a critiQal film review Miami Vice (2006)

Plot: When a couple of undercover agents are gunned down by white supremacists, Crockett (Farrelll) and Tubbs (Foxx) go deep undercover to try and bring down the drug smuggling operation behind the killings. But, when Crockett falls for the boss' wife Isabella (Li), they start blurring the edges between reality and their false identities.

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  • ...takes the legacy of the 80's TV show - and totally obliterates it.

When I heard they were making a big-screen version of the classic 80’s show “Miami Vice” (TV), I admit I was a bit skeptical. True, they had replaced Don Johnson and Philip Michael Thomas with Colin Farrell and Jamie Foxx, but would they be able to update this classic show?

And would director Michael Mann give us another Heat, or would he drop another Collateral (2004) bomb on us? I couldn’t wait to find out. So, for week 13 of our Summer At The Movies 2006, we decided to see if Miami Vice would be the must-see movie we hoped it would be.

Colin Farrell returns to main-stream with his role as Crockett in Miami Vice – and sadly, doesn’t do much to distinguish himself in the role. Since he got so big with roles in Minority Report (2002), DareDevil (2003), S.W.A.T. (2003) and The Recruit (2003), the audience knows he’s got what it takes to be an actor – but, like most actors, he has to work at it.

Maybe he thinks differently, because he hardly tries in Miami Vice – maybe he’s gotten such a swelled head by this point that he thinks just his presence on-screen will make the movie worth seeing. Sorry Colin, but you’re sadly mistaken.

Jamie Foxx, who has recently gotten acclaim in his own right as an actor, seems to be pushed into the background in Miami Vice by both Farrell and director Michael Mann. It’s Colin’s movie throughout – and Foxx is just there to provide him with backup. It’s unfortunate, as Foxx easily could have made his character worth watching – but he never really gets the chance. His character seems primed to jump into the light…but then the camera shifts back to Colin, and he’s left behind once more.

There are so many things wrong with Miami Vice, it’s almost hard to know where to begin. First off, while it’s been touted as an action pic, that’s not what the audience will see. Instead, it’s more of a romantic pic than the previews let on. The main gist of the story seems to be a Romeo & Juliet-type story between Crockett and Isabella, with a little action tossed in to try to keep the viewer awake.

Crockett and Isabella’s pairing, forced on the viewer almost from the start of the film, fails to capture any sort of audience interest. Their scenes together all seem rather forced and awkward. Their lips keep expressing their feelings for each other, but their body language says something entirely different. And since when did “Miami Vice” become all about a love story? Back in the day, this was the series that defined undercover cool, not romantic nights. So why change it up so much for the film version?

Ok, so the romance is a flop…what else is wrong with Miami Vice. 2 words: Michael Mann. Having apparently left his Heat heyday far behind him, Michael Mann is able to take a film about cops undercover in a drug smuggling operation and turn it into one of the dullest films of the summer. Not only is the camera movement so bad it would make a first-year film student cringe, but most of the film is set at a snail’s pace. With quick bits of action, and then a half-hour of the actors bumbling through their lines while staring deep into each other’s eyes, boredom will set in quickly for most viewers.

But, it’s all building toward a spectacular ending, right? Well, after 2 hours of trying to keep themselves awake, the audience is then treated to another quick gun battle that pales in comparison to any scene from Heat. Then, just when the audience thinks the movie is almost over, another 20 minutes is spent wrapping up the romantic storyline. Argh.

Even the sound editing in Miami Vice is bad. During the slow scenes, the viewer strains to distinguish what the characters are mumbling to each other. Then, during the quick action sequences, where the viewer is expecting the sound to come into it’s own, the gunshots are loud enough to make your ears sting. Why is the volume cranked to overload for the action, and then almost muted during the slow scenes? If they had stuck with one setting, at least one or the other would have come out sounding okay. As it is, both will leave the viewer with sore ears.

And then there’s the music. While it’s nice to see a song from the Linkin Park / Jay-Z collaboration make it’s way onto the big screen, it’s shoddy placement in Miami Vice as part of an apparent DJ club mix does nothing for the film. The rest of the soundtrack also seems to be rather thrown into the film, with no thought about if it helps the film or not.

With an incredibly uninspired performance by Colin Farrell, the almost physical oppression of Foxx, and Li caught up in an unfeeling and ridiculous romance storyline that is thrust in the viewer’s face, not to mention shoddy camera work and bad sound editing, Miami Vice takes the legacy of the 80’s TV show, and totally obliterates it. This film will most likely become one of those films where the soundtrack outsells the film itself, easily.

While no one in their right mind would ever want to suffer through another showing of Miami Vice, the soundtrack, with a remake of “In The Air Tonight” and the aforementioned Linkin Park / Jay-Z collaboration as it’s highlights, seems much more likely to become part of my CD collection.

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