Miami Vice

Movie Information

Genre: Crime Thriller
Director: Michael Mann
Starring: Colin Farrell, Jamie Foxx, Gong Li, Naomie Harris, Luis Tosar
Rated: R

I can’t imagine that anyone really wants to relive the days of the Miami Vice TV series, but assuming that someone does, I can’t think they’re likely to be satisfied with Michael Mann’s big screen version of the show he once worked on as executive producer. If you’re looking for flamingoes, art deco architecture, pastel suits and a fantasy of a Miami that never really existed, check out the old TV episodes. They may have aged about as well as a Beach Party movie, but at least they’re the real McVice. That’s more than can be said for this abusively overlong, frequently incoherent and unrelentingly humorless farrago about the new adventures of characters who ought to be rechristened Detectives “Glum” Crockett (Colin Farrell) and “Glummer” Tubbs (Jamie Foxx).

I know Michael Mann is highly regarded in some quarters. I’ve always found him to be a remarkably repetitive and plodding director: Smothering the soundtrack of the final scenes of his Manhunter (1985) with what appeared to be the entire 17 minutes of Iron Butterfly’s “In-a-Gadda-Da-Vida” perfectly sums up his sense of pacing. Moreover, he’s an action director whose staging of action manages the not inconsiderable feat of being incomprehensible and clunky at the same time. All this and more is on display in Miami Vice, a standard cops-and-drug-dealers yarn that takes itself so seriously that you’d think you were watching a production of King Lear — except King Lear is positively action-packed by comparison.

As with his last film, the hideously overrated Collateral (2004), Mann shot Vice using high-definition video, and, like his last such outing, the results are more often than not muddy, murky and grainy. In some of the night shots, it actually looks like there’s a thin film of grain superimposed over the image. Anyone who’s seen Robert Rodriguez’s high-def work on Sin City (2005) and Once Upon a Time in Mexico (2003) knows that the format doesn’t have to look like this. Vice may look better projected digitally — it certainly can’t look worse.

Near as I can decipher it, the plot has Crockett and Tubbs going undercover to smash a drug ring and find out who in the FBI is feeding the bad guys information. (Don’t even ask why Miami vice cops are called in on this!) Once they infiltrate the mob, they discover that the head of the operation (Jon Ortiz, Take the Lead) is only a middleman, and the real brains behind it all are Arcangel de Jesus Montoya (Spanish actor Luis Tosar) and his mistress, Isabella (Gong Li, Memoirs of a Geisha). To add to these shocking plotlines, Crockett falls for Isabella, and Aryan Nation drug dealers (who?) kidnap Tubbs’ girlfriend, Trudy (Naomie Harris, Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest), and hold her hostage in an inconspicuous (with three satellite dishes on the roof) trailer/meth lab. If they ever did discover the leak in the FBI, I missed that, but it might have been thrown away in the badly mumbled dialogue, or one of the botched action scenes.

There’s zero chemistry between the quasi-mullet festooned Farrell (and what’s up with the obnoxious facial hair?) and Foxx, both of whom look like they’d like to be elsewhere — maybe in one of the shower scenes with Li or Harris. (For a movie in which people constantly seem to be bathing, it’s hard to understand how Farrell’s hair always looks like it needs to be laid out on paper towels to drain like bacon.)

Folks looking for action aren’t likely to be whelmed by any of this either. The movie is mostly a lot of bad, banal talk (though I did like the surgeon’s technical opinion on Trudy’s condition — “She’s in a bad way”) and very limited action — three explosions, a little gunplay and one big shoot-out. The shoot-out’s not bad, but it’s hardly enough to warrant the fact that it takes two-plus hours just to get to it. Rated R for strong violence, language and some sexual content.

— reviewed by Ken Hanke

About Ken Hanke
Head film critic for Mountain Xpress from December 2000 until his death in June 2016. Author of books "Ken Russell's Films," "Charlie Chan at the Movies," "A Critical Guide to Horror Film Series," "Tim Burton: An Unauthorized Biography of the Filmmaker."

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