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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