Miami Vice is written and directed by Michael Mann. It stars Colin Farrell, Jamie Foxx, Gong Li and Luis Tosar. Music is scored by John Murphy and Klaus Badelt and cinematography by Dion Beebe. An adaptation from the TV series of the same name in the 1980s, the film sees Vice Cops Sonny Crockett (Farrell) and Ricardo Tubbs (Foxx) go undercover to try and smash a narcotics smuggling ring.
Is this Michael Mann's most divisive film? Perhaps? What we do know is that it ostracised many fans of the TV series it was born out of, whilst simultaneously it flummoxed the casual cops and robbers movie fans who were looking for a Bad Boys type extravaganza. One thing for sure, Mann did it his way and refused to cop out and take any easy option, if he was going to adapt from the TV show he helped make a big success, he was going to put a different spin on it. He was after all a different artist to the producer bloke he was back in the mid to late 1980s, really anyone familiar with his work should have expected a complex, character driven picture with intricacies stitched into the narrative. And so it proved. Gone are the bright colours, pop culture funnies and OTT action sequences so linked forever to Messrs Johnson and Thomas. In is brooding, neo-noir characterisations and a darker colour palette.
In truth the plot is simplicity supreme, but the myriad of characters built into the plot is one of the things that makes Miami Vice fascinating. Elsewhere the visuals carry the Mann hallmarks (nobody does night city scapes like him), the filming techniques stylish and the director crowns his story with a stupendous showdown. Coldness of atmosphere is very much favoured by Mann, danger lurks everywhere for Crockett and Tubbs, and undeniably we the audience feel that peril too. But it doesn't all work. The pacing, oddly for a Mann film, is choppy, momentum is lost at critical times, and perversely, by keeping Crocket and Tubbs so deep and focused (they barely interact with each other to any great degree of bondinghood), the audience doesn't really have chance to identify with them. The romantic thread between Crockett and Isabella (Li) doesn't really help the flow of the piece either, especially since Li looks and sounds uncomfortable with much of the dialogue.
Yet for all its evident problems, it's a film that pays bigger dividends on revisits, especially if you happen to be a Michael Mann fan any way. Once viewed and digested as to what type of film it is, further viewings become more educational. We can't suck out the exposition and the languid passages still grate on the nerves, but the craft is quality and Miami Vice is always sly, sexy and savvy. 7.5/10