Miami Vice


When the news first came out that a movie was to be made based on the era-defining TV show Miami Vice, many were skeptical. Was the show based around the lives of two undercover police officers working the drug beat really good enough to warrant further exploration? The idea may have seemed fresh in the ’80s, when Crockett and Tubbs were household names, but now, in 2006, haven’t we had our share of drug movies? The answer, it seems, is no; and against all odds, the second coming of Miami Vice is a gritty, engaging piece of action cinema.

Miami Vice follows what has become a standard story in the boilerplate Hollywood action movies of recent times. Two deep undercover police officers spend their time infiltrating various drug trafficking rings in and around Miami. The two officers, Crockett (played by Colin Farrell) and Tubbs (Jaime Foxx), one black and one white, are partners in their clandestine anti-drug mission. After a gang of neo-Nazis kill one of their informants, the pair set out to destroy a powerful drug cartel leader. Along the way Crockett falls in love with one of the big boss’s underlings, played by the beautiful Gong Li.

The movie certainly doesn’t have the strongest of stories, but the familiar premise isn’t a bad thing as Vice delves deep into the established lore of the original television show.

The roles are acted sufficiently well by the movie’s stars. Colin Farrell as Crockett isn’t perfect; some of his lines are delivered in just the wrong way (his Irish accent leaks through), and he looks ridiculous rocking the fashion mullet. Jaime Foxx turns in another strong performance in a Michael Mann feature, similar to his role in Collateral. His character Tubbs is the best portrayed of the two leads and in a perfect world would have been given more screen time.

What makes this movie stand out from so many other films of the same character is the strength of the directing. Mann creates a smooth yet textured environment throughout the movie. It feels real, but detached. The fashion and music move between ’80s chic and current gangsterism, it’s an odd translation, but considering the story this film is based around, it makes perfect sense. The violence in Miami Vice is extremely visceral and shocking. It happens quickly at the beginning of the movie and then for an extended finale. Blood is sprayed, limbs are blown off, innumerable gunshots are fired. Miami Vice has the scenes that hold an action movie together, with a visually dynamic look that renders the story’s tension palpable.

Overall, this film is a surprising pleasure to watch. It is complex in some ways and simple in others. The moral ambiguity of undercover work is both celebrated and questioned, with characters that don’t fall into simplistic traps. Miami Vice is an action movie of the best sort: fun to watch, but not lacking subtlety and nuance. It is definitely a worthwhile investment of time during the mostly lackluster summer movie season.