Michael Mann could not possibly mess up "Miami Vice." The creator of the hit show, director of some of the grittiest and most suspenseful action movies ("The Last of the Mohicans," "Heat," "Collateral") and a master of mood setting, he couldn't possibly mess up his own baby, could he?
"Miami Vice" misses the mark. Not without entertainment value and a little bit of gruesome violence, the movie lacks what made the show so successful: energy. In fact, the movie is so sapped of energy that people were falling asleep in this amazingly boring movie. That's not to say that the movie is tedious - it is just slow, wandering, and completely misses the mark that people were expecting - an exciting, gritty action movie.
What we have here is a drama about drug smugglers and cops, a drama that doesn't even have interesting characters. Sonny Crockett (Colin Farrell) and Ricardo Tubbs (Jamie Foxx) are so uninteresting that aside from their names, you wouldn't know you were watching "Miami Vice."
And this here is the real problem. Over the last few years, several television shows have made their way to the big screen, albeit usually as comedies or spoofs of their original selves. Few have worked and even fewer have been great, and so Mann was clearly trying to avoid that by going out of his way to remove the nostalgia factor. But when you have a show that fed off the craziness of Miami, the humor of its lead characters, the gunfights, the boat chases, the car chases and the pastel colors, it shouldn't be that hard to make a movie made for modern day but that still reminds you of the original television show.
I am a late bloomer when it comes to "Miami Vice." I started watching the show last year for the first time, and am only two thirds through the first season. That being said, I love the show. It still stands up well, aside from the clothing, and offers entertaining premises and likeable lead characters. Crockett and Tubbs take their jobs seriously, but are always willing to crack a joke, even if to simply play with the villain's mind. Crockett lived on a boat, Tubbs loved to hit on women in bikinis, and the two had a grand old time.
Now look at the movie. Crockett and Tubbs trust one another, but they don't joke or even crack a smile. There isn't a woman in a bikini in the entire movie, nor is there a single Miami beach scene. The film is as somber as it gets, sucked of life as these two quiet cops go undercover to bust a major drug cartel. Most of the movie doesn't even take place in Miami!
I can understand Mann's need to branch out from what he created, but use the foundation you built and that everyone is expecting. Surely someone else who was able to look at the screenplay at any early stage must have pointed out that fan boys would be highly disappointed by the fact that Mann ignored everything about the television show to make something new. And if this film is supposed to be a modern retelling, why does Crockett have a sexual predator goatee and a mullet?
"Miami Vice" the movie also suffers from poor casting. Li Gong is one of the most celebrated Chinese actresses, but what is she doing here as a Spanish-speaking girlfriend of a Colombian drug loard? The audience was scratching their heads trying to figure out if she was supposed to be Asian or if Mann thought that she could pass as Cuban or something. And, to be honest, as the romantic lead I did not find her very convincing; she goes from ruthless drug queen to cuddly love interest in the matter of a few minutes, and there is no chemistry between her or Farrell.
Despite all my animosity toward the film, the movie does not go to complete waste. Though lacking just about any action, the final gunfight scene is pretty cool, as Mann dives the camera right into the middle of the sequence, flipping between sides and showing close-ups as bodies are torn apart by bullets. Unfortunately, the scene is too little, too late, but it gives a taste of what could have been had Mann remembered that he was supposed to be directing an action movie - that should have been the seventh or eighth action sequence of the movie, not the first.
"Miami Vice" is certainly not a dreadful film by any means, but it lacks the energy, excitement and entertainment value of the television show, and certainly is not the summer action film everyone expected it to be. This one is completely Mann's fault, and he is the last person I expected to ruin the product that put him on the map in the first place.
DVD Review (B-)Let's face facts: Miami Vice wasn't the movie it could have and should have been. It should have been more action-packed, had a little more humor and characters that resembled their television counterparts just a bit more. That being said, the movie is out on DVD, and those who did enjoy the film enough to purchase it should be happy with the features included.
Taking into account that Miami Vice is a gritty cop drama, the DVD here isn't going to compare to other, bigger releases, but the special features included certainly are pretty entertaining. The movie consists of a variety of featurettes, which include a look at modern day Miami, behind the scenes of production, and the training that went into the film. If there is one moment that makes this DVD worth it, it's the sequence in "Miami Vice Undercover" where Colin Farrell is tagging along with real undercover cops and he gets stuck in a room by himself with real drug dealers who are drawing guns. Of course, they are all actors, but Farrell doesn't know it, and he nearly craps himself in the process. Yes, he got Punk'd.
The DVD also features an unrated director's edition, which adds some footage not seen in theaters. Since the movie sort of meandered along in theaters, this is not necessarily a good thing, but fans of the film will certainly like to see some extra minutes here and there.
All in all, the DVD is worth the money, although Miami Vice is unfortunately not the kind of movie I'll be popping into my DVD player on a regular basis.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.
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