Miami Vice

February 11, 2011

This was supposed to be one of the very first blog posts I was going to write. However, because it wasn’t thrown down shortly after being conceived of, I completely lost heart in the idea and couldn’t be arsed. It was intended to be long and rigorously researched and accompanied by at least another viewing of the film and, piss it to shit, it’s tiring me out even trying to explain this. Anyway, I’ve decided to fling this albatross off my neck and clear my in-tray of incomplete draft ideas.

I can’t decide whether or not I like Michael Mann’s feature-length Miami Vice movie of 2006. The question gnaws on me, squirms in my mind like some bothersome centipede…uh, I mean, worm. It really does appear to be a half-fantastic, half-shite film and I’m curious to see if I can peer at that ratio close enough to determine some final judgement on it.

I like the fact that this film was goddamn expensive and yet deliberately uncommercial. It looks like Michael Mann was handed $150 million and said, “thanks…fuck you!” before delivering a final product that purposefully worked against the possibility of fulfilling its box-office expectations. I like that he appears to have gotten away with that and that he even went on to repeat the trick with a John Dillinger biopic. I like the way it looks. The digital cinematography is gorgeous in parts, especially capturing lightning flashes in tropical storms and the hues of Miami in twilight. I really like Luis Tosar as the mega-powerful drug lord, Archangel de Jesus Montoya. The five minutes that this intense, chilling badass spends on the screen are probably my favourite moments of the entire film. I believe Michael Mann received criticism back in the 80s when the original Miami Vice TV series was accused of glorifying the drug trade which is interesting because one look at Montoya could inspire anyone to want to become an international drug kingpin. He is depicted as massively wealthy and yet still very tasteful in his ostentation, untouchable and arguably completely above/beyond the law, dangerous and feared by everyone around him and the sole head of a powerful global empire.  I like the way Colin Farrell pulls Gong-Li by chatting her up and putting her on his slick speedboat before driving it to fucking Cuba for Mojitos and dancing. There’s also some awesome gun play in Miami Vice, the highlight of which is a slow-motion shot of a man being torn apart by high-calibre rifle fire whilst sitting in a car, his arm being completely blown off and thrown towards the camera. That I like. Mann also has Mogwai’s sublime “Auto Rock” playing over the ending of the movie, which is a very likable move, especially given his appalling predilection for sticking Audioslave songs in his recent films.


Sex panthers, adrift in charisma vacuum.

I don’t like that the film seems to have two protagonists that it’s hard to give a shit about. Call it a lack of chemistry between them, or a deliberate departure from buddy cop conventions for stylistic reasons, but Crockett and Tubbs are disappointingly hard to engage with, despite looking great and being promisingly cast. Reports suggest Jamie Foxx was acting the arse on set, fresh off his Best Actor win for Ray, he was said to be demanding and difficult and this on top of Mann’s reputation for already being much the same as a director. However, it’s not clear how much of these supposed problems contributed to shiteness in the final product. I don’t like that Miami Vice is completely humorless. Mann’s Heat is bursting with laughs by comparison and it isn’t particularly known for its funnies, as is Collateral. This film has zero humor in it which, although it represents a radical departure from the original TV show, feels like a detrimental and pretentious manoeuvre, as if it is beneath the flick to entertain at a base level. Sonny Crockett used to have  a pet alligator on his boat, for fuck’s sake. Why so serious? Another quibble, although I’m perhaps not well-versed enough in the protocols and practices of international drug enforcement to voice this criticism, is that Crockett and Tubbs seem to embark on an adventure that seems well outwith the purview of Miami Dade police detectives. Even if they have been deputized into a drug task force, should they really be running about the Dominican Republic with assault rifles? That’s a decent distance from Miami. It feels shitty to make such a criticism but wouldn’t things have felt tighter if the action was confined to the eponymous city, in much the same way that Heat and Collateral showed off a wonderful screen portrayal of Los Angeles? And why the hell is there a white guy called Fujima? What’s the story there? My approach to that character, played by Irish actor Ciarán Hinds, is something of a microcosm for my whole experience of Miami Vice. It annoys me, but I still kind of like the idea. Frustrated as I am by the lack of explanation, I enjoy it in spite of its refusal to satisfy my curiosity.

On reflection, merely typing the above has been a wonderfully little cathartic move that has settled the question in my mind. I want to see Miami Vice again (and I’ve already given it more than one viewing), which is surely the simplest act of approval you can give a film. Even if the thoughts it provokes are not always satisfactory and enjoyable, it is thought-provoking nonetheless. This could just be some form of cine-masochism, but I think I’ve come to accept being enthralled and perplexed by the damn thing.



  1. You didn’t mention how utterly disturbing Jamie Foxx’s hairline is. It’s burned on to my retinas…

  2. True enough, I did not. I’m more intrigued by the fascinating structure of the goatee beard he sports in the role of Tubbs. It hovers imperceptibly on the cusp of being perfectly neat and trimmed and yet also a tad too long and straggly.

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