random reviews, recollections & reminiscings

Monday, January 8, 2007

DVD REVIEW: Miami Vice (2006) ***


I've always been a fan of Miami Vice, the show that NBC pitched as "MTV cops." I remember seeing the actual 2 hour premiere on a Sunday night back in 1984. My 12 year-old eyes were taken by the kinetic opening montage filled with the beautiful sights of Miami and the distinctive sound of Jan Hammer's synthesized score. The fast cars and boats. The undercover assignments to bring drug dealers to justice. I was enthralled by all of it. My dad, sister and I would eventually be hooked on the Friday night show. The shows glitzy and gritty storylines and integration of music attracted not only viewers but also some great musicians and actors.

Among the many well-known bands and artists who contributed their music to the show were Jackson Browne, Phil Collins, Bryan Adams, Tina Turner, Peter Gabriel, ZZ Top, Dire Straits, Depeche Mode, The Hooters, Godley and Creme, Glenn Frey, U2, Frankie Goes to Hollywood, Foreigner, The Police, Laura Branigan, Ted Nugent, Suicidal Tendencies, The Damned, and Billy Idol. Some of them even guest-starred in episodes, such as Phil Collins as a game show host (whose single "In the Air Tonight" became synonymous with the show), Glenn Frey as a drug smuggler, Willie Nelson as a retired Texas Ranger, Gene Simmons and Ted Nugent as a drug dealer. Some of the other actors that appeared were Miles Davis playing a pimp, Frankie Valli a mob boss, Danny Sullivan in his acting debut, played a racing driver which was incidentally his actual profession, Little Richard as a street preacher, and Leonard Cohen was an Interpol agent. In a bizarre move, auto executive Lee Iacocca appeared in one episode as a gun-crazy parks commissioner while G. Gordon Liddy added a realistically political edge to two episodes by starring as a politically-motivated drug runner.

Athletes also played guest roles on the show, as legendary Boston Celtics center Bill Russell appeared as a crooked judge with a huge gambling debt, with 1980s NBA superstar Bernard King playing his son, a star basketball player for the FIU Sunblazers. Boxer Roberto Duran appeared as a convict, while fellow pugilist Carlos Palomino appeared as a drug runner who runs a boxing gym as a cover. Other notable appearances include now well known stars such as Annette Bening, Bruce Willis, Viggo Mortensen, Ben Stiller, Chris Cooper, Wesley Snipes, Liam Neeson, Michael Richards, Chris Rock, Julia Roberts, Helena Bonham Carter, Melanie Griffith, Alfred Molina and Benicio Del Toro. The show also featured many up-and-coming television and film actors including Michael Madsen, Dennis Farina, Steve Buscemi, John Leguizamo, Charles S. Dutton, Lou Diamond Phillips, Ed O'Neill, Luis Guzmán, Ving Rhames, Jimmy Smits (who appeared in the pilot as Crockett's ill-fated original partner), Dan Hedaya, Bill Paxton, Bruce McGill, Garcelle Beauvais, Penn Jillette, Nathan Lane, Michael DeLorenzo, Giancarlo Esposito, Esai Morales, Vincent D'Onofrio and Ian McShane.

Shwew! Yeah. There's some really amazing talent and some surprising ones too.It just goes to show that for it's time, the show had an attraction from all aspects of the entertainment world.

I loved the characters of the show created and produced by Michael Mann. Vice detective Sonny Crockett (Don Johnson) with his sunglasses, pastel suits complete with loafers and no socks, living on a boat with his pet crocodile, Elvis. Detective Ricardo Tubbs (Philip Michael Thomas with his three first names) came from New York City in pursuit of a drug lord named Calderone who killed his detective brother Raphael. Eventually the two detectives realize they are both in search of Calderone and team up in pursuit. Those two were the main characters but the supporting cast I liked just as much. There was fellow detectives Trudy Joplin (Olivia Brown) and Gina Calabrese (Saundra Santiago) who would go undercover with and without Crockett and Tubbs. The other detectives Switek (Michael Talbott) and Zito (John Diehl) added some comedic relief but always had the team's back. The glue that held the team together was their eventual lieutenant Martin Castillo (played with quiet intensity by Edward James Olmos). He was probably one of the coolest characters on television at the time. Always kept his cool. I remember the time when he had to take action and he got out this samurai sword. Alright!

