Genre: Action & Adventure
Runtime: 2 hr 14 min
MPAA Rating: R
Director: Michael Mann
Starring: Colin Farrell, Jamie Foxx, Gong Li, Naomie Harris, Ciaran Hinds, Justin Theroux
Gripping, sexy and masterfully directed.
Review by: MiamiMovieCritic
Added: 8 years ago
Michael Mann’s big-screen update of his hit ‘80s TV show sure pissed a lot of people off when it came out back in the summer of ’06. I was working as a projectionist at the time. Mann’s arty, almost abstract approach was so unexpected that I remember customers complaining that the reels must be out of order. (They weren’t.) Viewed a few years after all the hype has subsided, the film reveals itself as a gripping, sexy and masterfully directed crime saga.
It was shot in Miami and in different parts of South America, but the world the characters inhabit feels very enclosed – as stylized as Gotham City. Colin Farrell and Jamie Foxx play the roles of ultra-hip Dade County detectives Crockett and Tubbs. These are very subtle, measured performances, deliberately dialed down by the director. These days, Mann seems to favor characters so serious and focused on what they’re doing that they rarely speak above a whisper. Look at Johnny Depp’s portrayal of Dillinger in Mann’s vastly underrated Public Enemies: no theatrics, just a man obsessed with getting the job done. Miami Vice is a movie that invites the viewer to lean in closer to the screen to figure out what’s going on. No wonder it seems a little odd when Foxx starts playing good cop-bad cop and blows up in a perp’s face; he’s breaking the spell.
There are two other key performances in the film, by John Ortiz and Gong Li. You might remember Ortiz as the kid who got his throat slit in Carlito’s Way. Here he embodies a portrait of masculinity that’s typical of Mann’s work: quiet, inquisitive, great facial hair, perfect suits. Li is super-sexy as a drug lord’s assistant who gets involved with Crockett. Their forbidden liaisons are the steamiest, most suspenseful scenes in the film.
I think the director’s cut of Miami Vice (which is available on DVD) is a vast improvement over the theatrical version. (The same can’t be said for The Last of the Mohicans; is Mann ever going to re-release the theatrical cut of that?) The plot is easier to follow, though not always compelling. I think people should give this one another try. Parts of it gave me the same feeling I got when I first saw Heat (especially the scene near the beginning when Mann cuts to the POV of a perp about to off himself). John Murphy’s score and Dion Beebe’s digital photography help considerably. Like Ang Lee’s Hulk, Miami Vice is a film that caused many fans to turn against its director. But I think if you revisit these films you’ll find that they’re both worthy efforts, both stamped with a recognizable directorial vision.