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Miami Vice - Review

Miami Vice

Review by Jack Foley

IndieLondon Rating: 5 out of 5

DVD SPECIAL FEATURES: Miami and Beyond: Shooting On Location – Featurette; Miami Vice Undercover – Featurette; Nonpoint ‘In the Air Tonight’ Music Video.

LONG gone are the days of pastel suits, designer violence and cheesy 80s pop hits in Michael Mann’s re-imagined Miami Vice, an altogether grittier affair that proves, once again, that no one does crime sagas better.

In an age when TV remakes tend towards parody, Mann’s epic is designed to reinvent rather than poke fun. Sure, we all look back fondly and chuckle at Don Johnson’s wardrobe and Jan Hammer’s synthesizers but they are firmly consigned to memory in Mann’s 2006 equivalent. The players remain the same but the deal is most definitely different.

Sonny Crockett (Colin Farrell) and Ricardo Tubbs (Jamie Foxx) are the Vice cops attempting to bring down a Colombian drug cartel by posing deep undercover as dealers.

Mann wastes no time in thrusting us straight into the action as the duo are forced to intervene when an informant calls them mid-surveillance in a nightclub to apologise for “giving up” some of their colleagues. By the time they have reached him, two FBI cops lay dead and it’s clear that a mole is working within one of the law enforcement departments.

In order to try and establish where the leak is coming from, Crockett and Tubbs infiltrate the organisation of Luis Tosar’s major player, Montoya, first by ripping off his product and then by offering to run drugs for him. By doing so, they gain a unique insight into the day-to-day runnings of the cartel but antagonise its head of security, Jose Yero (John Ortiz), to such an extent that he becomes determined to expose them for what he believes they are.

Crockett, meanwhile, falls for the seductive charms of Isabella (Gong Li), Montoya’s chief business broker, and begins an ill-advised affair.

Mann’s film works on many levels but is most notable for the grim authenticity he injects into proceedings. From the outset, viewers can feel the tension and vulnerability of life on the edge and the fine line that exists between keeping an undercover identity intact and remaining focused enough not to become seduced by its trappings. As Tubbs says to Crockett at one point, “there’s deep undercover and then there’s which way is up”.

As the two detectives get deeper into their assignment, the lines between right and wrong become blurred; Crockett finds himself increasingly drawn to Isabella and the hopeless allure of a doomed relationship, while Tubbs is forced to watch from the sidelines, ready to pull his partner back from the brink.

When Yero eventually has them at his mercy, it’s not just Crockett and Tubbs that he places in the firing line, enlisting an Aryian brotherhood to kidnap Tubbs’ lover, Trudy (Naomie Harris). It’s an action that makes good on a veiled threat made by Montoya at the start of negotiations – “I wish your family well”.

But in the high stakes world of drugs trafficking, lives can be irreversibly changed at the flick of a switch and Mann, to his credit, maintains this air of uncertainty throughout.

Crockett and Tubbs rely on each other but their chemistry is unspoken – anyone looking for the quick-witted camaraderie that existed between Don Johnson and Philip Michael Thomas had best stick with the original.

Farrell and Foxx rely on something altogether different – confidence. They know each other’s moves because they’ve lived in each other’s pockets for so long. They have each other’s backs but they don’t feel the need to highlight it.

Hence, when Crockett uncharacteristically snaps at a superior, Tubbs is there to support the play even though one look tells the audience all they need to know about what he’s thinking. They’re brothers in arms, ready to take it to the limit for each other at any time.

The villains, too, are an unshowy, deadly bunch. There’s no over the top histrionics – just driven, determined men equally aware of the fine line that exists between success and prison. Ortiz’s Yero is suitably chilling as the rottweiler of the organisation, while Tosar exudes a quiet menace as Montoya, using few words to underline his potential threat.

Mann drops us into this world as observers and we’re hooked by the procedural intricacies of both sides as much as by the allure of the lifestyle itself – all fast cars, power boats, planes and guns.

When violence breaks out, however, it’s fast and it hurts. There’s no messing around. Early on, bullets from a sniper’s gun rip through the metal of a car the targets are hiding in, tearing them to shreds in the process.

And a stand-off in a trailer park is tense and brilliantly relayed, the gun-play instant and accurate. The final confrontation, meanwhile, feels and sounds as though you need to duck the bullets.

But Mann’s brilliance lies in his ability to emotionally invest his audience in the gunplay so that the sense of peril is palpable and you care about what happens.

Miami Vice is therefore a blockbuster for adults that refuses to pull its punches. Farrell has seldom been better, while Foxx exudes the class we have come to expect from him – crucially, they convince as the characters they become, whether talking deals or discharging their guns.

If some of the dialogue is mumbled and lost, or some of the lingering shots of skylines and oceans feels a little self-indulgent, then it can be forgiven.

For Mann continues to underline his credentials as one of the greatest directors of his generation. His new-look Miami Vice is sexy, stylish and exciting with the brains to match.

It operates as smoothly as its two central characters, thereby ensuring that Crockett and Tubbs will become cool all over again.

Colin Farrell interview

Michael Mann interview

Photo galleries

Certificate: 15
Running time: 2hrs 15mins