Miami Vice Review
By Joe Lozito
Let's be honest, we never watched the 80s TV sensation "Miami Vice" for the police work. I defy any of you - at least any non-nerd - to name me one of Crockett's and/or Tubb's memorable cases (okay, I do remember a drug kingpin named Calderone that particularly bugged Tubbs - but other than that, nothing comes to mind). The TV series was more about cool cars, cool cops and hot girls. It more or less defined the phrase "style over substance" and spawned countless imitators. Perhaps it's those decades of knock-offs that explain why the film version of "Miami Vice" falls so flat. Or maybe it's just that this Colin Farrell/Jamie Foxx vehicle feels like any other cop thriller with a notable brand name tacked on for good measure. Whatever the reason, it's unclear why Michael Mann - executive producer of the original series and an eminently watchable filmmaker in his own right - felt the need to make a film version of the series, let alone one that has so little in common with its namesake.
With the exception of the title and the character names, "Vice" bears so little resemblance to the original series that almost anyone could have made it. Almost. This is definitely a Michael Mann film. First, there's the dialogue (for example, "we can close each other's eyes right now real fast" is cribbed from the original series). Then there's the aforementioned style (no unconstructed blazers here, but the bad guys work out of a basement in front of a wall-sized blown-up photo). And, of course, there's the action - much of which takes place in the dark, shot in grainy handheld.
Once again we get to see Michael Mann's idea of undercover police work. And once again, I'm sure it bears little resemblance to the real thing. But we don't go to see a Michael Mann film for reality. Mr. Mann is a filmmaker with style coming out of every frame. Where he tends to fall short is in having a good story to tell. This "Vice" is surprisingly humorless and, for a film with "Miami" in the title, an awful lot takes place outside of Florida (specifically in Cuba and "the tri-borders of Paraguay, Brazil and Argentina").
Though there are some intense action scenes, there's little in "Vice" to match some of Mr. Mann's best work ("Heat", "The Insider") largely due to the fact that the characters are not particularly interesting. Mr. Farrell plays Crockett with a nearly unintelligible speed-mumble and fulltime glower. And while Mr. Foxx fares slightly better, there's little for him to do except be very, very cool. Which he does well. Chinese superstar Gong Li plays her role as window-dressing with verve, but she's wasted here as Mr. Farrell's arm candy.
In the end, "Miami Vice" is a pointless exercise. It neither updates, enhances - or even respects - the original material enough to deserve the name. Odd, coming from Michael Mann himself. Even Mr. Mann's own "Collateral"
was a better "Vice" knock-off than this one. Thankfully, the original series is out on DVD. Which reminds me, I have to go find that Calderone episode.