Release Date: July 28, 2006
If Michael Mann has shown over the years that he has a lot of any one thing as a filmmaker, it has been that he has style; lots of style. His films are distinctive in the fact that they are so flashy. The gorgeous women, the fast cars, the pastel colors and flowing locks of hair that usually resonate from around the head of one of the films lead characters. All of this gets wrapped up into what we have come to know as a true Michael Mann film. Heat is the most notable and most stylish of Mann’s previous works, bringing us one of the best urban crime dramas of all time. With that same style in mind, Mann set out this year to bring back one of his most memorable (and pastel filled) works of television, Miami Vice, and bring it to the big screen.
To bring back such a moniker of pop culture could easily viewed as a risk for Mann, as the generation that originally followed Vice has moved on and crossed over into their old and cranky years (late 40s). This new Vice would have to be riddled with a different kind of flair, something that only a director like Mann can produce. So Mann set forth to give the story of Crockett and Tubbs a much needed upgrade, casting actors Colin Farrell and Jamie Foxx to play the lead roles. In this go-round of Vice, the two undercover cops are deep into a large Columbian drug lord’s business trying to get to the bottom of an FBI operation gone terribly wrong. And you can only guess what happens as the heat turns up; beautiful women are involved (naturally), the two men are caught way in too deep (of course), and there is plenty of wavy locks of blonde hair flowing from Colin Farrell’s head during some of the most intense gun-fighting that we have seen since… well, Heat.
Of course it comes as no surprise to any Vice fan, or any fan of Michael Mann’s that the storyline behind this new Vice is nothing special. That is not why we are drawn to a film like this. We are drawn in because it is Michael Mann, and we are assured by his history as a filmmaker that this flick will have a unique and provocative style. This is where Mann does not disappoint; the pan shots of South Florida are absolutely beautiful, the action is quick and seamless, and the music pounds through the action allowing the film to play out like an intense rock video. The camera work is also nothing short of spectacular; Mann chooses wisely when to use a shaky hand-cam shot and when to pull back for the wide angled pan. The movie scores significant points for it’s style, completely overshadowing the less than perfect plot.
The only major downfall of the film lies in the most significant casting decision, that of Sonny Crockett. Vice was always about the partnership between Crockett and Tubbs, but this script was really written to focus our attention on Crockett, who is the flashier and more dramatic character. Unfortunately for us, Mann chose Colin Farrell to fill the shoes once worn by Don Johnson. I have never been a fan of Farrell’s acting, and this one does not change anything for me. His accent was off the entire film, sometimes moving from muddled Irish to East Coast-ish to a Southern American draw all in a matter of seconds. I was instantly taken back to Kevin Costner’s role as Robin Hood back in 1991, where his accent was so horrific that I forgot that there was a movie going on around it. Farrell just feels out of place in this film, whereas Jamie Foxx’s performance is as believable as one could hope for out of Tubbs. But with the film written to be more focused on Crockett, it leads me to believe that Farrell should have been less worried on his “looking tough and cool” walk and more on his grasp of the American dialect.
On par with other Michael Mann films, Miami Vice is right up there when it comes to a stylish and entertaining crime drama. While Farrell is hard to take as Sonny Crockett, he does not succeed in completely spoiling the film. There is plenty to love in this movie, and more than enough reasons to see it in theaters. I would recommend seeing it if you are a fan of Michael Mann’s previous works, especially Heat, as it carries much of the same directorial style. It may not blow you away, but you will most definitely leave the theater thinking, “Hmm… That was a cool movie.” Then you will abruptly ask yourself, “But what the heck is up with that Colin Farrell guy…?”