The original “Miami Vice” was Michael Mann’s decade-defining television show. It ran from 1984-89 and everything about it was fresh, edgy, and influential. The t-shirt under the Armani jacket with photogenic beard stubble look, the best-selling techno-synth musical theme that won a Grammy, the pastel colors and quick cuts all became cultural touchstones and signifiers. The idea was inspired by a two-word memo from a network executive — “MTV cops” — and by a ruling that permitted the use of goods confiscated from criminals in other police-related work — thus, the cops who drove a Ferrari. It was cool. But that was then. Now, it’s just cold.
So when Mann adapted the television show with this new movie, he excised all of its signature elements, so permanently wedded to the 80’s. But he didn’t add anything to make it worth watching.
Mann’s movies are usually smart and stylish. They usually have a visceral, vital quality. Not this one. He gives us no reason to care about the characters or the story. There’s not even any special sense of place; it could just as easily be called “Generic Canadian City Vice.”
Jamie Foxx replaces Philip Michael Thomas as Ricardo “Rico” Tubbs and Colin Farrell fills in for Don Johnson as James “Sonny” Crockett. They are brought in after the feds have failed in an undercover investigation of a drug dealer. After a brief interlude permitting Tubbs and his girlfriend (the wonderful Naomie Harris from Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest) to get soapy in the shower, they get hired as deliverymen. Then they get caught up — personally and professionally — in the organization, which is (yawn) much larger and more far-reaching than they anticipated.
They have to prove themselves. Crockett gets involved with the drug operation’s CFO, Isabella (Gong Li), who dresses like an investment banker. But, like Melanie Grffith in “Working Girl,” she has a head for business and a bod for sin, and pretty soon she and Crockett are getting soapy in the shower.
The drug kingpin’s latest recruits have to prove themselves and work their way up the organization. The plot, however, mostly consists of bang bang bang, even the shoot-outs and explosions are not well-staged and the pacing is a slog. It seemed to take forever to load the darn drugs onto the darn boat. Foxx and Harris manage a little sizzle, but there is no chemistry of any kind between Foxx and Farrell or Farrell and Li. One reason is that Foxx and Farrell sport hairdos that all but emit chemistry repellent. The colors are dull. The pacing is dull. How long do we have to watch drugs being loaded onto a boat? Even the music is dull, as generic as a third-rate cover band. Even the preposterous ending is dull.
The dialogue is dull, too, all faux-tough, keeping-it-real we-can’t-trust-anyone-but-each-other-because-we’ve-shared-unspeakable-reality-and-know-things-the-rest-of-those-corrupt-and-incompetents-don’t malarky. It all sounds like something written by a computer tuned into the Spike channel. The only point in its favor is that there could be quite an active drinking game if viewers took a shot every time someone in the movie says something like, “Here’s how it’s going to be” or “Here’s how it’s going to happen.” It would have the advantage of both providing a more interesting distraction than the movie and rendering participants less concerned about the two hours and ten minute running time, the only theft in this movie anyone will care about.
Parents should know that this is a “hard-R” movie with extremely intense and graphic violence, including heavy artillary, a lot of blood splatter, and suicide. Characters are injured and killed. Characters are drug dealers and undercover cops who try to stop them. Characters drink and smoke (scenes in clubs) and use strong language. There are explicit sexual references and situations. A strength of the movie is the positive portrayal of inter-racial relationships, but some may find the South American drug dealers to be stereotyped.
Families who enjoy this film will also enjoy the original television show and Mann’s other movies, including Hannibal Lecter’s first appearance in Manhunter and Will Smith’s brilliant performance in Ali. Mann’s last film, also featuring Foxx, is the much better Collateral.