Sonny Crockett (Colin Farrell) and Ricardo Tubbs (Jamie Foxx) are two of Miami’s finest, working undercover to get the bad guys. When a drug sting goes bad and law enforcement agents are slaughtered, Sonny and Rico decide to go even deeper under cover and their mission takes them out of the country and into harm’s way in “Miami Vice.” Writer/director Michael Mann should have taken the sage advice from his namesake, Thomas Mann, and not gone home again. The creator of the hit TV crime drama series, “Miami Vice,” should have rested on his laurels and left the world to nostalgically remember the electric pastel clothes and no socks/no shave look of Sonny Crockett (Don Johnson) and his fast moving Ferrari. Instead, the filmmaker brings us a bloated, over long crime drama that is short on thrills and long on talk, talk, talk.
After the drug-deal-gone-bad, Sonny and Rico volunteer to go into deep, very deep, cover to get the drop on drug czar Arcangel de Jesus Montoya (Luis Tosar), the man responsible for the deadly ambush. They approach one of Montoya’s middle managers, Jose Yero (John Ortiz), and offer their services as fast boat drivers who can readily smuggle in the illicit goods. They get the job and begin the infiltration that will bring Montoya down. At least, this is what “Miami Vice” is supposed to be about.
Things start out promising enough when Crocket, Tubbs and their team raid one of Montoya’s drug warehouses and take away hundreds of pounds of heroin to use as barter with the kingpin. “Oh, boy!” I said to myself as it looked like I was in store for a non-stop action flick. Unbeknownst to me, it would be another 90 (yes, 90) minutes before there was any kind of gunplay. During the interim, mostly taking place at night, we follow the undercover cops as they hop from Miami to Haiti to Cuba. They talk to the drug lords, they talk to their bosses and Sonny talks a lot to Isabella (Gong Li), Montoya’s business manager and soon to be Sonny objet d’amour.
There are a couple of shootouts in the last quarter of Miami Vice” that the audience ooh’d and aah’d at but are no comparison to the riveting streets-of-LA shootout that Mann choreographed for his much better (but way too long) “Heat.” The big payoff showdown at Vice’s” finale has lots of bullets being lobbed between the good guys and the bad guys but, between the staccato editing and night photography, it is hard to sort out the action. I found that if one of the gunners goes down, he is probably a bad guy. That’s about the only way you could keep track of who’s who on the battlefield.
Techs are good, especially with cinematographer Dion Beebe and his camera crew capturing some beautiful images of flying planes, fast boats and magnificent waterfalls. But these pretty pictures can’t fill in for a bland and lifeless story, which is what we get from the pen of Michael Mann.
One critical element in a motion picture is the chemistry between the actors, which “Miami Vice” simply does not have. Farrell and Foxx seem to merely tolerate each other instead of being the close knit partners that they are supposed to be. More telling is the lack of spark between Farrell and Chinese superstar Gong Li. Part of the problem is Gong and her deficiency in English and Spanish. She is obviously just parroting the lines fed to her and, as such, rings false as Isabella. Her scenes with Farrell lack passion and believability.
The flat performances by the stars of “Miami Vice” are paralleled by the two-dimensional roles foisted upon such notable thespians as Ciaran Hinds and Luis Tosar and the rest. Actually, Elizabeth Rodriguez, as Crockett and Tubbs’s partner, Detective Gina Calabrese, fares better than everyone else as the tough, no nonsense cop who goes bravely up against the heavily gunned bad guys to protect her partners.
Miami Vice” is long, dull and dark and does little to stimulate the moviegoer’s mind or eye. Maybe I’ll rent the 80’s TV series to see what, maybe, Mann should have tried to bring back. I give it a C-.Laura:
Det. James 'Sonny' Crockett (Colin Farrell, "Alexander") and Ricardo Tubbs (Jamie Foxx, "Ray") are staking out a Miami disco when they are pulled away from their sting operation by a phone call. Former informer Alonzo Stevens (John Hawkes, HBO's "Deadwood," "Me and You and Everyone We Know") is a desperate man on the run and when his wife is killed by the ones who are chasing him he commits suicide right in front the vice partners. Crockett and Tubbs are on fire to find the leak in "Miami Vice."
Writer/director Michael Mann ("Heat," "Collateral") revisits his entrenched in the 80's pop television show and gives it a whole new twist, a dark, grungy gloss for these murky, too quickly paced times. Mann's story is a short on substance (is that leak ever found?), but he makes up for that in tone and his continuing thematic exploration of macho connection and doomed romance.
Crockett and Tubbs confront FBI Agent Fujima (Ciarán Hinds, "Munich," HBO's "Rome") and demand taking on his case - their way. Their Lieutenant, Martin Castillo (Barry Shabaka Henley, "Collateral," "Four Brothers"), backs them up and soon they've worked their way through the Russian 'White Supremists' to the drug runner, José Yero (John Ortiz, "Narc," "Take the Lead"), behind them. With sheer bravado and the approval of Isabella (Gong Li, "Memoirs of a Geisha"), the right hand of the real power behind the throne, Arcángel de Jesús Montoya (Luis Tosar, "Mondays in the Sun," "Take My Eyes"), Crockett and Tubbs get into the drug transportation business. Crockett cranks the danger level up a notch by acting on his attraction to Isabella, who responds, whisking him away to Cuba in search of the perfect mojito.
Michael Mann is the first director to make Colin Farrell seem like a man rather than the impish thugs ("Daredevil," "Phone Booth") or mooning boy-men ("A Home at the End of the World," "The New World") he usually gives us. Farrell has never been sexier or seemed more in command of his fate as he does here and his interplay with Foxx is in the brainwaves. The two actors communicate the strong bond of trust between their characters. You can feel Tubbs' weight supporting Crockett even when he goes off to play a most dangerous game. Foxx, all lean with a jutting goatee like a Spanish conquistador, is quiet intensity and he simmers with emotion in the film's final act, waiting out the fate of his lover Trudy (Naomie Harris, "Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest"). Gong Li, speaking her lines phonetically, is a little stiff, but in an odd way it suits her character, a woman who has grown up in tough circumstances and is all the stronger for it. Her connection with Crockett feels like the first joy she has experienced in life and the two generate some real heat together, especially on the dance floor. As the two drug lords, Ortiz and Tosar are both terrific. Ortiz is menacing and makes his distrust of Crockett and Tubbs feel lethal while Tosar's very calmness, even when Isabella tells him she's slept with Crockett, is creepy. But the actor is destined to get the biggest boost from "Miami Vice" is Elizabeth Rodriguez ("Blow"). The pretty actress puts across her sharp shooting detective and she delivers the film's most inspired speech, a blow by blow description of a bad guy's upcoming demise which is sure to become a classic.
Mann can always be counted on for visual and aural style and he doesn't disappoint here. Cinematographer Dion Beebe ("Collateral") gets that great predawn light, the cool blue with just a hint of warmth, that's so jazzy right for the genre. This is a film where even establishing shots of airplanes in the sky are arresting in their beauty, with cloud formations so stunning they were either a happy accident or long sought after.
"Miami Vice's" main failing is that takes itself all too seriously with not a whiff of playfulness in the whole film. But this is a film that straightfacedly uses lingo like 'fast boats' and somehow makes it sound cool.
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