Starring: Colin Farrell, Jamie Foxx, Li Gong, Naomie Harris, Justin Theroux, Luis Tosar. Rated R.
has long maintained that any big-screen adaptation of Miami Vice would have to be “done right” - in other
words, without the stylish pastels, the creamy silk blazers and pink t-shirts, and the lounge-lizard sensibilities that made
officers Sonny Crockett and Ricardo Tubbs seem, at times, more like caricatures than cops. Under Mann's watchful eye, the
series became a cultural phenomenon, but it was rooted firmly in the culture of the '80s. To translate his vision into the
present day, Mann needed a darker, grittier sensibility, the kind that would be better suited to HBO than prime-time network
In that sense, the re-imagined Miami Vice is a real achievement - the southern Florida coast has never looked so drab.
Shot with digital cameras and engulfed in murky shadows, the movie is a stark departure from the NBC original. Gone is the
TV show's cool-guy humor, ably provided by Don Johnson and Philip Michael Thomas. These days, the vice beat is ultra-serious
business, and it' has taken a toll on the latter-day Crockett (Colin Farrell) and Tubbs (Jamie Foxx). Crockett, in particular,
seems the worse for wear. As Farrell plays him, he is brooding and distracted, presumably haunted by the grueling nature of
his work. He lacks Johnson's breezy charm, but then, that's the point.
Miami Vice isn't just a movie about two street-tough cops who go undercover to infiltrate a Colombian drug network;
it's about the effects such work has on the soul, a study of men who sacrifice their identities to defend their ideals. Sometimes,
the line becomes blurry. Crockett is briefly tempted by the intoxicating pleasures of life as a drug pusher - the easy money,
the beautiful women. Tubbs isn't buying into it, though. He never loses sight of the job at hand, and he's as solemn and single-minded
as the movie. Foxx delivers an assured performance, but there's little joy in the role. The director simply doesn't permit
Mann, whose best films (Heat, Manhunter) approach crime with a minimum of dramatic contrivance, knows this material
well, and the action here is briskly paced and visually striking. It is graphic in a way his TV show never could be, and the
film presents the Miami underworld as a grim realm rife with betrayal. It's easy to get sucked in, but the ride isn't much
fun. Even when Crockett falls into bed with Isabella (Gong Li), the kingpin's trusted associate, the difference between the
two Vices couldn't be more obvious.
Back in the day, Crockett was a ladies man who approached his job and the nightlife with equal exuberance. But Farrell's character
is dour and intense, and even a tryst doesn't lighten his mood. The affair seems somehow incongruous with the rest of the
movie, as if Mann decided to throw fans of the TV show a bone. The rest of the time, he seems intent on distancing himself
from his past, or just rewriting it entirely. The result is uncompromising and powerfully bleak.