The rest is 80's history. When I first heard that Michael Mann was updating the concept of Miami Vice for the big screen I was filled with trepidation and pessimism. Chicago's very own Michael Mann whose birthday is the day after mine (different year mind you) has put out some great movies over the years like "Thief", "Manhunter", "Last of the Mohicans", "Heat", "The Insider" and "Collateral" but it still made me nervous that he would be updating a show dear to my heart. Sure, the show is now quite dated but it excelled for what it was (plus I was watching it between the impressionable ages 12 to 17) still, I didn't see what more he could do with it. After recently watching this updated version that was released last July, It took me a while to soak it all in, but I have to say I'm not nervous anymore. My trust in Mann's abilities are restored....

Miami Vice (2006)

rated R (for strong violence, language and some sexual content)
2 hrs. 15 min.
written by: Michael Mann
produced by: Michael Mann & Pieter Van Brugge
directed by: Michael Mann
Speedboats racing in Universal Pictures' Miami Vice

In the 2006 Miami Vice world you can forget the white suits and flared hair of the '80s. This glitz is gone, but the grit is still there and Mann gives us some sharp-edged material that truly shadows any recollection of his TV series. It's all here – his signature cinematography, strong characters, and tightly woven script. While the dialogue grips your attention (it has to cuz unfortunately, many of the characters mumble their lines which is why I watched it with English subtitles) with its lightning quick pace, the intricately confusing plot is equally as cold and heavy as the aesthetic elements of the film. Instead of being cool to behold like Mann's stellar outings with "Heat" and "Collateral", however, this film taxes the soul and confuses the mind. Yet, with gripping performances and some moments when the intense story truly shines through the clouds, Miami Vice comes washes up on shore as a fairly enjoyable, yet frustrating crime caper.

Crockett (Colin Farrell) and Tubbs (Jamie Foxx) are two undercover detectives working the underbelly of Miami. During one of their higher-profile engagements, a colleague phones in a life-threatened warning to Crockett regarding his involvement in the exposure of several government operatives. After receiving this call, the pair learns of the government's mission, who the target is, and how they can become involved. What ensues is an offer to both Crockett and Tubbs to be yanked into a very high profile drug syndicate that spans numerous continents.

As the pair sinks further into this underworld utilizing their own resources, aliases and talents, they begin to weave into the syndicate, gain their trust, and piece together the hierarchy. This hierarchy is much larger than the streets of Miami, however. Along the way, Crockett reaches out to the enemy by growing infatuated with Isabella (Gong Li), a professionally ambivalent financier that works with the syndicate to strategize and maximize profits. The further ingrained Crockett and Tubbs edge into the operation, the more their personal lives weave into their cause.

Mann knows how to craft one slick, stylish film. His eye for chilling cinematography, his ear for impeccably fitting audio accompaniment, and his wonderful ability to craft engaging characters set his films apart from the typical crime caper fare. Furthermore, Mann has a way with casting those quality characters with fitting actors. From Jamie Foxx's Tubbs to the fantastic work from John Ortiz as Yero (one of the dealers), each character is bestowed life through quality performances. This supporting cast was especially vibrant this time around, especially Gong Li and Naomis Harris (as Trudy Joplin). Farrell, even though a bit rough along the edges, stayed strong and fairly impressive as Crockett. Everything is here for Mann's next high-quality crime film possessing the same weight as his preceding works. I was totally disappointed in the casting of Barry Shabaka Henley as Lt. Castillo, who exuded no mystery or authority here. I did enjoy the character of Gina (Elizabeth Rodrigez) who played a crucial role in rescuing Trudy from some arian junkies. The supporting cast that excelled in their roles were good enough to carry the film yet I wanted to know more about them.

