Released in winter of 2006 to mixed critical response, Miami Vice was written and directed by renowned director Michael Mann, who once again reunited with Jamie Foxx, whom he’d worked with in Collateral and would later work with again in The Kingdom, and also brought in Colin Farrell to make up the detective duo of Ricardo Tubbs (Foxx) and Sonny Crockett (Farrell) of Miami Vice face. While the characters and movie share the same names of the original television series, Mann’s Miami Vice is a far cry from the Don Johnson and Philip Michael Thomas populated fair in the 1980s.
After being pulled into a case involving the deaths of two federal agents, detectives Tubbs (Foxx) and Crockett (Farrell) find themselves caught up in the deadly world of drug traffickers. Once under cover, the duo must decide how best to proceed, all the while dealing with their own elements going on in their personal lives, with Tubbs worrying about his girlfriends safety and Crockett quickly forming a romantic relationship with a woman he meets up with in Cuba.
It’d been awhile since I’d seen Miami Vice; in fact, I hadn’t seen it since it originally hit DVD back in 2007, so while it’s been awhile, it hasn’t been as long as I’ve gone in-between some other films. In the instance of Miami Vice, I really didn’t like the film. I mean I really didn’t like it, to the point where I actually stopped the film out of sheer and utter boredom and only came back to it begrudgingly because I don’t like to leave things unfinished, even films I’m having a hard time enjoying. I’ll admit I enjoyed the finale of the film, but nearly everything that preceded it was just entirely too dry, dark and flat out uninteresting.
I get the reasoning behind making this film unlike the series that preceded it; it’s not exactly a show that wasn’t without it’s goofiness and camp, but at the same time when you change things around so drastically, I have to wonder why Mann even bothered calling it Miami Vice. In fact I may have been a tad bit more forgiving of it if I didn’t expect the characters to resemble the men from the show, of which I’ve only seen a few episodes, but their personas are so engrained in pop-culture it’s hard to get the image of a smiling Don Johnson and Philip Michael Thomas out of one’s head. Yes the show was a drama, but it was nowhere near as drab as this film was.
Shot in a style similar to what your home video footage (I didn’t recognize this the first go-around, but sitting down to watch the Blu-ray I realized it; I think it was the low-level lighting that created an intense amount of grain that really triggered my perception of home video footage) would look like with a steady cam, Miami Vice rarely brightens up the screen, and even during the day and Crockett’s pure white suits don’t even really lighten the mood, as there’s always some level of overcast dinginess to the picture. More than anything I think the overly drab and depressing nature of the film just makes it hard to watch; if someone would just freakin’ smile once and awhile, it wouldn’t be so bad. Everyone’s o serious and looking like the entire world is one big depressing hole. In fact it kind of looks like adults who fell into their younger sibling’s emo collection, as the same level of depression seems to have been injected into this film.
I do love dramatic movies, but I seem to be three-for-three with not liking Michael Mann’s work. He can do some great action sequences, but with Heat I became very bored and annoyed with the characters, while The Kingdom seemed to have the wrong individuals cast and with Miami Vice, things were just so dry and slow moving that I had to take frequent breaks from it. I truly think had around forty minutes been chopped off of this film, it would have been a better endeavor; trying to give both Tubbs and Crockett equal screen time is what hurt the film, as we spend so much time with Crockett in Cuba forming a relationship with his new girlfriend that we end up with a rather unbelievable mess. Not only is there no chemistry between the two actors, but their relationship is very vapid and when she learns of Crockett’s real job in the final act of the film, Crockett doesn’t phased at all when she comes pounding on him. It just seems like something that could have been cut out entirely or condensed into something that took up less time. It seems pointless to have spent so much time on the relationship if only one of them was actually devoted to it.
The film really seemed like it could have been split in two quite easily, as on one side of the story we see Tubbs with his girlfriend and then his story completely comes to a stop while we see Crockett explore his life, only for the two to come back together for an action sequence. If the story had been woven together a bit more neatly and less vague on plot details (another thing you have to watch out for—we seem to get dumped right in the middle of the story, so the occasional plot detail that’s sprinkled along is all we have to go on until we get the full picture), I think it could have been a much stronger film. Mann seemed intent on removing key plots for us to figure out on our own, which is fine, I don’t mind a film that makes you think, but when it’s replaced with utterly useless sequences that ultimately go nowhere, I begin to wonder just what I’m supposed to glean from the film. Unfortunately in Miami Vice’s case, “thinking man’s film” directly correlates to a film that was seemingly very lazily constructed with hopes the audience would pick up the slack.
