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168 of 199 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Michael Mann gives us the real, down and dirty underbelly of Miami Vice, July 30, 2006
Michael Mann has always been in the forefront of experimenting and trying out new film techniques and styles to tell his stories. His last film, 2003's Collateral, was a veritable masterpiece of directing modern, urban noir. He even made Tom Cruise very believable as a sociopathic character. It is now 2006 and Michael Mann has followed up Collateral with another trip down the darkside of the law and crime. Taking a concept he made into a cultural phenomenon during the mid 80's, Mann reinvents Miami Vice from the pastel colors, hedonistic and over-the-top drug-culture Miami to a more down, dirty and shadowy world where extremes by both the cops and the criminals rule the seedy, forgotten side of Miami.

Michael Mann's films have always dealt with the extremes in its characters. Whether its James Caan's thief character Frank in Thief, the dueling detective and thief of Al Pacino and Robert DeNiro, up to Foxx and Cruise's taxi driver and assassin. They all have had one thing in common. They're individuals dedicated to their chosen craft. Professional in all respect and so focused to doing their job right that they've crossed the line to obsession. These men have an obsession to doing their jobs to the point that its become like a drug to keep them going. This theme continues in Mann's film reboot of his TV series Miami Vice. The characters remain the same. There's still the two main characters of Vice Detectives Sonny Crockett and Ricardo Tubbs. This time around these titular characters were played by Colin Farrell (in a look that echoes Gregg Allman more than Don Johnson) and Jamie Foxx. From the first second all the way through to the final fade to black in the end of the film the audience was thrust immediately into the meat of the action. Mann dispenses with the need for any sort of opening credits. In fact, the title of the film doesn't appear until the end of the film and the same goes for the names of all involved. I thought this was a nice touch. It gave the film a stronger realism throughout.

The film's story was a mixture of past classic episodes rolled into one two-hour long film with the episode "Smuggler's Blues" being the main influence on the story. The glamour and glitz that were so prevalent in the original series does show up in the film, but it's not used too much that it turned the characters of Crockett, Tubbs and the rest of the cast into caricatures. The glamour seems more of a thin veneer to hide the danger inherent in all the parties involved. These people were all dangerous from the cops to the criminals. There's alot of the so-called "gray areas" between what makes a cop and what makes a criminal. Mann's always been great in blurring those lines and in showing that people on either side of the line have much more in common than they realize.

Miami Vice's story doesn't leave much for back story exposition for the main leads. Michael Mann takes the minimalist approach and just introduces the characters right from the beginning with nothing to explain who they were outside of the roles they played --- whether they be law-enforcement or drug dealers. The script allows for little personal backstory and instead lets the actors' performance show just what moves, motivates and inspires these characters. Again, Jamie Foxx steals the film from his more glamorous co-star in Colin Farrell. Farrell did a fine job in making Crockett the high-risk taking and intense half of the partnership, but Foxx's no-nonsense, focused intensity as Tubbs was the highlight performance throughout the film. The rest of the cast do a fine job in the their roles. From Gong Li as Isabella the drug-lord's moll who also double's as his organization's brains behind the finances to Luis Tosar as the mastermind drug kingping Arcángel de Jesús Montoya. Tosar as Montoya also does a standout performance, but was in the screen for too less a time.

This film wouldn't be much of a police crime drama if it was all talk and no action. The action in Miami Vice comes fast and tight. Each scene was played out with a tightness and intensity which prepped the audience to the point that the violence that suddenly arrives was almost a release. Everyone in the theater knew what was coming and when the violence and action does arrive it goes in hard and fast with little or no tricks of rapid editing, slow-motion sequences or fancy camera angles and tricks like most action films. Instead Michael Mann continues his theme of going for realism even in these pivotal moments in the film. The shootouts doesn't have the feel of artificiality. The gunshot inflicted on the people in the film were brutal, violent and quick. The camera doesn't linger on the dead and wounded. These scenes must've taken only a few minutes of the film's running time, but they were minutes that were executed with Swiss-like precision.

