Film review by Gordon Justesen
Technical specs by Michael Jacobson
Stars: Jamie Foxx, Colin Farrell, Gong Li, Naomie Harris,
Ciaran Hinds, Justin Theroux, Barry Shabanka Henley, Luis Tosar
Director: Michael Mann
Audio: DTS HD 5.1
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen 2.40:1
Features: See Review
Length: 140 Minutes
Release Date: August 26, 2008
“No one has ever tread before where we are now.”
Most of the time, popular TV shows are given bad names in cinema (look no further than last year’s The Dukes of Hazzard), but Miami Vice has proven the exact opposite in so many ways. And if there was ever a single television show I never wanted to see ruined through any such remake, it was the groundbreaking 1980s cop show that I grew up on. Truth be told, I may have even embraced the movie more than the series.
Had it not been for the raw and stylish vision of writer/director Michael Mann, who helped create the series, the result would have not been the same. When I heard Mann was going to helm this film version, my anticipation went through the roof. I knew right then and there that justice would be done to the material both in story and in style. And I love it when I’m right! The result is one of the best films of the year!
But this isn’t a carbon copy of the TV show. Mann has thoughtfully reconstructed all the elements of the series for a contemporary setting, stripping away all the 80s fashion and music that so many associated it with. For me, that was a decision of pure genius. Mann is too serious a filmmaker to engage in a retro/spoof of something that has had his name attached to it since it TV debut. What he’s crafted here is a magnificently intense and richly detailed crime thriller that is right up there with the director’s monumental achievements, Heat and Collateral.
And how about picking the two most suitable actors to fill the shoes of Don Johnson and Philip Michael Thomas? Colin Farrell and Jamie Foxx not only fit the look of Miami-Dade cops Sonny Crockett and Ricardo Tubbs better than anyone possibly could, but the actors manage to squeeze in top notch performances in the process. Cops in the movies are rarely depicted with this much depth.
The centerpiece of the film involves an assignment that will require Crockett and Tubbs to go the deepest lengths of undercover imaginable. The two are pulled off a nightclub stakeout when a past informant of theirs gives word of a bad deal that’s about to go down. In the aftermath, the FBI recruits the two vice cops to go undercover as employable drug traffickers in an attempt to nail a huge drug running operation.
Though this sounds like a formulaic cop movie, or for that matter a plot scenario right out of the series, Mann has incorporated a genius plot element, putting Crockett and Tubbs undercover miles away from Miami jurisdiction, not to mention United States, and in the heart of South American drug running. This entails a deadly consequence if either cop’s undercover identity is compromised in the slightest.
They meet with the head of the operation, Jose Yero (John Ortiz), and though it takes some intense, difficult convincing that they’re legit and serious about employment, Crockett and Tubbs are recruited to handle multiple drug transportations to the U.S. The two soon learn that their initial target is part of even bigger, worldwide distributing operation, headed by an even sinister figure, Jesus Montoya (Luis Tosar).
But Crockett makes a move that is guaranteed to compromise his cover. He makes a move on Montoya’s woman, and money handler, Isabella (Gong Li). The two head to Cuba and enjoy a heated affair. Crockett begins making business negotiations of his own with her. Whether it’s for love or simply play, Crockett is drawn to her so much that it almost makes him forget where his loyalties really lie.
Though the action is reserved for the last half of the movie, it’s some of the most raw and intense that I’ve seen in any movie in recent times. Mann stages two jaw-dropping action set pieces. The first is a standoff in a trailer park where Crockett and Tubbs attempt to rescue one of their own who’s been taken hostage, a sequence that ends with close up kill shot that will jolt you beyond belief.
And then there’s an incredibly explosive climax in a boatyard that was compared by many to the brilliant heist shootout in Heat, in terms of how in-your-face and authentic the action is. I’m here to say that the hype is very true. Leave it to Michael Mann to take an action scene and execute it in such a way that makes it feel like something you’ve never experienced before.
Another triumph of Miami Vice is the one of a kind look Mann has brought to it. Shot in the same high definition format that was used in Collateral (Viper FilmStream), Mann and cinematographer Dion Beebe work some true visual miracles in nearly every shot of the film. This format allows every bit of the background to be seen in amazing detail. As a result, Miami has never looked more astonishing, especially at night. In my honest opinion, this should get the Oscar for Cinematography because the look adds so much to the movie, making every setting an important character.
Miami Vice is quite simply another triumph to be added to Michael Mann’s ever increasing list of outstanding films. He brings an amazing level of rich detail to his films, particularly crime films. In this genre Mann does more than make movies, he creates cinematic environments that are both dangerous and seductive, and the viewer always gets remarkable trip to that world as a result.
Miami Vice is action filmmaking at its highest possible quality, and may just be the best cinematic recreation of a TV classic!
Considering the mix of daylit and nighttime scenes, this disc offers everything you would hope for in Blu-ray, and more. The high definition technology brings out the eye popping color of the brighter moments and keeps the contrast, clarity and detail alive in the darker ones...highly important in a stylized cop drama. Outstanding!
The DTS track delivers on the explosive action, with car chases, gunplay and explosions giving your audio system a full workout. The soundtrack of great songs is a plus, as is the dialogue, which is cleanly rendered against the wall to wall audio effects.
This Unrated Director’s Edition contains nearly ten minutes of added footage, including a new opening credit sequence. In the extras department, we get a terrific and insightful commentary with Michael Mann, who always delves into intriguing explanations about how he went about filming certain scenes of the movie. Also included are some extremely well made behind the scenes featurettes, starting with “Miami Vice: Undercover”, which details Colin Farrell and Jamie Foxx’s collaborations with real life vice cops while prepping for their roles. “Miami and Beyond” traces the film’s enormous globetrotting production, and “Visualizing Miami Vice” takes a look at the distinct look Mann set out to give the movie. Lastly there are three additional featurettes; “Gun Training” which covers the stars in weapons handling, “Haitian Hotel Camera Blocking” and “Mojo Race”, both of which detail the shooting of two specific sequences.
On Blu-ray, you get Universal's exclusive U-Control feature, which allows you to decide what you'd like to peruse and when while you watch the movie. You get access to picture in picture footage of cast and crew interviews and behind-the-scenes info, technical specs, cast bios, production photographs, and even a GPS tracker with Google Maps so you can see where you are in the action...great fun!
Michael Mann’s Miami Vice is bigger, badder and more dangerous than ever! It’s a one of a kind action thriller with plenty of depth and intensity to spare. A bold entertainment that is also one of the best Blu-ray presentations on the market!