Review by Paul Stathakis | 2006

Not the Vice of the 80s

David Ansen of Newsweek writes: “If you go to Miami Vice looking for nostalgia, you’re barking up the wrong palm tree.” This is the one summer movie that should’ve been a hit but falls short by focusing on male coolness, sex, guns, and incorporating all of the following elements in a story far too complex to really capture the viewer’s attention. “Miami Vice” is gratuitously loud (even for an action film of its caliber), lengthy, complex, and opposite to my expectations, it bares no comparisons to the 80s hit TV series which inspired it. “Smooth” may be how these detectives do it, but Michael Mann’s latest film is anything but slick.

Jamie Foxx stars as Ricardo Tubbs, a cool Miami detective who lives life as dangerously as his partner, Sonny Crockett (Colin Farrell). These detectives are relaxed and charming even when they are assigned to a case. In front of the camera, they speak in a self-assuring manner. They are elegant, brawny, and their means of transportation is a new deluxe Ferrari. Unfortunately for them, there are several instances where they are tricked into delivering sappy one-liners. The dialogue is infused with wisecracking remarks and we imagine the writer including these lines in the script simply to bless the main characters with perpetual coolness. Consider a scene where Foxx tells a drug lord that he and his partner did not come to audition for business. “Business auditions for us,” concludes Foxx. Sentences like this usually enter the book of fresh catchphrases but many of them are really unnecessary. Scott Bowles of USA TODAY describes their expressions as ranging, “from grimace to snarl.”

The story is centered on Crockett and Tubbs who go undercover by posing as drug dealers in a deal relating several parties. I will refrain from discussing the plot in great detail. Suffice it to say that there are twists and turns but that only 20% of them are unforeseen and actually work. The others are pointless.

The film is directed by Michael Mann, the same director who gave us “Heat” (1995) and “Collateral” (2004) which were two delightful motion pictures. Mann’s work in “Collateral” placed emphasis on technique and the director even went as far as utilizing a hand-held digital camera to shoot the entire film. Yes, the dark and grainy Los Angeles mood was brilliantly photographed in “Collateral” but the camera work in “Miami Vice” is an assault on the eyes. Certain scenes are often out of focus then instantly in focus and in between are close-up shots which do not feel appropriate, especially when Mann attempts to shoot a love scene.

”Miami Vice” is unquestionably a Michael Mann film. There is a never a moment that feels as though it wasn’t directed by Mann. We sense him trying to exercise or recreate certain camera movements that worked for him in “Collateral.” His efforts here are never as forceful but rather distracting and dizzying. This is an action film which tries hard to be grand for 135 minutes. The bottom line is that there are better films than “Miami Vice” out there. See one of those movies instead.


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