raising our temperature with the gangster opus ”Heat.” This time, he’s gone from smoking guns to smoking cigarettes. ”The Insider,” a flick New York Times columnist Frank Rich has called ”the most high-profile screen account of big-time, brand-name journalism since ‘All the President’s Men,”’ concerns the recent scuffle between Big Tobacco and CBS’ venerable ”60 Minutes.”
The film follows the events that transpired when ageless on-air correspondent Mike Wallace (Plummer) and his longtime producer Lowell Bergman (Pacino) were forced to drop a story about a tobacco-industry whistle-blower (Crowe) because CBS brass feared a multibillion-dollar lawsuit that could have, among other things, jeopardized the network’s pending sale.
Mann, directing from a screenplay he wrote with Eric Roth (”Forrest Gump”), is already getting his own lungful of controversy. ”This movie is purely about putting fannies in seats,” says ”60 Minutes” spokesman Kevin Tedesco, ”and has nothing to do with the truth. Mike [Wallace] is extremely unhappy.” Says Mazar (”Batman Forever”), who plays Bergman’s assistant, ”When you make a movie about the biggest public health scandal in history, you get into sticky situations.” BUZZ FACTOR: 8