I’m a fan of the Miami Vice TV series, or at least the first two seasons of the show. So, when I heard that a movie was being made of the TV series, one directed by Michael Mann, who helped create and set the tone for the series, I knew that I had to see it – but I missed in theaters. So, for almost a year it had been sitting in my Netflix queue, and was meaning to bump it to the top and watch it. Well, now I’ve finally watched it.
The film follows James “Sonny” Crockett and Ricardo Tubbs, undercover cops on the Miami PD’s Vice Squad (not their actual name). After one of their informants that they had entrusted to the FBI for safekeeping ends up dead, along with his family, they work to investigate a mole in the FBI by infiltrating a Colombian drug cartel. However, the danger that Tubbs and Crockett face ends up going beyond them, and enveloping Gina, Trudy, and the rest of the team as well.
If you’ve seen Collateral, you’ll know what this movie looks like – lots of hand-held digital camera footage, with the footage in the daytime being shot in the day, and the nighttime footage being shot at night with near natural light. With the way this film is shot, it actually gives the movie a better “documentary” feel than shows like Battlestar Galactica and The Shield do with their documentary style, particularly with the use of shaky cam, and snap-zoom effects in the middle of shots. The gunfights are grounded and realistic, while still being exciting and visually dynamic.
The acting is generally pretty good. In particular, Colin Farrell & Jamie Foxx do excellent performances as Tubbs & Crockett, and the performances of the rest of the cast are generally solid. The only point in the performances and the casting that I find myself scratching my head at is with Crockett’s love interest Isabella, played by Gong Li. The character is written as a Cubano (or would it be Cubana), but is played by a Chinese actress. Mind you, Gong Li is an excellent actress, and her performance is solid, but it feels a little off. I would have preferred a Hispanic or Cubana actress in the role. It’s not that I have problems with casting against ethnic group (for example, Lieutenant Castillo is recast as an African American), but you need to choose carefully how you choose to do it, depending on what the story demands.
The story would fit in well with the original television series – and reminds me pretty well of one of my favorite episodes of the first season episode – “Smuggler’s Blues”, which had Tubbs & Crockett infiltrating a drug cartel in a similar fashion, with a story that also took them outside of Miami and the United States. However, it feels slightly padded. I can’t totally explain why – it maybe it’s because of the number of smuggling trips they take. In the course of the show they usually only make 1, maybe 2 runs before moving in and shutting down their target. Here they practically take 4 or 5 trips. I understand that you really need to get the movie to a certain length. Hell, I’ve criticized movies for being too short (particularly Ghost in the Shell), but there’s a point when you’re trying to get a movie to a certain length when you need to say “This is padding and needs to go”. While I understand that in order to go deep enough to get enough information to totally shut down the group they’d need to make multiple trips, we don’t need to watch every trip.
As an additional, minor complaint, the story really doesn’t give some of the other members of the team a lot of time. We get a bunch of Castillo, of Trudy, and of course Tubbs & Crockett. We don’t get much of Zito, Switek or Gina. We don’t even necessarily get their names used in dialog. I was able to figure out who was who based on my knowledge of the show – but not everyone would recognize that. Just dropping a name every now and then would be fine.
The score is pretty solid, and the use of catalog music generally goes pretty well. There are a few hiccups though. In particular, the nu-metal cover of “In The Air Tonight” they use leading up to the climax really doesn’t work as well here. When the original Phil Collins version was used in the TV series, it was used to build the action up for what could possibly be the final confrontation with Calderone (but wasn’t). Once Tubbs & Crockett arrived at their fateful meeting with Calderone, they stopped the music and let the score take over. On the other hand, in the movie, the music doesn’t play leading up to the showdown, it also plays during the gunfight. It made the use of the music feel like fan-service instead of using it to dramatic effect like it was in the original series.
When all’s said and done, the movie is good. It feels like one of the two-part stories the series told (like the pilot), without being stuck in the trapping of the 80s. It’s a good solid narrative. However, it’s visually very different from the series in every respect, being much closer to Collateral than the original series – or even Heat. I enjoyed the movie and I’m reccomending it, though if you didn’t like Collateral‘s look and feel you’ll definitely want to give this a miss.
Buy it – particularly on Blu-Ray.