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Miami Vice Brings Nothing New to the Cop Movie Genre

  • Stephen McGarvey Crosswalk.com Executive Editor
  • 2006 7 Jul
  • COMMENTS
<i>Miami Vice</i> Brings Nothing New to the Cop Movie Genre

DVD Release Date:  December 5, 2006
Theatrical Release Date:  July 28, 2006
Rating:  R (for strong violence, language and some sexual content)
Genre:  Action/Adventure
Run Time:  135 min.
Director:  Michael Mann
Actors:  Colin Farrell, Jamie Foxx, Gong Li, Naomi Harris, Ciaran Hinds, John Hawkes 

In recent years it seems like most television shows that are remade into movies are complete spoofs on the original material. Remakes of Bewitched, The Brady Bunch and The Dukes of Hazzard, for example, only exist to make fun of the shows we all loved as kids. Even a television show like Starsky and Hutch, originally a more serious than funny police drama, was updated in contemporary times by two of cinema's reigning goofballs, Owen Wilson and Ben Stiller.

There is no lack of "spoof-worthy" material in the original Miami Vice. While groundbreaking in many ways for a televised police drama, the show's 1980s' uber-trendy outfits and décor are generally remembered by most with a chuckle. Yet director Michael Mann, who was involved in the creation of the original Miami Vice, has taken the film in exactly the opposite direction.

Gritty and completely humorless Miami Vice retells the story of Miami undercover cops Sonny Crockett (Colin Farrell) and Ricardo Tubbs (Jamie Foxx), with very little beyond their names (and their signature Ferrari) that links us to the original show.  In the middle of their own undercover operation, Crockett and Tubbs are interrupted by a phone call from a colleague (John Hawkes) in trouble. Our heroes track him down in time to learn that he informed on his own undercover operation to save the lives of his kidnapped family. Then learning that his family was murdered anyway, he commits suicide. Crockett and Tubbs quickly meet up with their friend's superior (Ciaran Hinds) at the FBI, who explains he is leading an inter-government task force set up to bring down a drug cartel and there is a leak.

The Miami cops, of course, are then invited to join the task force and go undercover to figure out who is the government mole.  We are then treated to the mandatory, "do whatever it takes to get the job done, we don't need the details" discussion. Like every other movie dealing with undercover police work, we are informed that these guys will be as bad as the bad guys to get the bad guys. Apparently in undercover police work, the ends always justify the means.

What follows is a long, drawn out dance of wits as Crockett and Tubbs pose as drug runners looking to do business with the cartel.  Crockett seduces the cartel boss's beautiful business savvy girlfriend to win her trust and garner more intelligence on cartel operations. Most of the middle of the film is slow as we wait for some action to develop. Rather than craft interesting action sequences, the film prefers to shock viewers randomly along the way with unexpected and incredibly brutal acts of violence. All of this culminates in an "OK Corral" style shoot-out in the end where good guys and bad guys line up in a vacant lot to empty their automatic weapons at one another.

Reasonably good acting from the leads saves the film somewhat.  Colin Farrell is in one of his better bad boy roles, and Jamie Foxx is always compelling to watch. The trouble is they have little chemistry together. You don't get the feeling that Crockett and Tubbs are friends outside of work. Unlike most "buddy" police movies, there is little camaraderie and no humorous repartee between them.

Director Michael Mann can certainly be credited for keeping his material from being turned into a laughing stock. But in the end Miami Vice is too relentlessly dark, and almost completely boiler plate. Considering that Mann has given us unique police/crime movies like Heat with it's clever "cat and mouse" mind games between cops and robbers, or Collateral with it's unusually terrifying premise, Miami Vice is pretty disappointing. There isn't anything there that fans of cop movies haven't seen a hundred times before. And there won't be much to which fans of the original will relate. 

CAUTIONS: 

  • Language/Profanity:  A great deal of profanity and several vulgar comments.
  • Drugs/Alcohol:  Characters are often in bars and often show drinking. Drug trafficking is central to the plot.
  • Sex/Nudity:  Several sex scenes, two of which are quite long and include brief nudity. A woman is groped in one club scene. Some sexually suggestive dancing is shown.
  • Violence:  Several brutally violent sequences, including women being kidnapped. One character is run over by a truck. Gunshots, stabbings, beatings … most of which are up-close and graphic.