guppy's film reviews

Sunday, August 06, 2006

Miami Vice

Year: 2006
Director: Michael Mann
Notable Actors: Jamie Foxx, Colin Farrell
Score: B-
Summary: Decent movie, but not up to par for Mann. Feels a bit disjointed. Also, doesn't have much of an '80s feel -- not necessarily a negative, but likely against viewers' expectations.
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Miami Vice is a film adaptation of the popular 1980s TV show of the same name. I've never seen the show, and I think that's a handicap as far as watching this movie is concerned.

Colin Farrell and Jamie Foxx play Sonny and Rico, the two main characters. I think this makes two films in which I've liked Colin Farrell, the other being Intermission. Foxx turns in a fine performance as usual but nothing exceptional. Farrell is much more interesting this time around, but that's not really Foxx's fault; Farrell's part is just meatier. Li Gong is Isabella, a fairly uninteresting henchman/love interest. The only other really memorable character is José Yero (John Ortiz), who is a nice balance of competent drug smuggler and sleazeball.

The plot centers around Sonny and Rico investigating a drug ring, deep undercover, after a mole blows the cover of the original investigation team. The film largely becomes a game of maintaining cover identities, proving loyalties and doublecrossing each other after that.

Vice has Michael Mann written all over it. It's detailed, it's gritty, it's fast-moving. Unfortunately, this may not be the place for all those things. For starters, the movie is long and you feel it. It's not boring, exactly, it's just that I was ready for it to end before it did. It's also so fast-paced that it's sometimes hard to tell what's going on. By and large, I appreciate that lack of hand-holding; it's one of my favorite things about some other films, like Chinatown. But I had a little more trouble following the plot of Vice than I did the others. It's by no means incomprehensible, but you've got to pay attention. I'm not sure exactly what the issue is. It may be the editing, which jumps around a lot. It may also be the script; Mann wrote and directed the film, and he may have forgotten that we're not all in his head and don't know exactly what he's thinking. There are also a couple of totally unnecessary sex scenes, which don't really advance the plot, and aren't very explicit, thus alienating both of the likely audiences for such scenes.

Vice seems to make the assumption that the viewers have watched the show and know the characters. That would probably have been a fair assumption to make twenty years ago. These days, though, a lot of us didn't grow up with it, myself included, and it makes us feel a little left out in the cold. Sonny and Rico are pretty fleshed out, and one can follow the movie without that familiarity, but there's a lot there that you won't get if you aren't already acquainted with the source material. Or so I'm told. For example, Foxx's wife is an intel analyst, but it's possible to miss that fact entirely since it has virtually no bearing on the plot. There are two more members of the team, but the exact structure is pretty nebulous.

I've mostly been focusing on the negatives so far, but there's a lot to like about it too. It's stylish, and Mann doesn't pull any punches. The violent scenes feel violent. The shady meet-ups feel suitably underground. I also liked the sets and the costumes. For the most part, it feels like Miami -- palm trees, dance clubs, and so forth. I did find the city and soundtrack a little jarring, though. I was expecting a 1980s feel, but the city feels too fast-paced and the soundtrack is too current. I suppose Mann was shooting for a more modern reinvention, so this is probably due to my expectations. Still, when the movie is called Miami Vice, I don't think those are unreasonable expectations to hold.

Miami Vice isn't a bad movie, exactly. But I expected a little better from Mann, and it's not as accessible as I'd like.

2 Comments:

  • not seen this yet - but you may just have persuaded me to go to the cinema. most folk I know have hated it...but they aren't experts on Mann...

    By Anonymous BranTheBuilder, at 10:28 AM  

  • not seen this yet - but you may just have persuaded me to go to the cinema. most folk I know have hated it...but they aren't experts on Mann...

    By Anonymous BranTheBuilder, at 10:47 AM  

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