View Full Version : Michael Mann: Miami Vice (2006)

Chris Knipp
08-01-2006, 11:40 PM
M I A M I .. V I C E

Property values high, entertainment value low

Everybody likes cops and robbers stories. They're more fun when cops go undercover and pretend to be bad guys because bad is, let's face it, just cooler than good. Undercover, things become more teasing, subtler: more rich and complicated. We go over to the dark side, moral issues become more troubling and personal. We may not want to come back; the cops themselves, believably, may not want to. The line is never really clear anyway, as bad-cop movies like Antoine Fuqua's Training Day or Joe Carnahan's Narc illustrate. Michael Mann's new movie version of the influential Eighties salt-and-pepper cop team TV series he once produced goes deep into darkness -- but it's never quite the right kind. Mann's version is much more serious than the series, which, though it went to daring new places (for TV, that is) in its subjects, still had a casual, bright side, as symbolized by Crockett's white linen suits and white loafers and pink T-shirts. Unfortunately the movie Miami Vice is as murky and confusing as it is dark and solemn. And despite visual beauty, it lacks most of the touches that make a crime story good, like interesting characters, intense relationships, and surprising plot twists.

Where the Eighties Miami Vice pair of of Don Johnson as Sonny Crockett and Philip Michael Thomas as Ricardo Tubbs was casual and sporty, Colin Farrell as Crockett and Jamie Foxx as Tubbs are tough and scruffy, all work and no play, more intense, and, on Farrell's part, clearly less at ease. Farrell drops his Irish accent for a slightly indeterminate American one, and everything about him seems uncertain. He's never really fun to watch. Sadly, Foxx, who was so good in Ray and Mann's Collateral, though impressive to look at and fluent in spewing the techno-jargon this physically elaborate film revels in, isn't much fun to watch either. Though the story isn't any deeper than something on TV, the movie runs for two hours and twenty-six minutes and cost $125 million. That's a lot of wasted time and wasted money.

Though the gross outlines of plot are all too clear, the preponderance of authentically foreign-sounding Latino drug dealers and a Chinese dragon-lady moll (Gong Li) make for a lot of half-comprehensible sentences -- and dialogue that loses its rhythm -- and the minute-to-minute action is frequently foggy. The buddy aspect and any sense of human connectedness it might bring is the first casualty in a story littered with corpses. This Tubbs and Crockett never develop any discernable chemistry. They never get to play together (as in have fun, spend down time), or to play off each other. They go straight to work and aren't even together that much -- despite the fact that the strongest line in the piece, because it's delivered so well, is Tubbs' "I will never doubt you." Unfortunately, Farrell as Crockett projects non-stop doubt.

The camera obtrusively wanders off with the two men on separate love-fests. Tubbs gets his first in a blaxploitation-style bed-and-shower session with his squeeze Trudy (Naomi Harris) a female co-worker, as if to provide equal time, since Crockett's fling with Isabella (Ms. Gong) becomes a big deal, and the only real complication in the plot. Both sex sequences are so heavy-handedly, self-consciously sensuous they make you squirm.

As you'd expect in a film of epic cost, the cop caper has elaborate flourishes, long delays. Our boys are to impersonate drug dealers to replace a blown FBI operation's crew. Why this would work even for a while with drug lords so grand their underling has a crack intelligence-gathering team I never understood. All the drug shipments are epic in size too, involving billions, or at least many millions wholesale. Crockett and Tubbs begin by intercepting a big shipment locally so they can pretend to find it and give it back free to show their good faith. When they meet the drug kingpin, an oily, bespectacled chap who gives them a very hard time, he turns out to be only the gatekeeper for the big boy. We should have guessed: why, the little guy's condo only cost $4 million. Or was that another little guy? At that point I was wishing for subtitles.

Bad guy number one is a bearded, taller, slightly comatose codger in a nice car, with Gong Li by his side. She and Farrell exchange significant looks. When No. 1 utters the usual clichés, You'll never see me again after this, You'll become rich beyond your wildest dreams, etc., the camera pointedly shows us his and Gong Li's diamond-studded watches.

Is this all global drug deals -- and a $125 million budget -- get you, a leather-lined limo and $30,000 watches? No, of course not, if little guy's got a $4 million condo. There's more -- a big long castle on a mountain surrounded by spectacular waterfalls -- Xanadu, seen several times from the air (I assumed digitalized -- CGI has crimped the "wow" factor of such shots).