The look of the film was where Mann's signature could be seen from beginning to end. He started using digital cameras heavily in Collateral. He used it to great effect to give the film a sense of "in the now" realism. His decision to use digital cameras for that film also was due to a story mostly set at night. The use of digital allowed him to capture the deepest black to off-set the grays and blues of Los Angeles at night. Mann does the same for Miami Vice, but he does Collateral one better by using digital cameras from beginning to end. Digital lent abit of graininess to some scenes, but it really wasn't as distracting as some reviewers would have you believe. In fact, it made Miami Vice seem like a tale straight out of COPS or one of those reality police shows. Again, Michael Mann stretches the limits of his mind and technology could accomplish when working in concert. Mann's direction and overall work in Miami Vice could only be described as being as focused and obsessive over the smallest detail as the characters in his films. This is a filmmaker who seem to want nothing but perfection in each scene shot.

Michael Mann has done the unthinkable and actually made a film adaptation of a TV show look like an art-film posing as a tight police drama. Everyone who have given the film a less than stellar review seem to have done so because Mann didn't use the 80's imagery and sensibilities from the original show. There were no pastel designer clothes and homes. There was no pet alligator and little friendly banter and joking around. Mann goes the other way and keeps the mood deadly serious. This was very apropo since the two leads led mortally dangerous lives as undercover agents who could die at the slightest mistake. The fun and jokes of the original series would've broken the mood and feel of this film. I, for one, am glad Mann went this route and not paid homage to the original series. This some saw as a major flaw, but I saw it as the main advantage in keeping Miami Vice from becoming a self-referential film bordering on camp.

Miami Vice was not your typical action-drama for the 2006 summer blockbuster season. Like Collateral in 2004, Michael Mann forgo large effects and drawn out action to sell his film, but made a finished product thats smart, stylish, and innovative crime drama. This was a film that people would either love despite some of the flaws, or one people would hate due to not being like the original TV series. Those who decide to skip watching Miami Vice because of the latter would miss a great film from one of this generation's best directors. Those who do give this Miami Vice a chance would be rewarded with one of the best films of 2006.
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Showing 1-6 of 6 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Dec 7, 2006, 9:37:15 AM PST
D. D. Rossi says:
[Customers don't think this post adds to the discussion. Show post anyway. Show all unhelpful posts.]

Posted on Jan 11, 2007, 9:13:29 PM PST
This was a great review! Don't listen to Rossi, let him go watch Bad Boys II

Posted on Jul 1, 2007, 11:19:36 PM PDT
I disagree with almost every single one of your conclusions, but this is a superbly written review that's both thoughtful and to the point.

Posted on Oct 8, 2007, 7:02:23 PM PDT
[Customers don't think this post adds to the discussion. Show post anyway. Show all unhelpful posts.]

Posted on Mar 18, 2008, 9:30:26 AM PDT
M. Cordova says:
This is probably the best review ever written about this movie. I could not agree more with all of the points mentioned in it. I must confess that I was one of the viewers that did not go to see this movie in the theater because of all of the mixed reviews it got and, since I was an avid fan of the TV series an lived in Miami all my life, I did not think it would be woth my time; I decided to just wait for the DVD version. WRONG! Big mistake! Now that I saw the movie at home, I can only imagine the impact of the movie on the big screen! I cannot begin to say how sorry I am that I missed it!

Mann is superb and truly audacious! The performance of Farrell adn Foxx add a very different deph to th characters...

This a movie not to be missed!!!

Posted on May 27, 2008, 10:14:02 AM PDT
Superb review, and I have to join in the chorus that its better than its subject. I think Mann is the best mainstream film-maker working in Hollywood today, one-third Kubrick (technical ecstacy as its own reward), one-third Kielslowski (the poetry of disparate lives converging) and one third his near-namesake Anthony Mann (lean action films with a solid psychological core, a gift for tense action set-pieces, and a genius for locations); and I agree that Miami Vice is an art movie with a gazillion-dollar price tag, disguised with stunning firefights. But Crockett and Tubbs don't smolder with banked internal fires the way that previous dead-pan Mann heroes do; they are just inert, and its not the actors fault. Mann perversely refused to give these guys any sort of interior life, and the result is his only uninvolving film since "The Keep." Here's hoping he recovers with the hugely promising "Public Enemies," a film he was born to make.
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A. Sandoc
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Location: San Pablo, California United States

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