Colin Farrell, Jamie Foxx, Li Gong, Luis Tosar, Naomie Harris, Elizabeth Rodriguez, Justin Theroux, Ciarán Hinds
Michael Mann, Anthony Yerkovich (TV series)
No rules. No law. No order.
Jamie Foxx and Colin Farrell go deep undercover in the explosive, action-packed Miami Vice that "sets fire to the screen" (James Verniere, Boston Herald). When detectives Ricardo Tubbs (Foxx) and Sonny Crockett (Farrell) are asked to investigate the brutal murders of two federal agents, they find themselves pulled into the alluring and lethal world of drug traffickers. Michael Mann's Miami Vice is "sleek, powerful, dark and dangerous" (Geoff Pevere, Toronto Star).
$25.723 million on 3021 screens.
English Dolby Digital 5.1
French Dolby Digital 5.1
Runtime: 139 min.
Release Date: 12/5/2006
• Audio Commentary with Director Michael Mann
• “Miami Vice Undercover” Featurette
• “Miami and Beyond: Shooting on Location” Featurette
• “Visualizing Miami Vice” Featurette
• Three Behind the Scenes Featurettes
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Miami Vice: Unrated (2006)
Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (January 12, 2007)
Director Michael Mann returns to the well for his 2006 big-screen version of Miami Vice. This makes it an unusual TV-to-movie adaptation, as it actually involves someone key to the source material; Mann was an executive producer for the original series. Unfortunately, that doesn’t help, as the flick is a stinker.
I found the following plot summary on IMDB composed by “Anonymous”: “After a tragic security breach in the Joint Inter-Agency Task Force (JIATF), the FBI ask for help from the Miami authorities, who are not part of the compromised group. This assignment goes to Detectives James 'Sonny' Crockett (Colin Farrell) and Ricardo 'Rico' Tubbs (Jamie Foxx). Going undercover as offshore boat racers and outlaw smugglers Sonny Burnett and Rico Cooper, they take on the narcotics trafficking network of the mysterious Archangel de Jesus Montoya-Londono (Luis Tosar) and his Cuban Chinese banker Isabella (Gong Li). The intensity of the case pushes Crockett and Tubbs out onto the edge where identity and fabrication become blurred, where cop and player become one - especially when Crockett falls for Isabella, and when there is an assault on Tubbs's loved ones.”
For my movie reviews, I almost always write my own plot summaries. So why did I use someone else’s for Miami Vice? Because that was the only way I could figure to concisely synopsize this story – if it has one.
In his review for the Washington Post, Stephen Hunter wrote that Vice veered between “’not a lot of plot’ and ‘lots and lots of plot’”. I’m inclined to favor the latter interpretation. The film tries desperately to convince us that it contains a complex story, but instead it just confuses us.
About a third of the way through Vice, I felt a nearly irresistible urge to shout, “What is the hell is this movie about??!!” Mann packs the tale with so much nonsense that it becomes difficult to discern what story actually exists. At its core, I think Vice is just your basic drug cartel tale that we’ve seen many times before, but Mann attempts to convince us that there’s more at work.
And that’s why the thing’s such a mess. Mann takes a pretty straightforward story and buries it under layers of jargon and other irrelevant distractions to hide the movie’s inherent emptiness. At one point we hear this actual line: “Somebody something’s gotta go somewhere somewhen.” That piece of dialogue exemplifies the messiness of Vice. The flick suffers from mushy storytelling, as Mann rarely manages to make matters coherent.
The director also fails to explore the characters in a remotely satisfying way. Who are Crockett and Tubbs? What’s their deal, and why should we care about them? I have no clue. The movie tells us nothing about them and doesn’t develop them at all. Tubbs’ girlfriend Trudy (Naomie Harris) exists as nothing more than a plot device as well as an attempt to provoke cheap emotion. The same goes for Crockett’s relationship with Isabella. These romantic entanglements pop up to convince us that the film has heart and depth, but instead they come across as tacked on and forgettable.
In truth, Vice is all about facial hair and staring. In one of the few nods to the original TV show, Crockett sports Don Johnson-esque stubble throughout the flick, though his burly moustache is a departure. Tubbs goes for an odd King Tut form of goatee, while Montoya sports a look from the Lil’ Osama collection. Yero gets your standard greasy drug dealer look, and the others – mostly white supremacists – earn nothing more exotic than scruffy tufts of fur. This all adds up to a lot of unshaven guys, though, and I get the feeling the movie worries more about their grooming than anything else.
In addition, Mann constantly substitutes eye-work for actual story and character development. Crockett glares intently at Tubbs. Tubbs stares at Crockett. Both of them gaze at their enemies and vice-versa. Women eyeball men, guys peer at dolls. It’s like one long stare-down contest, but without the same level of tension.
I appreciate the fact the movie doesn’t offer a kitschy spin on the source material, and I’d like to give Vice credit for the fact it doesn’t simply rehash the TV series. However, even that last note becomes a negative due to the relentless lack of pizzazz sported by this flick. Sure, it looks garish and “Eighties” now, but the TV show was a sensation that created something unusual. The movie fails to present any form of impressive visuals. Instead, it just looks cheap and crude. Mann’s obsession with verisimilitude doesn’t serve him well. Vice is so jerky and ugly that it becomes almost unwatchable at times.
And that’d be a problem even if Miami Vice wasn’t such a mess in so many other ways. The TV series boasted a lot of potential to make an effective movie, but this isn’t a good representation of the source material. Mushy, muddled and murky, the film bores.
