Michael Mann gives us the real, down and dirty underbelly of
A. Sandoc | San Pablo, California United States | 07/30/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Michael Mann has always been in the forefront of experimenting and trying out new film techniques and styles to tell his stories. His last film, 2003's Collateral, was a veritable masterpiece of directing modern, urban noir. He even made Tom Cruise very believable as a sociopathic character. It is now 2006 and Michael Mann has followed up Collateral with another trip down the darkside of the law and crime. Taking a concept he made into a cultural phenomenon during the mid 80's, Mann reinvents Miami Vice from the pastel colors, hedonistic and over-the-top drug-culture Miami to a more down, dirty and shadowy world where extremes by both the cops and the criminals rule the seedy, forgotten side of Miami.
Michael Mann's films have always dealt with the extremes in its characters. Whether its James Caan's thief character Frank in Thief, the dueling detective and thief of Al Pacino and Robert DeNiro, up to Foxx and Cruise's taxi driver and assassin. They all have had one thing in common. They're individuals dedicated to their chosen craft. Professional in all respect and so focused to doing their job right that they've crossed the line to obsession. These men have an obsession to doing their jobs to the point that its become like a drug to keep them going. This theme continues in Mann's film reboot of his TV series Miami Vice. The characters remain the same. There's still the two main characters of Vice Detectives Sonny Crockett and Ricardo Tubbs. This time around these titular characters were played by Colin Farrell (in a look that echoes Gregg Allman more than Don Johnson) and Jamie Foxx. From the first second all the way through to the final fade to black in the end of the film the audience was thrust immediately into the meat of the action. Mann dispenses with the need for any sort of opening credits. In fact, the title of the film doesn't appear until the end of the film and the same goes for the names of all involved. I thought this was a nice touch. It gave the film a stronger realism throughout.
The film's story was a mixture of past classic episodes rolled into one two-hour long film with the episode "Smuggler's Blues" being the main influence on the story. The glamour and glitz that were so prevalent in the original series does show up in the film, but it's not used too much that it turned the characters of Crockett, Tubbs and the rest of the cast into caricatures. The glamour seems more of a thin veneer to hide the danger inherent in all the parties involved. These people were all dangerous from the cops to the criminals. There's alot of the so-called "gray areas" between what makes a cop and what makes a criminal. Mann's always been great in blurring those lines and in showing that people on either side of the line have much more in common than they realize.
Miami Vice's story doesn't leave much for back story exposition for the main leads. Michael Mann takes the minimalist approach and just introduces the characters right from the beginning with nothing to explain who they were outside of the roles they played --- whether they be law-enforcement or drug dealers. The script allows for little personal backstory and instead lets the actors' performance show just what moves, motivates and inspires these characters. Again, Jamie Foxx steals the film from his more glamorous co-star in Colin Farrell. Farrell did a fine job in making Crockett the high-risk taking and intense half of the partnership, but Foxx's no-nonsense, focused intensity as Tubbs was the highlight performance throughout the film. The rest of the cast do a fine job in the their roles. From Gong Li as Isabella the drug-lord's moll who also double's as his organization's brains behind the finances to Luis Tosar as the mastermind drug kingping Arcángel de Jesús Montoya. Tosar as Montoya also does a standout performance, but was in the screen for too less a time.
This film wouldn't be much of a police crime drama if it was all talk and no action. The action in Miami Vice comes fast and tight. Each scene was played out with a tightness and intensity which prepped the audience to the point that the violence that suddenly arrives was almost a release. Everyone in the theater knew what was coming and when the violence and action does arrive it goes in hard and fast with little or no tricks of rapid editing, slow-motion sequences or fancy camera angles and tricks like most action films. Instead Michael Mann continues his theme of going for realism even in these pivotal moments in the film. The shootouts doesn't have the feel of artificiality. The gunshot inflicted on the people in the film were brutal, violent and quick. The camera doesn't linger on the dead and wounded. These scenes must've taken only a few minutes of the film's running time, but they were minutes that were executed with Swiss-like precision.
