Miami Vice

2006-11-03 17:36

When vice detectives Sonny Crockett (Colin Farrell) and Ricardo Tubbs (Jamie Foxx) receive a panicked call from one of their informants telling them to "take care of his family", they immediately swing into action. Though they soon catch up to their man, it is already too late. His family are dead, as are the two federal agents he was forced to rat out, all slaughtered by the foot soldiers of a vicious Columbian cocaine cartel. Recognising their talents, the FBI commander secretly recruits the pair to fill the void left by the dead agents. They are to infiltrate the cartel and tap into its counterintelligence to find the leak in the bureau while also collecting enough evidence to smash its operations in the US. Crockett and Tubbs are soon deeper undercover than they have ever been before, a situation made all the more dangerous by Crockett's flirtation with the cartel's beautiful financial guru, Isabella (Gong Li). More worrying, however, is the cartel's middleman, Jose Yero (John Ortiz), who is determined to prove they are not who they say they are.


Watching the trailer for Miami Vice you'd be forgiven for having some doubts about the wisdom of such a project. After all, who on earth wants to see an '80s cop show resurrected unless it's to make fun of it Starsky and Hutch style? But, in the hands of writer / director Michael Mann, what should be pure cheese becomes a fiercely beautiful action epic that is as gripping as it is inexplicable.

Mann has made a career out of films that appear to be straightforward tales about plain talking tough guys with practical goals. Whether he's making action epics like Heat and Last of the Mohicans or a docu-dramas like The Insider and Ali, Mann rarely picks his plots for their subtlety.

But, whatever they may be on the surface, Mann has a talent for injecting his films with a kind of mythical grandeur. What should be a dumb-as-doorknob action flick becomes, in Mann's hands, a fascinating exploration of some long lost warrior code. There's a hyper-masculinity to all his films that should be offensive or, at the very least, laughable. Yet Mann manages to weave mundane material into multi-faceted fables that you simply can't get out of your head.

Of course it helps that his films all look so darn good. Working with South African born cinematographer, Dion Beebe, Mann has cloaked Miami Vice in the kind of gritty glamour that appeals directly to your gut. There's a sweaty immediacy to everything, a pulse and a texture that is as seductive as it is disturbing. It isn't reality so much as reality-plus, almost clinically stylish but also inescapably visceral.

And then there are his casts. Mann works only with the best, and Miami Vice is no exception. Both Colin Farrell and Jamie Foxx are at the top of their game here, and both have just the combination of swagger and sensitivity that Mann needs in his leads. Chinese superstar Gong Li, who recently appeared in Memoirs of Geisha, is exceptional, particularly considering she doesn't speak English. The supporting cast are all solid, but Spanish veteran Luis Tosar is particularly impressive in his small role as the menacing kingpin of the cartel.

For all his genius, Mann also has his faults, many of which are on display in Miami Vice. For one thing he seems incapable of making a film shorter than two hours even when, like here, the material doesn't deserve the extra length. His films also take themselves far too seriously, and lack any sense of humour or irony. Sure, it's possible that a couple of jokes could ruin his film and break the spell he has over us, but sometimes you wish he would lighten up just a little.

Still, Miami Vice is well worth watching, if only to see the rebirth of the "super cop" archetype. As you watch Tubbs and Sonny speed around the planet in sports cars, speedboats, light planes and private jets, the kid inside you will be getting a kick out of it, even if you don't want to admit it. For all its grandeur this is still an old-fashioned action film with plenty of sex, swagger and violence. In this age of political correctness such basic pleasures have become taboo, but that doesn't make them any less fun.

- Alistair Fairweather

Director Michael Mann transforms the '80s TV show into a grim, gritty and magnificent action film.

boogieman 2006/08/14 1:11 PM
super-sad movie! boring. weak acting. action? what action? a real waste of money!
Andre 2006/08/18 10:47 AM
what a surprise I went to watch MV expecting the worst, but to my surprise came out of the movie feeling entertained and well, happy. I grew up with the series so was expecting absolute shit, but it's not, it was entertaining and worth every sent. Not brilliant by any means, but a fun movie to watch.
Kwesu 2006/10/11 10:39 AM
Not Memorable ... This movie needed some editing ... cut out overplayed scenes that make you ask "when is it all going to end". There’s definitely a Mann feel to the whole thing but overall verdict: Boring and Monotonous *
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