Some people loved it. Others hated it. Here's my old review for a movie I re-watch constantly. Mann is one of the best American filmmakers currently living. Can't wait for his next piece of greatness.
Michael Mann’s tour de force policier Miami Vice is not only the best movie of the summer and one of the most entertaining movies of 2006, but it represents a filmmaker in total control of a genre that they own. Riffing on familiar beats and territory that he has explored in such films as Thief, Manhunter, Heat, and Collateral, Mann delivers the requisite thrills and excitement that you’d expect from a film like this, yet he does it all differently than anyone else ever has. From the brilliant digital video cinematography (again working with the magical Dion Beebe) that gives every shot an edge of visceral intensity and heightened realism, to the rhythmic editing patterns that flow so smooth with his eclectic musical choices, Mann places the viewer right in the middle of the action. There’s no hand-holding or coddling; from the bravura opening minutes where the audience is thrust head-first into a scorching Miami nightclub with Jay-Z tearing up the soundtrack, Mann trusts that his audience will follow his convoluted but not incomprehensible plot. He assumes that you’ve seen episodes of Law and Order or CSI, or perhaps an episode or two of the old Miami Vice television show (which bears little to no resemblance to the film); the movie just starts and you are forced to get right into it (a good friend of mine called the film the Syriana of cop thrillers, a statement I more-or-less agree with.)
Sonny Crockett (a perfectly cast Colin Farrell giving a brooding, focused performance) and Ricardo Tubbs (the always fine Jamie Foxx) are two vice cops that enjoy living on the edge. They go deep undercover, infiltrating a South American drug running operation, trying to figure out who is working who, and who needs to be put down first. Naomie Harris is Foxx’s love interest, another cop in the crew. The impossibly sexy Gong Li, playing a morally ambiguous money launderer, catches Farrell’s eye and sparks ignite immediately. Their sex scenes, of which there are a few, really steam up the screen. The set-up is simple and clean, and Mann, who wrote, directed, and produced this first rate cracker-jack thriller, knows his way around cop and criminal dialogue like no other filmmaker currently working. There is verbal shorthand used in almost every exchange or conversation, something that could alienate some viewers, and delight others who are looking for something a bit more challenging.
Miami Vice exists as a supreme example of style, attitude, violence, machismo (you can see it dripping off of Farrell’s sensational moustache and slicked back hair) and the dedication to one’s job, whether it be as cop, criminal, informant, or middle man. The visual splendor that accompanies every sequence of this international crime saga is truly electrifying; normal things like a lear jet gliding through the sky, a helicopter cutting it’s way through the nocturnal Miami sky-line, a Ferrari screaming down the highway, or a “go-fast” boat tearing through the ocean, are given the exotic treatment and look like nothing you’ve ever seen before. One of my favorite sequences is when Farrell and Li take a very fast boat trip to Cuba for drinks and dancing…it’s just a sublime series of looks, gestures, and moments. And oh yeah—did I mention the action scenes? Universal Pictures, the studio releasing this brute-force ass-kicker, has decided to sell their movie as Bad Boys 3. And it couldn’t be any further from that mold. While clearly loving the chance to blow some stuff up (the trailer park bit is incredible) and stage an ear-shattering shootout (the bloody climactic battle is reminiscent of the bank takedown in his masterpiece Heat, except this time Mann stages the action at night), Mann is out to explore what it takes to go deep undercover and how manly men must decide what moves to make when they’re on the job.
There will be better, more “important” movies that come out this year, but nothing will probably match the excitement, the energy, and the overall kinetic-thrills that you get from this gritty, dark, adult entertainment. Mann has delivered a Miami Vice for a new generation; here’s to hoping that he has a few more tales of Crockett and Tubbs in him.
4 out of 4 stars
5 out of 5 stars