The look of the film was where Mann's signature could be seen from beginning to end. He started using digital cameras heavily in Collateral. He used it to great effect to give the film a sense of "in the now" realism. His decision to use digital cameras for that film also was due to a story mostly set at night. The use of digital allowed him to capture the deepest black to off-set the grays and blues of Los Angeles at night. Mann does the same for Miami Vice, but he does Collateral one better by using digital cameras from beginning to end. Digital lent abit of graininess to some scenes, but it really wasn't as distracting as some reviewers would have you believe. In fact, it made Miami Vice seem like a tale straight out of COPS or one of those reality police shows. Again, Michael Mann stretches the limits of his mind and technology could accomplish when working in concert. Mann's direction and overall work in Miami Vice could only be described as being as focused and obsessive over the smallest detail as the characters in his films. This is a filmmaker who seem to want nothing but perfection in each scene shot.
Michael Mann has done the unthinkable and actually made a film adaptation of a TV show look like an art-film posing as a tight police drama. Everyone who have given the film a less than stellar review seem to have done so because Mann didn't use the 80's imagery and sensibilities from the original show. There were no pastel designer clothes and homes. There was no pet alligator and little friendly banter and joking around. Mann goes the other way and keeps the mood deadly serious. This was very apropo since the two leads led mortally dangerous lives as undercover agents who could die at the slightest mistake. The fun and jokes of the original series would've broken the mood and feel of this film. I, for one, am glad Mann went this route and not paid homage to the original series. This some saw as a major flaw, but I saw it as the main advantage in keeping Miami Vice from becoming a self-referential film bordering on camp.
Miami Vice was not your typical action-drama for the 2006 summer blockbuster season. Like Collateral in 2004, Michael Mann forgo large effects and drawn out action to sell his film, but made a finished product thats smart, stylish, and innovative crime drama. This was a film that people would either love despite some of the flaws, or one people would hate due to not being like the original TV series. Those who decide to skip watching Miami Vice because of the latter would miss a great film from one of this generation's best directors. Those who do give this Miami Vice a chance would be rewarded with one of the best films of 2006."
Eveyone has missed the boat
J. Siverly | Peoria, IL | 11/23/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Most of the reviewers of this movie have completely missed the point. If you go into it thinking you are going to see an over the top version of the show you watched growing up, you will be disappointed. If you take it for what it is, Michael Mann's updated vision of the show he created with no rules or censorship, you are in for a great ride. I found most reviews of this movie very irritating because they all compared it to the tv show. No one was willing to open up to something different. It is not the 80's anymore. The movie is set it present times. The Rolling Stone review nailed the point of the movie exactly (the only accurate review in my opinion). Mann's directing and use of HD cinematography are top notch and submerse you into a world of undercover narcotic cops. This isn't Bad Boys (even though I loved that film) and Michael Mann isn't Michael Bay. I agree with the other reviewer who stated that this film is not for the nascar group. There is so much going on that is does need multiple viewings to fully appreciate. If you pay attention and fully get the movie, you will agree that it is a awsome ride. The movie's climax alone was worth the price of admission."
More 'vice' than 'Miami' in this gritty update.
Boss Fan | Take a Right at the Light, Keep Going Straight Unt | 07/30/2006
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Okay, okay, so we all know now Michael Mann's dark, brooding reimagining of his own cultural classic is not your father's "Miami Vice" of the mid-80s (or, not your ten-year-old self's "Vice" at any rate). Gone are the pastels, Elvis the alligator and almost all back-story of our cops on a personal level (or any level really). As the movie begins the viewer is immediately plunged into the middle of Sonny Crocket and Ricardo Tubbs on the job. Crocket gets a phone call and within minutes the plot of the film is set in motion and we are off and running. No introductions, no set-ups; the viewer is just thrown into a ride-along as these two undercover cops take on their next case.
This "Miami Vice" is clearly meant to be something of an examination of undercover work, as opposed to any kind of conventional storytelling in your standard action film. But then Michael Mann is no standard action filmmaker. How he has evolved from his work on "Vice" in its TV heyday to now is like night and day, but the core of what made him a visionary talent even back than has not changed. While this "Miami Vice" may tone down the colorful, hedonistic aspects that the show is remembered for, Mann still remembers to portray, not only Miami, but Cuba, Portugal and host of other global locations, in all their vibrant cultural allure. Crocket and Tubs still take advantage of being undercover by trolling around in designer clothes, expensive cars, and fast boats.
