Miami Vice
R E V I E W   B Y   R I C H   C L I N E dir-scr Michael Mann
with Colin Farrell, Jamie Foxx, Gong Li, Naomie Harris, Barry Shabaka Henley, Ciarán Hinds, John Ortiz, Luis Tosar, Elizabeth Rodriguez, Justin Theroux, Eddie Marsan, Isaach De Bankolé
release US 28.Jul.06, UK 4.Aug.06
06/US Universal 2h13

Mean streets: Foxx and Farrell

gong harris hinds

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Miami Vice As with the TV series, Mann floods this movie with visual style and moody atmosphere, so it hardly matters that it's both overcomplicated and so humourless that we can't engage with the characters.

When Miami detectives Crockett and Tubbs (Farrell and Foxx) stumble into a major drug operation, they go deep undercover as traffickers, jetting back and forth to South America to transport goods for dealer Yero and his boss Montoya (Ortiz and Tosar). But there's a mole somewhere, so their captain (Henley) and a spineless Fed (Hinds) have their doubts. Then Crocket falls for Montoya's wife (Gong). And their colleague Trudy (Harris), Tubbs' girlfriend, is abducted by racists on the receiving end of the drugs. It's going to get very messy.

The film looks gorgeous, with stunning cinematography by Dion Beebe and superb editing by William Goldenberg and Paul Rubell. Mann directs each scene with a seductive fluidity that catches emotions and attitude, and makes the action earthy and shockingly real. And the tension between the characters is palpable--from attraction and respect to loathing and jealousy.

So it's surprising how essentially shallow the film is. All of these things are useful for the plot, but never add character development. The people in the story are just pretty set dressing. Even with thoughtful performances from Farrell and Gong, and a steely turn from Foxx, there's just nothing that draws us in beyond a vague interest in seeing the complex story play out.

Like the TV show, the film is dark and edgy. There's no 1980s kitsch and only hints of that distinctive Jan Hammer sound in John Murphy's score. And there are also two kaleidoscopic sex interludes, both involving steamy showers. But Mann never establishes a singular point of view; he skips around to tell the story from all sides, eliminating any mystery while building up the tension as things go seriously wrong.

As it progresses, dialog that would seem brilliant on the page becomes meaningless in the dense sound mix. So the film turns dull and tedious. It's just an endless series of deals and plots and betrayals and aching glances. Cool to look at, but there's nothing to it.

cert 15 themes, violence, language, sexuality 26.Jul.06

R E A D E R   R E V I E W S
send your review to Shadows... Miami Vice Laurie T, Minneapolis: "I was a fan of the TV series - not at first, but watched it once and got hooked. Episodes got into some really weird aspects of the drug trade - truly one of those TV shows one does not forget. We enjoyed this movie. The plot got a little complicated, but no problem - that happened on the TV show also. I felt the actors were true to the original show in many ways, and it made me want to go buy the seasons on DVD. A good time at the movies - it kept me hooked better than others I have seen lately." (2.Aug.06)

Donna R Carter, Wisconsin: "I was disappointed. I'm not saying it was a bad movie, but maybe I watched too much of the series when it was on TV to not make comparisons. It just wasn't the same without Crocket's semi-sarcastic witty innuendo or boyish sense of humor, and the upbeat side of his relationship with Tubbs to lighten up the story. Even if Colin Farrell did look hot, there was so much more they could have done to enhance his character. He's fully capable of putting out that humor and boyish charm. Same with Jamie Foxx. Too bad they didn't take advantage of that. They totally missed the lighter side of the show in this movie. With all the glamour and eye candy, the intrigue and flashyness, it was enjoyable to watch, but it was filled with only dark threats, shoot-outs, lots of night lightning, and some steamy sex scenes. It lacked any humor or fun to make you actually really like it." (21.Aug.06)

© 2006 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall