'Miami Vice' *** 091406
(Movie Review) 2006

The Work = ***
'Miami Vice' is back and it packs a punch... and a very confusing plot. There is a lot to like in Michael Mann’s film adaptation of the hit 80s TV show 'Miami Vice' but there are also some problems with the film. I have to say, I enjoyed 'Miami Vice' and am recommending it but be aware that it is probably longer than it should be and is far from the quality of Mann’s epic film, 'Heat'. Still this one is recommended.

One of the big problems is the casting of super hot leading men Colin Farrell and Jamie Foxx. While both actors make more convincing detectives than say, Edward Norton did in 'Red Dragon', neither one seems able to find a window into their roles. Foxx as Detective Tubbs appears to have the most difficult time as his character has almost zero personality. His flat portrayal of Tubbs might stand out more except that somehow the rest of the crew of 'Miami Vice' tricked themselves into believing Farrell could handle a Southern accent.

It’s funny but for all the cheese that the 'Miami Vice' TV show is remembered for its two leads really were better cast. Especially before the show started to slide downhill, the interplay between Don Johnson and Philip Michael Thomas helped to make the series engaging. The pairing of Crocket and Tubbs was one they were both reluctant to make and the actor’s natural friction helped to build their characters. (Hell, Johnson could at least handle a Southern accent.) The trouble with the film is Crocket and Tubbs are supposed to be two partners that work together like a well oiled machine.

If they got along off-screen, Farrell and Foxx don’t seem to be terribly friendly onscreen. It’s a shame that writer / director Michael Mann didn't use the actor’s onscreen friction more. There could have been some tension between the two instead of an empty friendship. Either that or cast it with actors who are comfortable being partners. What keeps Foxx and Farrell from failing totally is their handling of the action sequences. The pair at least look like they know what they are doing and when the action starts both actors fill the parts just fine.

'Miami Vice' actually works better than it sounds. While confusing, the plot does a decent job of showing two Miami cops in the middle of doing what they do. Don’t expect to get all the answers to the story within this movie. To give you an idea of what I am talking about, the film opens with Crockett and Tubbs working on a case. Not only does the movie never fully reveal what the case was but it doesn’t explain what happens to it. (If it was solved, if it was still open, etc.)

When the cops go to the turf and pull out their guns the movie kicks into high gear. The weapons are deadly and loud, they have an impact, and the shootouts are fast. If you are expecting 'Lethal Weapon' or 'Bad Boys' or some sort of action fest you will be disappointed. If you have seen Michael Mann’s films 'Heat', 'Manhunter' or 'Thief' then chances are you will enjoy 'Miami Vice' despite its problems. Yes, the middle lags too much. Yes, Gong Li has too much dialogue in English that is a bit too hard to understand. Still, there were enough positives in the film that countered any problem I had with it.

Outside of the well done action sequences there are fine performance to be had from some of the supporting players in 'Miami Vice'. John Ortiz (very underrated actor,) Barry Shabaka Henley, Ciarand Hinds, Elizabeth Rodriguez, John Hawkes, and Naomi Harris are a few of the noteworthy names. Ortiz in particular shines as a powerful and clever drug dealer. The strength that the supporting cast shows only makes it more apparent that the film probably would have worked better with different lead actors, especially in the role of Crockett. Two names that leap quickly to mind are Timothy Olyphant or Peter Sarsgaard, (hell Matthew McConaughey would at least sound the part.)

In the end the film works and I am recommending it but it is not the best Michael Mann has to offer. That is a shame really because I think this could have been a great crime drama and instead it is just a good one. Then again, who am I to judge? The film has its slow spots too but the beginning and the end make up for it. Recommended.


'Miami Vice' Links:

My review of Mann's TV movie 'L.A. Takedown' can be seen HERE.

My review of Mann's 'Public Enemies'.


Copyright 2005 - 2012 Nate Bundy. All rights reserved.