But this is all painted on a much darker palate this time. I'm not sure we ever glimpse Miami during the day and there are no scenes of women roaming the beach in skimpy bikinis. Crocket and Tubbs speak to each other in the same monosyllabic, one word sentences they speak to the bad guys in; rarely do they joke or have any long, buddy-copish conversations about life, love, their pasts, the job, or even where the other is going when they decide to run off for two days. They always look stoic, serious and focused constantly on the job. They don't even stop to reflect that 'holy s**t, I'm driving a Ferrari at 160 miles per hour!'
Yes, this film is all about the 'vice.' Mann wants to throw us into the undercover world and game. As a procedural examination of that world "Miami Vice" is rather fascinating. I could gripe that really exciting undercover cop movies would include more personal drama for our heroes, ala there are more close calls where they are inches from having their cover blown, or a scene where they are discovered and how are they gonna get out of it. But "Miami Vice" isn't trying to be a typical undercover cop movie. It may lose some suspense and opportunities for more action sequences because of this approach, but the idea here, I guess, is this is just one case in a string of them that these guys tackle every day. We are just watching them do their thing on this particular job.
There is a little bit of initiative to shake things up near the end when, due to the baddy's suspicions, a deal goes wrong and one of Crocket and Tubbs' colleagues is placed in peril. This scene includes a terrific "Dirty Harry" moment and is done so well you almost wish there were more of them. The flip side to that coin though is that then these moments would risk becoming somewhat rote and overtake the plot: too much of a good thing. As they are, they make for great surprises that stand-out in the midst of a movie that is ultimately more plot-driven and story-focused than action packed. So strict action-junkies beware: There's always, say, "Bad Boys" and its sequel if you want pretty Miami locals, lots buddy cop jokularity, and blow'em-up action and chase scenes. "Miami Vice" is not that movie - and it is clearly trying very hard to be anything but that movie.
But as usual with Mann, when the action kicks in, these scenes are better than almost any of their kind. No matter what you thought of Mann's "Heat," you have to admit that it includes one of the best shoot-outs ever captured on film. "Miami Vice" has a climatic shoot-out that, like "Heat itself in my opinion, while not as good, has many of the same great qualities. Where your typical director would stage such a sequence with lots of music or editing tricks to lead the audience, Mann keeps everything quiet, except for the deafening pops of gun shots. No editing tricks, slow-motion, etc, but Mann's expert camera work puts us right there. At one moment a camera is placed behind one of the baddies during the shoot out. He gets blown away by one of the cops and the camera runs left over to one of the other bad guys and positions itself behind him. Get it? The camera is us. There is also a chaos to the camera movements in these moments, further giving us the you-are-there feeling, trying to show what it must be like to be in the middle of such a war zone.
Mann also knows how to make a film look great. He shoots with digital cameras so everything almost looks superimposed over everything else. This is especially awe-inspiring when characters are on rooftops, shot against the night sky and the blinking city lights behind them. There are also sweeping cinematic shots of the sky, ocean, water falls, freeways and cityscapes. And when we delve into the drug dealing underworld or Miami nightclubs, Mann gives a the film a grainy, security camera voyeur look to the proceedings.
Yes, this is one great looking film. And an expertly made one. One of the best by both standards. But it is also well written and smartly executed. However, despite all of this, there a few things that, while not flaws exactly, at least leave a something to be desired. I get that the lack of character development was probably intentional. I guess we are just supposed to assume that everything we know about Crockett and Tubbs of yore remains true and we are simply catching up with them again and following them on one of their darker cases. Either that or who they are is rather perfunctory and moot given the proceedings and we are just supposed to be watching two undercover cops do their thing. You wonder if Mann would have even bothered giving them names if he didn't have to. But then why call it "Miami Vice" at all? I suppose hardcore fans would be forgiven for being a little let down that a movie called "Miami Vice" has very little to do with Miami itself or the characters they were looking forward to rediscovering. I'm sure they would all be fine with updating the proceedings and getting rid of some of the campier fare, but still would rather not feel like this movie could exist just as it is and never had been called "Miami Vice."
That is a minor quibble however, for myself anyway, because I was never the biggest "Miami Vice" fan - contrary to pictures my mom might show of me running around in a white sport coat with a water gun at seven years old. I guess I liked it then, but watching it now the show feels too much of its time for me to really get into. Not the show's fault by any means, and that is not to say it is not without its assets (again, credit mainly goes to Mann), but it just doesn't hold my interest. Cop shows have come a long way. So perhaps Mann's intent here is to bring "Miami Vice" that distance; to catch up to where cop dramas have traveled to in the 20 years since all things "Miami Vice."
I sympathize with those who think this isn't really much of a remake or update; or were looking forward to something with the high-octane style of the TV show - Was I the only one half expecting the movie to begining with the Universal logo (you know, that classic shot of the slowly spinning earth with "Universal" splashed over it) and then a shot zooming in on the U.S., then Florida, then Miami, as slowly the actual gulf coast is super imposed over the logo and then we pan and zoom further still into the heart of the city and then finally into a night club where Crockett and Tubbs are set up for action, or perhaps a freeway, or boat chase, already in progress? I still say its a cool idea (if I've explained it right). There's always the sequel. But again, that is not the "Miami Vice" this movie wants to be. - but speaking to those who are hoping for something completely different, or may be staying away because they didn't like the show, this film will satisfy you more than you would expect.
Again, action junkies may be disappointed. It is best you view this as an undercover procedural, not a rock 'em, sock 'em action flick. But even as much as I recomend this film, I'd be willing to conceed that it could have used a little more adrenaline at times, or at least more of a sense of danger for our cops. For instance, Mann was able to sustain tension for 3 hours with "Heat" and gave us only one action scene per hour. But "Heat" maintained a feeling of constant tension between the cops and crooks, the crooks and crooks, the cop and his family, and the characters internal struggles. If "Miami Vice" fails to accomplish the same sense of empathy for its characters and their situations, it is because it is written as one half of "Heat." "Heat" is a character driven crime saga: you see the inner workings of their jobs as well as their inner workings. "Vice" is simply a crime saga. That may lose "Vice" some of the tension that comes with knowing and truly caring for the characters, but that it musters even half the greatness of "Heat" is still a huge feat.
And in a summer where every 'big' movie so far has failed to live up to even a fraction of its hype (to these eyes anyway), "Miami Vice" is, so far, far and away at the top of its summer blockbuster class. "
Another fine film from Michael Mann!!
M. Hoffman | new jersey | 07/28/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Michael Mann does what he does best with Miami Vice, and thats directing a superior crime film.
Forget the show, however, besides the names and namesake city, several story elements from several episodes are used.
Instead of throwing a thousand clichés of "buddy cops" saying one liners and flying from action scene to action scene with guns that never run out of bullets, Mann has given us a cop drama that is certainly "anti-Bad Boys." Vice is far more realistic, mostly because things don't always work out right for all the characters.
James "Sonney" Crockett and Rico Tubbs have a relationship that I liked because they have a respect for each other that reminded me of Niel MacCauley's crew in Mann's 1995 masterpiece, Heat. We don't need any back story, because it would stick out and drag this particular story.
This may turn off some of Mann's fans, because character development is something hes great at.
Vice drops into the middle of a sting operation that quickly gets left for a desperate phone call from an informant who they haven't seen in months. From there, Vice begins a "blink and you'll miss it" type story of infiltration. Its a film that needs attention. Your either into it for the drama, the procedures, and wheelings and dealings, or you could be completely bored.
Mann is an acquired taste, and his films never force feed you information. I never found the movie confusing, because I was right there with the characters and followed along in with the breezy pacing. Some reviews have said the story is "convoulted." The realism is that things don't always go down like they're supposed to, and things change quickly.
Mann stays with a scene long enough to show us the point and knows when to move forward. The romance between Crocket and Isabella was right on the money. Not too pretentious or story stopping, but enough to add some conflict. Their quick getaway to Cuba was actually pretty short, and didn't slow the movie, as I thought it would.
The acting and dialogue were great. Colin Farrel actually impressed me and Jamie Foxx has already been impressing me (with Collateral and Ray.) Gong Li was also great. Even though English is her second language and some words seemed lost in the translation, she was easy to understand. John Ortiz and Luis Tosar were also great as the bad guys. They aren't the cliché bad guys who flip out at everything. They are relatively calm and act like regular people who are just doing business. They rest of the cops known from the show (Trudy, Gina, Switeck, and Zito) are simply just there as back up to Cockett and Tubbs. Naomi Harris was good as Trudy playing Tubbs girlfriend. Switeck and Zito don't have much to do. Gina, on the other hand, will win you over when she gets a gun in her hand. Shes awesome with her one scene that she steals.
