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Thursday, September 06, 2007

FILM: Michael Mann's 'Miami Vice'


I can still recall my youthful evenings watching television at home and my parents settling in to watch what appeared to be too cool for an eight year-old kid, Miami Vice. The television show ran for five seasons on NBC, from 1984-1989. But the action and drama of the show still sucked me in. Alongside favorites like Knight Rider, Riptide and The A-Team, Miami Vice seemed uber-cool, even if I spent a lot of the time confused about the more complex plots.

With nostalgia driving the way, it was only a matter of time that director Michael Mann revisited his creation. On July 28, 2006, fans got what they wanted when Miami Vice hit the big screen, 17 years after the original series left the airwaves. Colin Farrell and Jamie Foxx star as lead characters, Crockett and Tubbs.

As long as I can remember, Michael Mann has always been one of my favorite producer-directors. The look and feel of his work is top notch, and this film is no exception. I almost forget about pacing and plot because the aesthetics of the film are so breathtaking. The visuals that made the original TV series innovative and provocative are ratcheted up in this film version, depicting a Miami bathed in sun drenched beauty and tanned with exotic locale and sweeping settings. Undercover vice cops Sonny Crockett and Ricardo Tubbs are dressed in the highest fashions saddled inside trendy night clubs and driving exotic European sports cars.

While Mann sought to reinvent Miami Vice with the film, many of these traits are in direct homage to the original television series, updated and remixed with mid-2000s fashion.

The film itself is an intricate look inside a complex sting operation, where Crockett and Tubbs must go deep undercover to track down and bring to justice drug smuggling arms dealers who have killed three FBI agents and an informant. Simply put, it's a typical Miami Vice story, but told in such a complex manner that you really have to pay attention to make sure you don't miss anything.

Crockett and Tubbs pose as drug smugglers offering their distribution services to Jose Yero, the right hand man of major kingpin Archangel de Jesus Montoya. The duo learn that the cartel is using a Neo-Nazi gang to distribute drugs, and in return supplying them illegal arms.

Crockett is drawn to Montoya's business partner and lover, Isabella, played by Chinese superstar Gong Li. Their romance helps the duo infiltrate the cartel even deeper. In the end, Crockett and Tubbs face off against Yero and his men at the Miami harbor in a climactic shootout, which Mann takes great pains in delivering a knockout final act.

The movie blends action with drama while showcasing Mann's excruciatingly detailed visual flair. As for the plot, critics reviews were mixed. Amazon.com's Jeff Shannon compares Vice to other Mann films, noting that it "doesn't reach the peak intensity of Mann's 1995 classic Heat" and "it lacks the tight, nail-biting suspense of Collateral." However, he and others still praise the film as worthy drama.

This film updates a classic television franchise with a glossy, action-filled feature that packs enough wallop to satisfy casual fans with a hunger for complex, dramatic crime tales. This one ranks as one of my favorite crime dramas and you need not be a fan of the original TV series to watch and enjoy the movie.

Miami Vice would gross $136 million at the box office. The studio website has some pretty cool stuff and is still up and running. You can find it at http://www.miamivice.com/. Check out the original trailer for the movie below!


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