Note that I wrote the comments above as a reaction to my initial theatrical screening of Miami Vice. This DVD includes an “unrated director’s cut”. It runs about five minutes longer than the 134-minute theatrical release. This doesn’t mean Mann added five minutes to the original; he cut some parts from that version, so there’s more than five minutes of unique footage here. I can’t provide my own impressions of the changes, as I honestly didn’t notice them. A cursory look around the Internet should locate lists of these alterations.
I can note than I thought the movie seemed more coherent during my second screening, but I can’t securely state that this stems from changes done for the director’s cut. The story may have appeared more intelligible simply because I’d already seen it and knew the framework. If I’d never seen the director’s cut, I’d have a better idea, but as it stands, I find it tough to assert that it truly works better than the theatrical version. I do know that I thought it remained pretty boring; I understood the story better but I still didn’t enjoy it.
The DVD Grades: Picture B+/ Audio B/ Bonus B-
Miami Vice appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.35:1 on this single-sided, double-layered DVD; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. This was a consistently positive presentation.
Sharpness generally appeared positive. Some wide shots displayed a mild amount of softness, but they were rare. Usually the movie seemed nicely defined and distinct. Jagged edges and moiré effects presented no issues, but I did see some moderate levels of edge enhancement. Print flaws were fairly nonexistent. I saw no signs of grit, speckles, nicks or defects of that sort, but I did notice some grain at times. That element never became overwhelming, but it seemed a little heavy on occasion. Note that a few scenes were shot in low light on a DV camera, so the artifacting visible resulted from the source material.
Vice featured a subdued and stylized palette for the most part. Despite all the tropical settings, Mann kept things dark and murky, so the colors followed suit. The DVD replicated these tones with good clarity and richness, and when the movie used realistic hues they became quite vivid and vibrant. Black levels seemed deep and dense, while shadow detail was appropriately thick much of the time. However, some shots appeared darker than expected and could be a little too opaque. Ultimately, Vice provided a good visual experience.
As for the Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack of Miami Vice, it presented a surprisingly laid-back experience. The soundfield didn’t do much to exploit its opportunities. The forward channels dominated and usually stayed with general ambience. Stereo music was well developed, and the sides opened up the image to a positive degree. For the most part, the surrounds did little more than reinforce the ambiance. Occasionally they boasted better spread and involvement, but they seemed more passive than I expected from this sort of movie.
Audio quality was very good. Speech always sounded natural and concise, with no edginess or other issues. Music was full and dynamic, while effects sounded rich and accurate. Bass response appeared deep and taut throughout the film. The lackluster soundfield knocked my grade down to a “B”.
Moving to the extras, we start with an audio commentary from director Michael Mann. He offers a running, screen-specific discussion. Mann chats about story and characters, changes for the director’s cut, music, sets and locations, action and effects, real-life inspirations, the actors and their training, and his rationale for the movie adaptation.
Despite some flaws, Mann usually provides a good commentary. My main complaint comes from the fact that he often does little more than narrate the movie. Granted, since the story makes so little sense, this might not be a bad idea, but it still makes the track drag at times. Otherwise he gives us a pretty good level of insight. We learn nice notes about inspirations and technical areas in this generally useful piece.
A mix of featurettes follows. Miami Vice Undercover goes for 13 minutes, three seconds as combines movie clips, behind the scenes shots, and interviews. We hear from Mann, former undercover agents Lorenzo Toledo and Alex Alonso, Miami-Dade Police Department’s Roy Rutland, DEA undercover agent “Towanda”, former federal undercover agent Robert Mazur, and actors Jamie Foxx, John Ortiz, Naomie Harris, Elizabeth Rodriguez, and Colin Farrell.
The show covers some basics of undercover work as well as the actors’ preparation for their roles as cops. At times the program feels a little more concerned with flash than substance, but it provides a competent and generally interesting view of this side of things. I especially like the tale – and video – of Farrell’s experienced during a “real” operation.
Miami and Beyond: Shooting on Location fills 10 minutes and features Mann, Foxx, Farrell, director of photography Dion Beebe, security advisor Jim Milford, set decorator Jim Erickson, actors Barry Shabaka Henley and Justin Theroux and transportation captain Howard Bachrach. “Beyond” follows South American location scouts plus other elements of the place the movie was filmed and some specific challenges. As with “Undercover”, the show comes across as a bit too promotional in nature, but it nonetheless conveys some interesting details and mostly satisfies.
Next we get the 12-minute and 41-second Visualizing Miami Vice. It includes Farrell, Theroux, Bachrach, Erickson, Mann, Beebe, aerial coordinator Craig Hosking, aerial photographer Hans Bjemo, special effects coordinator Bruce Steinheimer and stunt coordinator Artie Malesci. This one looks at various issues such as set design, aerial photography, weapons and cinematography. It covers the material in a somewhat scattershot manner but digs into the elements with enough gusto to inform.
Under the same domain we find Three Behind the Scenes Featurettes. These cover “Gun Training” (2:43), “Haitian Hotel Camera Blocking” (2:54) and “Mojo Race” (4:25). Each of these shows video footage from the various settings. In “Training”, we watch the actors learn how to handle their weapons, while “Blocking” offers shots of Mann as he works to figure out how he’ll shoot a specific scene. Finally, “Race” gives us remarks from Beebe, supervising art director Seth Reed, and key grip Scott Robinson. They discuss the camera boat used for that sequence and then we watch it be filmed. All three provide some nice glimpses at the various aspects of the shoot.
Miami Vice avoids the expected kitschy treatment of its source material but it goes too far in the opposite direction. Obsessed with a gritty form of hyper-reality, the film rarely makes much sense and it fails to become a vivid, involving tale. The DVD offers good visuals along with acceptable audio and decent extras. Fans will be happy with the release but I can’t recommend this weak flick to others.
Viewer Film Ratings: 3.25 Stars
| Number of Votes: 20