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Miami Vice
Tonight's Feature Presentation

MIAMI VICE (2006)

Starring: Colin Farrell, Jame Foxx, Gong Li, Naomie Harris, Ciarin Hinds, Barry Shabaka Henley

Written and Directed By: Michael Mann

The Shot

This looks almost nothing like the “Miami Vice” you remember from television back in the 1980s.

Michael Mann sure does know how to direct himself a stylish picture.

There’s substance behind the style, but that substance doesn’t exactly rush out to announce itself.

If you’re looking for a traditional cop action movie, look somewhere else.

Miami Vice isn’t going to be most people’s taste, but if you’re up for something different, it is worth a go.

The Highball

What Kind Of Cheese Is It?

BRIE.

Stylish.  Fashionable.  Melts in your mouth in a moment, and when the moment’s gone… can you still taste it?


Pairs Well With...

MOJITO.

Though if you decide to go to Havana to get it, any border issues are your own problem to deal with.

“Live now.  Life is short.  Time is luck.”


You think you’re going to see a movie about cops, but you’re wrong.

Miami Vice is a movie that has cops in it, but it’s not about the fact that they’re cops.  Not really.  It’s not even about the drug lords they’re after.

Miami Vice is about a moment.  A moment, and nothing more.

Think about a club.  Not some dark, smoke-filled basement club that plays the Rat Pack between lounge acts while the goombahs bluster at their mistresses.  I’m talking a downtown club.  Flashy.  Modern.  DJ kickin’ it hot.  There’s neon, but none of it’s bent into a beer sign.  At least half of the individual bar tabs on any given night will be greater than a week’s average income for most residents of the city the club is in. 

Think you’ve got it?

There may be a boat race happening behind the credits, but really, the action of Miami Vice starts in a club like this.

Look around the club.  There.  Depending on who you are, you’re either looking at a guy in a thousand dollar suit with an open jacket and the top three buttons of his shirt undone, or you’re looking at a babe in a hot dress that leaves just enough to the imagination.  Doesn’t matter which; either way, you’re looking at a player.  The player’s not interested in a commitment.  The player doesn’t care where you’ve been or where you’re going.  Even your name is optional.  All the player cares about is right now: this moment.  For as long as this moment continues, the player is there in captivating style, and whether or not you have the slightest interest in what the player is saying, you have to admit that the player looks damn good while saying it.

And when the moment ends… you’re left wondering what the hell just happened.  Come the morning after, all you’re going to remember is that the player looked good, but left nothing behind.

The player is Miami Vice.

You could say that it’s all about style, but you’d be missing the point.

That’s easy to do, of course.  After all, Miami Vice has style in spades.  That’s what Michael Mann does.  Present him with any scene, and he will find the most stylish way to film it.  Run of the mill shot where two guys get killed when their car is hosed down by machine gun fire?  Screw that.  Everyone puts the camera outside.  Michael Mann puts the camera inside the car, and just to be really different, he puts it in the back seat.  If you’re going to meet a drug dealer inside of a basement in Haiti, don’t make it a musty dump.  Give it some flash.  Paint a freaky mural on the back wall first.  Then we can call it a location.  Firefight coming up?  Forget this static perspective stuff.  Let’s keep those cameras on the move, people!

And yes, make sure the cars are hot.  If the dopest pimp in Miami wouldn’t be caught dead driving it, then keep it off the set.  And the cars had better be washed to a shine between each and every take.  Same thing with the speedboats.  If it can’t race, then it’s not really a speedboat, is it?  And let’s not even think about hauling our dope in any crap ass secondhand Cessna.  If it doesn’t look like modern art, then it’s not a real airplane.

Do we even have to mention the clothes, or do you think you’ve got the hang of this yet?

Yeah, there’s plenty of style to go around here.  Miami Vice has enough style for three movies.  However, tough as it is to believe, the style is not the substance, nor is it even meant as a substitute for substance.

The style is there for three reasons.  One, as noted, Michael Mann breathes style.  Put him in a room with brown walls and no artwork and he’d probably go insane.  Two, style is what people expect from the “Miami Vice” name, because it’s what they remember from the television show back in the 1980s.  (Hold that thought.)  Three – and this is the most important – style is what we as human beings tend to assign to significant moments in our lives.

That, in the end, is all Miami Vice is ever meant to be.  It is a significant extended moment in the life of Sonny Crockett (Colin Farrell, The Recruit) that happens to run parallel to another significant moment in the life of his partner, Ricardo Tubbs (Jamie Foxx, Ray).  It is not a book; it is a chapter torn from a book.  That’s why, despite the fact that it has more than enough time to do so, the film never really bothers to introduce most of its characters beyond the superficial; indeed, many don’t even get that much.  Sonny already knows who they are, and this is his moment, not yours.  You, dear audience, are just a voyeur.

In the span of this moment, the past doesn’t matter, and neither does the future.  Sonny even says so flat out, if you’re paying attention. 

Miami Vice is a one night stand that got turned into an extended weekend.  Again, Sonny says as much, if you’re paying attention.  Think of it as waking up to the empty pillow the morning after.  You know the player’s gone, and you know there’s no note with a phone number left on the table.  You don’t get a call after it’s over.  You just go back to the life you had before. When the moment is done, so is the movie; Sonny walks through a door and that’s it. 

To a lot of audiences, this makes for a lousy way to tell a story, and they’ve certainly made themselves heard, with the word “pointless” usually being the adjective of choice.  They like concrete beginnings, and they like concrete endings, and Miami Vice has neither.  For them, it just has style, and nothing more.

If concrete stories are your thing, then yeah, you’re going to want to skip Miami Vice.

But if you’re into fortune cookies (which is where the quote up top comes from), and if you’re able to see life from the perspective of living in and for the moment, then Miami Vice is way better than most people give it credit for.

What it’s not, no matter which end of the seesaw you ride on, is a nostalgic recollection of the iconic 1980s television show from which it derives its characters and name.  Both are stylish, yes, but each is stylish in the way of its own era.  For the television version of “Miami Vice,” that style was garish and charismatic and happy to grab anyone’s attention.  Indeed, there simply isn’t any other TV show that comes close to capturing the 1980s as well as “Miami Vice” did.  Now think of America in 2006.  This isn’t a charismatic society.  This is a brooding society.  Bright red and electric blue and gigantic pet reptiles belong to another time; now, it’s all about black and white and let’s just skip the pleasantries.  This is the Miami Vice that hit the big screen.  To some, it’s a betrayal of what came before, but on closer inspection, it’s doing exactly what its television counterpart did twenty years earlier.  The difference isn’t in what’s being portrayed so much as it is in what’s being reflected by that portrayal.  The mirror didn’t change, but what’s in front of it did.

It’s something to think about, anyway.

Bottom line, if you’re expecting Miami Vice to look like its television namesake, you’re in for a hell of a shock.  It’s incredibly stylish, but it’s also incredibly dark, and in no way resembles any sort of traditional cop action flick.  If your worldview demands traditional storytelling, then Miami Vice is going to be a visually gorgeous disappointment.  If your palette can handle something different, though, Miami Vice is way better than most people give it credit for, and definitely worth your time to check out.

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- Reviewed by Ziggy Berkeley, November, 2011


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