Miami Vice (2006)
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Miami Vice (2006)

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Back in the sixties there was a television series that quite literally changed popular culture, Miami Vice. All of a sudden men started to wear pastels tee shirts, push up the shelves of their linen jackets and keep a perpetual three day growth of their beards. One of the creative forces behind this phenomenon was director Michael Mann, who served the series as one of the executive producers. Now, some twenty two years later he has resurrected the franchise with a big budget, high concept film. As with so many recent films looking to the cult television series of twenty or thirty years ago is a risky business. It is difficult to make a film based on a television show that so many people recall with such enthusiasm. Here, Mann has chosen to re-imagine the concept of the series bringing into the new millennium instead of making too many references to the past. Some of the aspects of the series have remained. The plot is thin but the action is fast and hot. Style is used in lieu of substance but with an action flick this is more forgivable. The world is a lot different twenty years down the road from the series. The drug war has been supplanted for the most part by the war on terrorism.

In this unrated cut of the film the opening has moved from a scene in a night club to a boat chase but soon settles down to the standard plot. A sting operation encompassing several alphabet soup government agencies has gone horribly wrong. Two federal agents and the family of an informant are murdered. The informant, Alonzo Stevens (John Hawkes) is rethinking his deal with the government which threatens a major case against a major drug cartel. The only way the family’s location could have been known is if there was a leak in on of the agencies involved. Since none of the Feds can be trusted discovering the identity of the mole falls to two Miami police undercover detectives, James ‘Sonny’ Crockett (Colin Farrell) and his partner Ricardo 'Rico' Tubbs (Jamie Foxx) it is up to them to infiltrate the mid-level drug ring headed by local bad guy Jose Yero (John Ortiz). They work their way into Yero’s employ as smugglers, willing to transport the drugs from South America to Miami. The plan is approved by their boss, Lt. Martin Castillo (Barry Shabaka Henley) who cautions Crocket and Tubbs to be particularly careful. As part of their back up fellow undercover team member Trudy Joplin (Naomie Harris) takes the part of playing Tubb's girlfriend. The intrepid pair work their way to South America and begin to move closer to the target kingpin, Arcángel de Jesús Montoya (Luis Tosar). Along the way Crocket and Tubbs steal drugs and instead of selling them back to the ones they stole them from they make an offer of good faith. The pair chase around the world in fast boats and faster cars and generally shoot automatic weapons and run around a lot. During some of the quieter moments Crockett finds time to become infatuated with the financial brains behind Montoya, the exotically beautiful Isabella (Gong Li), who just happens to be the wife of the drug lord. To make the plot a bit more modern throw in some Russian mobsters, a few White Supremacists and just for good measure stir in some good old fashion Columbian drug dealers and there is no shortage of people promoting extremely loud violence.

In saying this film is a case of ‘style over substance’ it is not necessarily a bad thing. After all the same could have been said about the original television series. Most people did not tune in for the original story lines. They watched for the style, the clothes, the music and the action. In this respect the film is a true variation of the Miami Vice world. There are just some films that you do not over analyze. Nothing about this film holds up to the scrutiny or the real world. The two main police officers are as good at breaking the law as they are with enforcing it. It might be said that Crockett and Tubbs do not play well with other children. They eschew any form of authority whether it comes from their own department or any one of the involved government agencies. They even disrespect the authority of the crime bosses they supposedly work for. This is a fun member of the rouge cop action flick and it has to be taken on face value. If Crockett and Tubbs where actual law enforcement professionals they most like would have the cells adjacent to the men they brought in.

One little irony here is a little fact I came across. The production cost of this film was 50% higher than the operating budget of the Miami police department. A big budget translates to spectacular special effects. They stunt workers union and special effects people must have rejoiced when they read the script for this flick. There is no doubt that the action is what you want in this type of flick and it delivers. Sure it often feels like an extended episode of the series but this was a summer blockbuster and it fits all the accepted criteria for that particular genre. Unfortunately, some of the elements that made the original show so great are missing here. What is Miami Vice without the soundtrack created by Jan Hammer or the laconic stares of Edward James Olmos? Mann did revisit a new way of filming for this feature. This was his second film to be completely made with a high definition digital video. This gives the movie a gritty, realistic look and feel that helps sells the action.

Colin Farrell is the current go to actor for action roles. Sporting a strange mullet like hair style he makes the part of Sonny Crockett his own. Freed from any resemblance to Don Johnson’s version Farrell makes Crockett a tougher, more caustic individual. Here is a man for whom catching the bad guy is the goal. If a few civil liberties, departmental regulations or laws has to be broken in the pursuit of this then so be it. He makes Dirty Harry look like a Sunday school teacher. It is almost impossible to accept the fact that Jamie Foxx appeared on ‘In Living Color’ as the world’s ugliest woman. It just goes to show that a master of comedy can pretty much become successful in any genre. In recent years he has slowly honed his skills in the drama and action realm. Watching this we can forget his previous action flick, ‘Stealth’; he nails the part.

Universal has decided to offer several variation of this film on DVD. Thankfully they did not include a Pan & Scan version in the mix. First there is the theatrical cut that was rated ‘R’. Next there is the unrated cut and finally an HD-DVD/DVD combo release. I only received the unrated DVD for review and the technical details were great. The 2.40:1 anamorphic video is exceptional. Considering the movie was mad in high definition digital this should come as no surprise. The colors are pushed by the director for effect but generally the palette is excellent. The Dolby 5.1 audio is among the most robust sound mixes I have heard in years. Each of your speakers will get a workout. This is not a movie you can watch late at night unless all of your neighbors are there with you. It is loud; the sub woofer shakes the room as the rear speakers reverberates each explosion. The channel separation is far better than average. There is also a nice selection of extras included for some added fun. The commentary by writer-director Michael Mann goes into the changes necessary to modernize Miami Vice for the big screen. He details what he felt made the series work and how to give the audience some entertainment without falling into the trap so many films based of TV shows made. There are also featurettes that go into0020the numerous locations used in the film and the how the actors prepared to play undercover agents. Added to this there is a typical behind the scenes featurette and you have a disc worth having. This is a great Friday night action flick. Gather some friends, sit back and enjoy.

Posted 12/07/06

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