No Miami Heat
Michael Mann, USA, 2006
Let's get this out of the way up front: Miami Vice, the movie,
bears little similarity to the hit '80s TV series starring Don Johnson and
Philip Michael Thomas. And I mean very little. No speedboat chases.
No palm trees or pink flamingos, no Jan Hammer theme song full of grinding
electric guitar and tribal-rock drums. No pastels, no linen jackets or shoes
without socks. Where the TV series was loud and colorful like a Hawaiian
shirt, Miami Vice is dark and brooding like an ill-fitting fake
leather jacket. Basically, you got a Sonny Crockett (Colin Farrell) and a
Ricardo Tubbs (Jamie Foxx), and that's about it.
Which is fine: It's Michael Mann's artistic choice to make, and seeing as
he's the man behind Heat, Manhunter and the great Thief,
I'm willing to allow the man his creative license. But what's the point of
making a movie called Miami Vice that isn't about cops working vice
in Miami? Seriously. The movie opens with Crockett, Tubbs and their team in
a busy Miami nightclub, in the middle of trying to work a sting on some
greasy pimp. No introductions, no nothing. It feels like we've stumbled in
the middle of a movie that's half-over. Or, more like it, a sequel. There's
no need to catch up on these guys, because we should already know them from
the last movie.
Before you have time to know why you should care, Crockett and Tubbs, who
are already spouting tough-guy phrases and pseudo-military jargon, are
volunteering to go deep undercover for the FBI to investigate a leak that
has compromised all the Feds working a big case, and has also led to the
suicide of a former snitch and the murder of his family.
So now they're posing as drug runners to get in close with a cartel run by a
freaky looking bearded dude who looks more like a janitor than a drug lord.
(Not only that, one of his main henchmen looks like Fred Armisen of
Saturday Night Live with a bad wig.) In no time, Crockett and Tubbs are
jetting to supposedly exotic locales like the tri-border area where
Argentina, Uruguay and Brazil meet.
This is actually a good thing, because the scenery distracts us from the
lack of action and plot movement. Colin Farrell hooks up with Gong Li, who
plays the head honcho's right-hand-woman: "I know what I'm doing," he tells
his partner just before he takes off for an evening of Mojitos and sex in
Cuba. Yeah, I know what he's doing too: trying to attract women into the
theater with scenes of steamy sex with Colin Ferrett -- I mean, Farrell.
Forget the fact that it's completely unprofessional -- it's also highly
implausible that a hot and powerful babe like Gong Li would bump bellies
with a guy who looks like a drowned sewer rat. Wouldn't you know it? He
falls for her. And big surprise: She's put in danger.
That trite cop-story cliché wouldn't be so hard to stomach if Foxx's Tubbs
didn't have his own damsel in distress to worry about, a sexy fellow
cop who gets kidnapped by some Aryan skinheads. That's right, both
cops have girlfriends in peril. I may not be a screenwriter, but I know
enough to realize that writers resort to cheap and easy plotlines like these
when they don't have real characters to work with.
What does this flick have? Well, there's a lot of sex (my favorite is
when Crockett and Gong Li go at it in the back of a limo), moderate gunplay
and a lot of brooding. (That's one area where it does resemble the
old TV show.) But we don't know anything more about these two at the end of
the movie than we do at the beginning, except that Tubbs knows how to fly a
plane, and Crockett is an idiot who endangers his career, not to mention a
sensitive federal operation, because he can't keep it in his pants. Frickin'
Speakin' of amateurs, by now you've probably heard about how Jamie Foxx got
all twitchy after a shooting incident that happened near the set while they
were filming in one of those "exotic foreign locales," and demanded the rest
of the film be shot in the U.S. Knowing that, it's hard to take Rico Tubbs'
virile posturing seriously. But at least it forced Mann to rewrite the
script so that the final shootout takes place -- surprise! -- back in good
ol' Miami. But it's too little, too late. Forget that it doesn't have
anything to do with some old TV show -- Miami Vice belongs in Miami
less than Shaquille O'Neal does. And this pointless cop movie has even less
business having Michael Mann's name slapped on it. Miami Heat, this
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