As previously mentioned, the action scenes in the film were all quite wonderfully done. I enjoyed them all equally and the unique way the final act played out, very quietly but very intense, was also really well done as well. I loved the little rat-a-tat-tat and gun pops rather than the overblown booms (although there’s some of those thrown in for good measure) and while it didn’t quite have the same intensity as some of Mann’s other films did, the subdued nature of it almost made it just as intense a dramatically choreographed and scored epic like Heat so often had.
I could talk about the films abundant aerial shots or meandering plot some more, but it’s really not worth it. I think you get the general idea in that this is a very depressing looking film, both visually with its washed out and overly dark nature, and also with its characters, so don’t expect to be in an very happy mood while watching the film. While you’re sitting there trying to feel what the characters feel, you’ll also be put down in the dumps even more by the repetitious footage of boats running across water for periods of time that feel like they could have been severely cut down. If Mann just wanted to create an artistic film, he should have done it with characters that didn’t have five previous seasons of history packed into the characters.
Overall this film is a Rental. It’s undeniably Michael Mann, so if you enjoy his works, then you may just find what you’re looking for in Miami Vice. However, if you’re looking for a buddy cop film that’s similar to the original series…then boy, you should run far away.
Miami Vice Unrated Director’s Edition comes packed with a Blu-ray release that is identical to its HD-DVD counterpart in almost every way. While the HD-DVD version was double sided with DVD on one side (which housed the theatrical cut and some extras), this Blu-ray release is a one-sided fair that arrives in a standard Blu-ray case with an insert advertising other Blu-ray releases as well as some information on the U-Control features on most Universal Blu-ray’s.
The video for the film arrives in a VC-1 encoded 2.40:1 transfer that looks quite impressive. I’m so used to films being overly processed with digital noise removal (DNR) that I can’t make out facial features. Thankfully Miami Vice’s amazing level of film grain is left intact and if you can get through that you can begin to see some nice detail and environmental depth. It’s a really fantastic transfer that, as bleak as the films world is, really shows off the deep and moody hues that Mann chose for the film. The audio is an equally strong DTS-HD Master Audio in a 5.1 mix. Most of the film is front channel focused, but there’s some nice separation for the action sequences, especially the final shoot-out which, as tame as it sounds in terms of noise level, is actually all over the channels, providing plenty of “surrounding” gun fire as you watch the film. There is a dialogue level issue though; it’s incredibly low in volume throughout the film, so it can be a bit difficult to hear at times. I remember this from the DVD version I watched originally, so it must have been something Mann wanted…for whatever reason. Dump grain all over the film and make it hard to hear…mmm…artsy.
Moving onto the extras we first delve into the U-Control function of the film. With the U-Control , which you can access during the film via notification of a little icon in the lower right hand corner, you can watch scene-specific behind-the-scenes extras via picture-in-picture, as well as look at tech specs for the boats and cars used in the film, see where the films locations are via GPS (enhanced by Google Maps) and also check up on some cast bios and production photos. Overall a very neat and immersive experience; Universal really embraced the new features on the HD format more than any other studio. I’m not sure how useful the GPS or cast bios are to people watching the film or how often you’ll actually use it, but it’s still a nice bonus.
The rest of the extras on the set are all ported over from the DVD edition in standard definition. A commentary with Michael Mann discusses about every angle of the film one could hope for, delving deep into his desires for the movie and talks about production issues and on-set stories. Other extras include a making-of-trio in the form of three featurettes: “Miami Vice Undercover” (13:03), “Miami & Beyond: Shooting on Location” (10:01) and “Visualizing Miami Vice” (12:42). All feature plenty of insight from cast and crew, Mann especially, into how each element of the film was achieved.
The featurettes are augmented by a series of short behind-the-scenes featurettes that focus on specific elements of the film. “Gun Training” (2:47), “Haitian Hotel Camera Blocking” (2:54) and “Mojo Race” (4:25) talk about the actors training and how the Hotel and Mojo Race sequences were pulled off.
Overall this is an absolutely packed Blu-ray release that, if you enjoyed the movie, will be invaluable in terms of extras offered. Between the U-control bonuses, Mann’s commentary and the near hour of featurettes and behind-the-scenes extras, there’s plenty to check out with this film both during and after it.
From a high-definition standpoint, Miami Vice is a fantastic release. I still don’t enjoy the film, but as a Blu-ray product, it really is top notch.
Fans of the movie/Mann: Highly Recommended.
Newcomers: Rent It.
Miami Vice: Unrated Director’s Edition arrives on Blu-ray on August 26th.