Gong Li is another casualty of this lovely disaster. She has been exquisite in films by Chen Kaige and Wong Kar Wai. She still has presence here, but she looks plain, flattened, cheapened. Her English voice, and her enunciation, leave much to be desired.

Despite heavy breathing in sex scenes and during edgy shootouts (slightly odd-sounding and puzzlingly similar in both, but each accompanied by appropriate music) there isn't much real tension, other than the moments leading up to the Western-style shootout at the end. Using DV with special processing gorgeously again, Mann is a painter with excessive tinted color, big skies, dazzling urban darkness, "throbbing nightclub set pieces." But he could have done so much better. He just did, in Collateral, where image and scenes were clear and the tension between self-deluding cabbie Foxx and slick sociopath hit man Cruise was subtle and interesting, and actually developed as we went along. This Miami binge was too elaborate a project, and every additional ten million spent was another step away from artistic clarity.

oscar jubis
08-03-2006, 08:33 PM
I am not particularly thrilled at the prospect of watching this film. I usually don't read reviews until after I watch a movie but I read yours and it doesn't paint a pretty picture. Moreover, I did not find Collateral as appealing as others did. A Mann pic though, always has some scenes that just have to be seen. And even though it seems Miami doesn't quite become a character, I'm bound to have a unique perspective if only because it's set in my city.

oscar jubis
08-08-2006, 04:05 PM
I personally found the central premise of Collateral preposterous and several plot developments overly based on coincidence. It's quite a relief that Miami Vice is consistently credible, and devoid of glitz and forced plot twists. There's also no adorned repartee, which only truly exists in the imagination of screenwriters. It's pure grit, with the requisite fast cars and boats, and shootouts galore. Yet, there's an emotional core based on how the nature of what Crockett and Tubbs do for a living interferes with their affective lives. The impossible romance between Crockett and Isabella is given ample time to register in a major way, at least with this viewer.

As for the local angle...At least half the film takes place away from Miami. And quite appropriately, what we see of the city is the port area, and the warehouses, industrial parks, and boat yards of the desolate banks of the Miami river. The Tourism Board is probably not thrilled, but moviegoers who like their crime movies to keep it real should look no further.

Chris Knipp
08-08-2006, 04:28 PM
Well, I'm glad you had a good time, though I find your statements jaw-droppingly odd.

oscar jubis
08-08-2006, 06:05 PM
Not specifying which statements you found more jaw-droppingly odd than others makes it difficult to respond. Perhaps it's a good thing because Miami Vice is not a great film, or one which may go unnoticed. It's simply a good genre flick which made $47 million on opening week. I certainly don't feel compelled to discuss it at length. Besides, for instance, one either likes Li and Farrell together or one doesn't. I appreciate how Mann achieves as much realism as possible within the bounds of commercial Hollywood movie-making. I was especially relieved by the portrayal of undercover police duty as hard, tension-filled work, without ever making it look glamorous or enjoyable.

12-13-2006, 03:05 PM
There were only about two good scenes in this unrelenting saga of two tired undercover agents . One reviewer said this movie played like a Wagnerian Opera , that being the case Colin was a second rate Brunhilda and the Walkeries never took flight. Everyone was bogged-down in a morass so thick a 5 ton bomb could not shake it.. Really guys the original series had the great music and the action was always there. I don't even remember the music and I just got thru seeing the movie 3 hours ago.

I think Colin must have been in great pain from the workout he injured himself on. Don't get me wrong all, I say most all of the on screen actors were good , just not Colin and his sidekick. There was no chemistry , no damn chemistry. The boats were smashing and the rescue scene of one of the agents put you on the edge for about 10 minutes. And the rest was la-la land.

A lot of the people were fidgeting around and kept leaving and coming back in hopes the damn thing would pick itself up and become a movie. I wasted a lot of hsx mullah on this firecracker.

This is the 3rd movie Colin has made in recent times that has brought me to think (why did I think he was a good actor) dunno, in this one he was not even a pretty face. ciao yaaah69 five stars for cinematography

11-19-2007, 08:09 AM
Five stars indeed for cinematography.
And five stars for editing.
But what else is there?

I finally saw Mann's Miami Vice and I admire the filmmaking.
The story didn't grab me one bit.
Chris Knipp got it: it's murky, confusing, dark and solemn.
Oscar's also right in that there is realism, there is a real-life feel to it, but the viewer is so detached from what's going on you almost feel like an intruder.

Disappointing although the imagery is AMAZING.
Some jaw-dropping visuals in some scenes.