(Universal) Colin Farrell, Jamie Foxx, Gong Li, Naomie Harris, Ciaran Hinds, Justin Theroux, Barry Shabaka Henley, John Ortiz, Luis Tosar, Elizabeth Rodriguez, John Hawkes. Directed by Michael Mann.
It’s a given that everything old will become new again at some point. Take Miami Vice as an example. As a television show during the mid 1980s, it helped define the era with its South Beach cool. The soundtrack included some of the signature songs of the era – “In the Air Tonight” (reprised in the movie, but not by Phil Collins sadly) and Glenn Frey’s “You Belong to the City.” For a time, record labels campaigned mightily to get their music onto the show’s soundtrack because it guaranteed them a serious sales upsurge.
Twenty years later, the show has largely faded into its time, but for those who loved the show are as affectionate for it now as they ever were. Show creators Anthony Yerkovich and Michael Mann have made the decision to resurrect the show and update it for the 21st century. For me, this set off a lot of alarm bells in my head. Movies based on classic television shows have been nearly without exception extraordinarily bad. For every Mission: Impossible there have been several like Beverly Hillbillies, Bewitched and My Favorite Martian. The only thing that even kept it on my radar was Mann’s recent track record, which includes Collateral, one of the more stylish thrillers of recent times, and The Insider, which was nominated for seven Oscars.
While the names remain the same, this is most definitely not your father’s Miami Vice. Detective James “Sonny” Crockett (Farrell) gets a frantic phone call from an informant (Hawkes) who has had to give up FBI undercover agents to a vicious drug cartel operating in Miami in order to save his family – unsuccessfully. It’s obvious there is a mole in the FBI somewhere.
Fujima (Hinds), the FBI agent in charge, enlists Crockett and his partner Rico Tubbs (Foxx) to go undercover; since they are in the Miami-Dade police department, he can trust them. Their superior, Captain Castillo (Henley) agrees to it. The two undercover cops set themselves as transporters of illegal goods. Fujima tells them that the supplier for the man they’re after in South Florida is a Columbian named Jose Yero (Ortiz). They arrange to take down a shipment of his, destroying the boats of the transporter he has been using. Using an intermediary, they set themselves up to take over the business.
They are surprised to find out that Yero is not the boss of the organization. Isabella, a beautiful Asian woman (Li) seems to be in charge, but it turns out she is just the girlfriend of the man who is in charge, a man named Montoya (Tosar). Crockett and Tubbs find themselves in a position to take down the entire organization from top to bottom.
There are complications, however. Crockett falls hard for Isabella, which makes Yero suspicious. He sets up a hit on the two of them and when that fails, kidnaps Tubbs’ girlfriend, fellow undercover cop Trudy Joplin (Harris) whom he has for reasons I can’t fathom introduced to Yero as…you guessed it, his girlfriend. Crockett and Tubbs may be in over their heads against a network of vicious killers that have absolutely no compunction about leaving a high body count of civilians in their wake.
Miami Vice gets high marks for its action sequences. Mann doesn’t waste a single moment on-camera (OK, the shower scene with Tubbs and Joplin might have been a little too long, but I didn’t hear anyone complaining) and keeps the movie’s pacing at a breakneck pace.
Like its predecessor, Miami Vice gets high marks for style. The detectives drive state-of-the-art wheels, boats and jets and hit night clubs that actually look like clubs that the high and mighty would hang out at. While the soundtrack isn’t as memorable as that of the television shows, it nevertheless pulsates with some excellent tracks from Moby and India.Arie.
You don’t go to a movie like Miami Vice for the performances. I thought Foxx did pretty well as Tubbs, but Farrell at times was a bit too mannered for Crockett, and he gets the majority of the screen time – I would have liked to see more of Tubbs. However, Gong Li does an unsurprisingly good job in the femme fatale role.
The gun battle at the movie’s conclusion is loud and looks and sounds a lot like what that kind of confrontation with that kind of firepower would look and sound like. Hopefully, you’ll have a high end sound system to take enjoy the experience. This is far grittier than the television show, which makes some sense – given that it has an R rating, they could go a lot farther than they could on the small screen.
This is pure summer entertainment, and has a sense of realism in the police procedural aspect as well. Although there are a few moments that make no sense other than to put one character or another in jeopardy, there is no doubt that this movie succeeds wildly at what it set out to do. From that standpoint, there’s definitely something in the air.
WHY RENT THIS: Extraordinary action sequences take front and center stage. Foxx is outstanding as Tubbs. The movie retains the South Beach style and an updated but still strong soundtrack which may invoke a sense of nostalgia.
WHY RENT SOMETHING ELSE: Some of the plot points are a bit preposterous. Farrell is a little too mannered as Crockett.
FAMILY VALUES: Oy vey! Violence, sex and drugs aplenty. Lots of foul language. Definitely one to put on after the kids are in bed.
TRIVIAL PURSUITS: Actor Edward James Olmos turned down the opportunity to reprise his role as Castillo and TV theme song composer Jan Hammer also turned down the job of scoring the film.
NOTABLE DVD EXTRAS: A realistic prank played on Farrell by undercover officers he was shadowing for research purposes is shown as part of a feature on the actors preparation for their roles. There is also an unrated directors cut that restores footage cut out to get the movie its R rating.
FINAL RATING: 7/10