- Rated R
- Buy the BD
All photos © Universal
Reviewed by Jason Zingale
e sure to leave your lime-colored sport jacket at home, because writer/director Michael Mann’s update of the trendsetting ‘80s television series, “Miami Vice,” trades in its pastel wardrobe and neon backdrop for 135 minutes of pure grit and grain. Actually, the film is about as far from a big screen update as you can get – except that it still takes place in Miami and features a multiracial duo of undercover cops – but the fact that it’s still no good only further proves how much of a dud the original series really was.
Nevertheless, a respectable opening weekend is still in sight, with most moviegoers interested in seeing how the reported onset problems affected the final product, including a bloated budget, actor injuries, terrible weather, and a few shootings that scared co-star Jamie Foxx so badly that the studio forced Mann to leave South America and return to Miami to shoot the film’s finale. And here’s the kicker: none of this seemed to have had any effect on the movie. Then again, the actual plot of the film doesn’t even seem to have anything to do with the movie, instead taking a back seat to a material world filled with fast cars and even faster women.
You’ll be hard-pressed to find an actual plot summary anywhere on the web, but it goes without saying that Miami detectives Sonny Crockett (Colin Farrell) and Ricardo Tubbs (Foxx) will be going undercover to take down some sort of criminal mastermind. In this case, it’s in response to a FBI drug bust gone wrong, and as Crockett and Tubbs dig deeper, they uncover a worldwide drug ring governed by Columbian kingpin Arcángel de Jesús Montoya (Luis Tosar) and his crazy right-hand man, Jose Yero (John Ortiz). Posing as two hardened criminals who make their millions transporting drugs, Montoya brings on the duo to help with his latest shipment, but little does he know that they’re not who they really say they are.
The same can be said for the two actors, who aren’t exactly earning their paychecks with such bland performances. Even worse, Farrell and Foxx have absolutely no onscreen chemistry, which is sad considering they rarely share the screen. It’s quite silly to see how Mann has dealt with the problem of one actor getting top billing over the other, because Farrell arguably has the juicier role. Mann makes up for it, though, by giving Foxx’s character all of the film’s tragic moments. He doesn’t make the same mistake twice, either, writing both men into their own shower scene and trading dialogue like it was divided equally. Even when they’re on a goddamn cell phone! “What, I’ve said twenty-three words already? Hold on, here’s Tubbs.”
Luckily, the film’s supporting cast helps with making the experience a little more enjoyable, including Ortiz as the psychotic drug trafficker and Barry Shabaka Henley (taking over the reigns from Edward James Olmos) as the duo's police lieutenant. Perhaps the best performance, however, is Gong Li as the sexy femme fatale, Isabella – a confident businesswoman who works for the infamous drug lord, yet falls in love with the charming Crockett along the way. The director also makes great use of HBO’s talent pool, including “Deadwood” regulars John Hawkes and Pavel Lychnikoff, and "The Wire" star Domenick Lombardozzi, but fails to give Justin Theroux any discernible role other than that of the generic team member.
What first appears to be a slick crime drama quickly becomes a serious test in patience. Is anything ever going to happen, or is the audience just expected to sit back and watch the two stars drive around in fast cars, fly expensive airplanes, cruise the ocean in powerboats, talk on cell phones, and have sex with gorgeous women? In the first hour alone, there’s not a single action sequence worth noting, and it quickly becomes evident that, much like the television series on which it's based, “Miami Vice” is all about style over substance. It’s a shame, really, since the basic concept has the makings of a great action film; and even cashes in on that notion in the final 45 minutes with a jaw-dropping, shoot ‘em up ending. It’s hardly enough to warrant any kind of critical redemption, though, especially when it only makes you wonder why the rest of the film wasn’t approached in the same manner.
It's nice to see that writer/director Michael Mann was willing to sit down and record a commentary track defending his overblown remake of the popular 80s television series, but I don't think an unrated director’s cut was absolutely necessary. Either way, the new version (what Mann refers to as the “director’s revision” in the commentary) is what fans of the film will be stuck watching when they pick it up on Blu-ray. Also included are four production features ranging from actor preparation (“Miami Vice: Undercover”) to shooting on location (“Miami & Beyond”), as well as short bits on gun training and camera blocking. HD owners also get exclusive access to U-Control features like picture-in-picture video commentary, GPS tracking via Google Maps, tech specs on the film's cars, cast bios and production photos.