Artist: Movie ReviewTitle: Miami Vice (Film)Rating: 3 1/2 StarsReviewed by: Edwardo Jackson
It’s no secret that Michael Mann’s film adaptation of his time capsule-cool TV show “Miami Vice” was a troubled production (hurricanes, cutting deals with drug lords and gangsters will do that
to a movie). It’s also been no secret that the advance screenings generated all the buzz of a chainsaw underwater. But now, opening for the viewingpublic, how does Miami Vice (Universal Pictures) in the 21st century REELY fare?
Opening to a Jiggaman remix inside the energy and
vitality of a South Beach club, Miami Vice introduces us to Miami-Dade County undercover cops Sonny Crockett (Colin Farrell) and Ricardo “Rico”
Tubbs (Jaime Foxx) on the job. They’re pulled off a prostitution ring sting and into an FBI investigation when one of their snitches informs them that the feds have been compromised. Due to their skill level and outsider status, Crockett and Tubbs go deep cover as expert drug traffickers, in order to set up Colombian drug lord Montoya (Luis Tosar), a dealer so successful and vertically integrated, he could have a ticker number on the New York Stock Exchange. As Crockett falls for Montoya’s beautiful and invaluable Chinese-Cuban mistress Isabella (Gong Li), both he and Tubbs risk what semblance of real life they have for this boundary-blurring job.
A question comes to mind while watching two “go-fast” boats slice through ocean waves against a scary cool Miami backdrop in the dead of night:
“Just how did a sixtysomething Man(n), who cut his teeth on TV in the ’80s, become the arbiter of cool?” From the Ozwald Boateng suits to the $100,000 sports cars and beyond, Miami Vice is an adrenaline boost of pure style. Fast cars, slow love, hot women, cool attitudes…Mann and production designer Victor Kempster create a visual eye candy bar for the stylish.
In Michael Mann’s agreeably and realistically multi-ethnic, multi-national world, I’d dare say Miami’s never looked sexier, even with all the color drained out. Matching the serious tone of the lingo-laced Mann script, Vice puts to good use the night-black digital cinematography system he perfected while filming Collateral. The dark tone is justified, merely from the script’s shady entanglement of white supremacists, Dominicans, Colombians, Cubans, even a Chinese-Cuban – all criminals, all of whom don’t trust each other in a world where anyone can be bought for the right price (just
depends on what kinda currency you’re using). They speak with such casual knowledge of this ice cold world, they’ve inented their own language of frostbite, so much so you can almost catch freezer burn just watching. On top of all that, there is an INTENSE stand-off scene that’s so frigid and fraught with emotional stakes, you kind of marvel
slack-jawed at its violently elegant beauty-that rare violent film that is not gratuitous.
If there is any arena that suffers just a bit from over-chill, it might be the acting. The casting is great; what two better ambassadors of gritty, visceral excitement than the hard-livin’ Colin Farrell and the hard-partying Jamie Foxx? With such a grave, dire tone all the time, Vice could use just a dollop of humor on occasion just for variety’s sake; you can’t know real drama without a touch of comedy-not to ingratiate itself to the diehard fans of the oft-times cheesy ’80s TV hit, but just to give the viewer a dramatic intermission. As a result, you have Foxx squinting a lot at greasy, handlebar mustachioed Farrell, professing his utmost trust and faith in him without any real scenes in Act One or early Two to show us an example of this. Naomie Harris is fairly convincing with her Noo Yawk accented cop Trudy while Gong Li excels as the dramatic and emotional monkey wrench in Crockett’s best laid plans. Does her English suck? Absolutely. But when you look that good, who gives a damn? Li is able
to hold men’s attention and sway their allegiances with a single, blankly desirous look; she’s nothing short of mesmerizing.
Sexy, complicated, stylish, and Sub-Zero frosty, Miami Vice is an excellent police story procedural, like the country cousin to HBO’s The Wire. But it’s so much more. When the stakes get raised so immeasurably late in the second act that this goes from high-sheen Arctic lip gloss to something real and arrestingly
dramatic, operatic almost, that’s when it’s time to take a trip down to South Beach-refrigerator-fresh Vice style.
Edwardo Jackson (ReelReviewz@aol.com) is an author and LA-based screenwriter, visit his website at www.edwardojackson.com