The cinematography was also amazing. The HD does have a grainy effect, but, I think HD looks much better on my HDtv than it does at a cinema. However the night shots did bring the cloudy sky and city lights alive, although I did like Collateral's orange/blue look better. I guess Mann didn't want to have it look "exactley" like Collateral. The locations Mann found are amazing, even the plane flying through the clouds and the boat racing across the sea are unlike anything I've ever seen.
Bottom line: Not as great as Mann's Collateral and Heat, but, if you liked Collateral, Heat, Thief, and Manhunter, or even The French Connection and To Live And Die In LA, you will like Miami Vice. If your looking for Bad Boys or Lethal Weapon, you've come to the wrong place.
A great movie for those who like a certain rarified reality
N. Caine | Los Angeles, CA | 02/04/2007
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Two things that crack me up in reading reviews of this movie are: 1) when folks point out all the "unrealistic" things in the movie, and 2) when folks point out how silly it is that Tubbs and Crocket are so somber and serious. Among other things, buying this dvd gets you fantastic extras, including two minimovies on the realism (basically, how millions of dollars and months of preproduction were spent copying things exactly), plus a full length commentary by Michael Mann, which is the best commentary I've ever heard for a movie. You learn that the script was basically written after extensive interviews with undercover DEA agents and professional informants. Yes, some DEA and FBI stuff gets laid on Crockett and Tubbs (who, technically, are Miami Vice) but for those who think the whole thing is an elaborate fantasy and that only "The Wire" tells you how reality works, you should know that almost everything is based on fact down to the tiniest detail. In fact, one of the reason Crockett and Tubbs are so somber and serious and have so little to say (no donut jokes) is that they spent months shadowing the guys who really do this and they modeled their performances on how these guys really are. It's a very intense and edgy thing to be undercover, and the guys who are the deepest really are flying planes and making deals in foreign countries all on their own with no backup and with crime syndicates doing extensive background checks on them.
The movie will obviously disappoint anyone looking for a conventional narrative. We don't have an obvious story arc, and the audience is expected to figure out what's going on without lots of repetition. (For example, the reason they're undercover is because of a leak in the Federal command superstructure, but if you were munching on your popcorn for that line, you're out of luck.) I saw the movie in the theater and on dvd, and I actually preferred the dvd, because I could catch lines that were inaudible in the theater. If there's one complaint I have about the film, it's that Gong Li can be very hard to understand. That said, Mann's commentary taught me that some of the key players in this world are multilingual and aren't necessarily speaking their native language. Again, something that seems like a Hollywood mistake ("they got an actress who can't pronounce English") may not be off the mark.
What this movie succeeds in doing, beyond any movie I've seen, is to make you feel like you're actually there. Mann's pioneering work in filming at night, plus his breakthrough work in aerial filming, go to places film has never been before. In addition, he doesn't use many "effects." When a car is shot up by a canon-rifle, you're watching it really happen. So you actually feel like you're at a nighttime drug buy, or along the Miami river, or in speedboat, or in Havana. On a side note, a number of reviewers have mentioned how unrealistic it is that Crocket just drives his boat to Havana. Listen to Mann's commentary: that really is Colin Farrell driving that speedboat 70 miles an hour off the tip of Florida, which would take him less than 80 minutes to get to Havana. Again, it seems like viewers don't want to feel like they're actually there because they think they're being duped. But it's like they're used to what counts as "this is real" from movies. The same people probably thought "Traffic" was realistic, when it was a great example of Hollywood's "realism" which is often cliche in itself [hand held cameras, melodramatic acting, tragic figures -- "oh this is the street!"].
A fantastic dvd to buy, which amazing extras, a cinematic experience that feels new every time I watch it, and a compelling film that challenges the audience to do the thinking.
P.S. For those who wonder what "director's cut" means, Mann has really only added a few minutes of footage. To me, it smoothes out the beginning and the end, but you may not even notice."