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Miami Vice

Reviewed By Collin Souter
Posted 07/31/06 13:11:32

"As if I really needed another reason to avoid Florida"
2 stars (Pretty Bad)

Miami Vice is one of those movies that exists for its plot and nothing else. It has a plot and thatís all it really needs, as far as its creator Michael Mann is concerned. In fact, the movie starts out by taking us right into the middle of its plot, forgoing any sort of backstory, character development or any sort of map for the viewer to decipher whoís who and whatís what. Sometimes, this approach works (the original Dawn of the Dead comes to mind), but in the case of Miami Vice, it throws us in with only an assumption that we already know Crocket and Tubbs and that everything else is self-explanatory. Itís not. Instead, itís confusing, itís plodding and none of this really matters anyway because, again, the movie has nothing to say about anything.

I mean, letís just pretend the iconic Ď80s TV show never existed and look at Miami Vice as a movie and nothing more. Just who are these two undercover narcotics agents and why should we care? Sonny Crockett (Colin Farrell) is the stoic white guy who doesnít always play by the rules and Ricardo Tubbs (Jamie Foxx) is the black guy who likes to joke around with his wife while having sex with her. Other than that, we got nothing. No relationship, no characters and no arch. The movie exists to unfold its plot, which is little more than your most bland episode of Miami Vice stretched out to 2 hours and 15 minutes.

Rather than try and explain this plot, Iíll just say that it involves Colombian drug lords, FBI agents who also go undercover, scenes on loading docks where lots of shooting takes place, the occasional action sequence and a completely unbelievable (not to mention, pedestrian) subplot in which Crockett falls for the femme fatale (Gong Li) whom heís supposed to be investigating. ďI know what Iím doing,Ē he insists to his partner Tubbs, who gives him little more than a dirty look. We know what heís doing, too, because weíve seen this plot device a hundred times and it never gets any newer.

Not only does this relationship seem obligatory to this type of movie, but there exists little in the way of tension to build it up. Why would a woman fall for Crockett? He has nothing to say and with his greasy near-mullet and bad moustache, he looks like a sad, homeless hound dog. And what about his relationship with Tubbs? Do they like each other? Do they hate each other? Are they just two guys who work together but never talk to one another about anything? Much like Gong Li near the end of the movie, Iím curious to know, just ďWHO ARE YOU!?!?!Ē

Michael Mann directed the movie, which is supposed to make me excited about it. Sorry, but Iím just not one of those critics who fawn over everything he does. I like his work, but Iím not in awe of it. Stylistically, I will contend that heís at the top of his game here. The digital video looks beautiful, as it did in Collateral, bringing to life those beautiful, red Miami clouds that would probably have to be digitally inserted or enhanced were it shot on film stock. You wonít hear me complaining that the movieís look and atmosphere differentiating too much from the TV show. Iíll take grainy video over tacky pastel colors any day of the week.

But weíre still left with an empty andósave for an excellent shoot-out sequence in a trailerólifeless movie that probably would never see the light of day were it not for its title. I somehow managed to be a fan of the TV show in its heyday, but cannot explain to myself why. I guess I just liked the look and feel of it, and the music wasnít bad. Iím sure if I watched an episode or two today, Iíd shake my head in utter bewilderment before eventually coming to the conclusion that I was young, impressionable, naÔve and that I didnít really care about such trifles as character development, cohesive narrative and subtlety. Now I know better, but I seriously doubt Iíd have a good time at this movie even if I was 13 years old.

On the other hand, towards the end of the film, a news station reports of a pending hurricane, at which point I thought, ďI will seriously consider giving this movie 3 stars if it actually ends with a hurricane.Ē Thatís how desperate I was for something interesting to happen.

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