Miami Vice
GQ presents “Facial Hair February”.

Theatrical Release Date: 07/28/2006
Director: Michael Mann
Cast: Colin Farrell, Jamie Foxx

Perhaps you have been awaiting my review on “Miami Vice”. All the critics seem to be throwing the film in the trash faster than Chevy Chase’s talk show was cancelled. So here comes a patented Ian Forbes Rant, right?

Sorry, folks. I’m going to go 180 degrees, not only from the critics and probably your own expectations, but my own.

When I first heard that Michael Mann was making the iconic 80s show into a feature film, I was skeptical to put it mildly. Casting Colin Farrell and Jamie Foxx into the sock-less shoes of Crockett and Tubbs led me further into disbelief the film could pull it off.

Then I saw the trailer. And I still thought it wouldn’t work.

Then I heard the reviews and how much tinkering Mann was doing to re-cut the film because of the reviews and screening audience reactions.

And then I knew the film would blow more goats than Al Qaeda.

All of that and I’m going to spend a few paragraphs here extolling the virtues of “Miami Vice” and make the case that it’s one of the better films in its genre.

The first thing one must do is toss aside any attachment to the television show. This film has NOTHING to do with it. I’m as annoyed as everyone else. There’s zero point in calling the film “Miami Vice”. Rather, Mann should have realized how off-topic things had become and re-titled it “Two Badass Undercover Cops Get It Done”.

Shedding the expectation in the name, one can just sit and enjoy the film for what it is.

Mann was experimenting with this film, trying out some new visual styles and techniques and while the film is long (134 minutes or so), I think making any major cuts would have reduced the epic scope Mann was trying to accomplish.

I liked that the film doesn’t sit the audience down like a child and explain everything that is happening. The film starts in the middle of an undercover operation and just sprawls out from there in an organic fashion.

I wasn’t able to catch all of the dialogue but having an IQ somewhere above 80, I figured things out just fine. Moreover, I’m of the opinion that it’s okay to assume your audience is smart enough to follow along.

Why studios and filmmakers have to hammer plot points and character quirks into audiences is just one of many points I’d like to fix if I had my way in Tinseltown.

Back to “Miami Vice”, Mann used a lot of grand, sweeping camera shots that were some of the most beautiful I’ve seen this year. When he wasn’t showing off nature’s splendor, Mann mainly relied on handheld camera-work to present the action and a lot of the film was shot with a grainier look. This resulted in almost the entire film feeling like we were using surveillance footage to watch Crockett and Tubbs crack skulls.

This might be disorientating for some but I really liked being more involved with the film by way of the camera work. At its running time and because the film is not necessarily dialogue heavy, this technique helped to keep me engaged in the action.

Speaking of action, I will admit that there isn’t a scene in “Miami Vice” that quite lives up to the downtown shootout in “Heat”. However, Mann isn’t pulling many punches with the action and some of the beginning scenes are brutal enough to make even me sit up and pay attention.

How many films actually utilize high-caliber weapons to literally blow someone’s body apart? Sure there’s “The Jackal” and “Robocop” but that’s not enough, I say!

The final big battle is a fairly generic stand off but has the trademark amazing gunfire sound effects that were used in the aforementioned “Heat” sequence. This is going to be another DVD that people will use to show off their surround sound.

To spice up the film and shift gears, Mann used what seemed to be an inordinate amount of sex scenes. None of them are necessarily graphic (pervert), but were more sensual in nature. At first, I was a bit put off by them. In thinking more about it after the film, I see that he was using them to create a balance between life and death.

Most of the film revolves around bad people doing bad things. The physical connections Crockett and Tubbs make throughout the film with their respective partners serve to ground them, remind them that the world isn’t all blood and bullets.

Okay, a little deep there. Still, that’s the kind of thinking I’m left with after seeing this film.

I am a big fan of Mann’s work and this is no exception. There are many parallels between this film and some of his other work, most notably “Heat” and “Collateral”. Those are fair associations. However, while “Heat” is a more complete and epic story, I think “Miami Vice” out styles both it and “Collateral”.

I really can’t say enough about Mann’s visual touches in “Miami Vice”. They elevated the film from being just another shoot ‘em up.

Farrell and Foxx were convincing as undercover cops and carried themselves with the poise and style one would expect.

I enjoyed the soundtrack and score to the film, which is no surprise given Mann’s track record in that regard. Most surprising is that the Jay-Z/Linkin Park song that dominated the trailer and opens the film isn’t on the soundtrack, nor are the multiple Chris Cornell songs that play mostly during some of the love scenes. If those were on the disc, I might have picked it up.

Oh well, more money left in my wallet. And for the record, Jan Hammer was approached to update the classic theme but he declined. Another omen that could go either way.

So, the long and short of it is that if you can’t separate the television show from the film, you’re not going to like “Miami Vice”. If you didn’t like “Heat” or at least appreciate the non-Tom Cruise aspects of “Collateral”, then you won’t like “Miami Vice”.

However, if you can put down the preconceptions involved in yet another TV to Film transition and like gritty action-dramas, “Miami Vice” is for you. This is one of the better Hollywood films to come out this summer and I’ll be picking up the DVD when it comes out probably by the end of the year.

“Miami Vice” gets a 4 out of 5 from me. I know I’ll probably continue to be in the minority about how good I think this film is and that’s okay. If I went with the flow all the time, I’d wonder what was wrong with me.