Jamie Foxx and Elizabeth Rodriguez in Universal Pictures' Miami Vice

The tense performances and the slick cinematography are there but the film tends to waver away from the solid core that distinguishes Mann's talents from the rest: heart and soul. Amidst the intricate, confusing storyline, the emotional connection with the characters gets lost. Throughout the course of the film, some connections are made that really do pop out and ignite some warmth. However, they are very few and far between. Watching a Mann film is like waltzing along a high wire trapeze – the story leans heavily towards the criminal portion of a story and, just as faith feels lost, the film leans back over to a heartfelt center by connecting the viewer with the heroes OR the villain. In general, the film feels lost amidst the complicated storyline and doesn't surface enough above the plot to rejuvenate that warmth. Plus, this film is highly dialogue driven without enough action. While the tension is there, the excitement factor and the passion behind the characters are lacking.

Even through its shortcomings, "Miami Vice" is a fast-paced, stylish film that's definitely worth a watch. Mann crafts some stellar performances, a delicious pairing of visuals and score, and an interesting, albeit demanding, storyline. Staying strong during both the blindingly-fast dialogue and the demanding storyline will help the film be an enjoyable experience.
Colin Farrell and Gong Li in Universal Pictures' Miami Vice

The DVD rated here is the Miami Vice Unrated Director's Edition. As Michael Mann states in his Director's Commentary, this "Director's Edition" isn't necessarily just expanded, but also re-edited and fleshed out further. As I have not seen the theatrical edition of Miami Vice, any comparisons between the two are unable to be made by me.

Special Features:

This Director's Edition of "Miami Vice" comes with some particularly interesting extras:

A Director's Commentary is included from Mann. Mann is always particularly entertaining in regards to his explanations of his films. He goes to lengths to capture the perfect mood, setting, and other aesthetical elements of his films. His commentary on Miami Vice is no different.

Miami Vice Undercover is a featurette regarding how Farrell and Foxx honed in on their undercover mind frames for the film. As with his other films, Mann demands his cast get a realistic feel on how their characters work by real-time experience. Farrell and Foxx worked with undercover cops involved with an equally high-profile scenario as in this film. The cast also accompanied a crew on a government bust. Through these elements (and a realistic prank played on Farrell involving a training exercise), the process appeared to be fairly interesting.

Miami and Beyond focuses on the locations that Michael Mann selected across the globe for Miami Vice. Some of these obscure, yet strangely beautiful locales are very interesting. From the inclimate conditions of Miami's hurricane season to the obscure locations in Uruguay, this series of places crafts a very distinctive look for the picture. The actors all are in awe at how Mann finds these locations, and Mann seems to take pride in his ability to find them.

Visualizing Miami Vice shows how Michael Mann gave this film (and his other films) such a distinct look. It's interesting to see how he meshes the scenery with artistic elements and camerawork to create such attractiveness. He discusses such elements from what guns he decides to use for the film, all the way to his work with aerial cameras and photography to grab his work.

Three other Behind The Scenes Featurettes are included – Gun Training, Haitian Hotel Camera Blocking, and Mojo Race. While the Haitian Hotel piece is mildly interesting to watch since it involves an intricate location and the actors navigating through the room, the Gun Training and Mojo Race pieces are both pretty entertaining. Gun Training shows all of the primary actors in fairly rigorous automatic weapons training. Any chance to see the actors learning a new craft is a blast. The Mojo race piece is interesting since it talks about how the crew assembled this fully functional speedboat that also integrates camerawork into the mix.

As stated before, this is not like the "Miami Vice" from the '80s. This is sleek, calculated, and extremely hard-edged in regards to the multi-layered drug associations across continents. The music is great as with all of Mann's films. there's some Audioslave, some Moby, and a okay cover of "In the Air Tonight" by Nonpoint. The characters are, for the majority, engaging, compelling, and portrayed very well from the great cast. While the plot has some coherency issues and the dialogue needs a bit of work (and annunciation), the story is still compelling enough to grasp your attention. "Miami Vice" is what it should be, an interesting trip into the world of undercover cops involved in an extremely high profile crime bust.

The Skinny:

  • Filming in Dominican Republic was suspended during October 2005 due to raucous behavior from the public and a shooting where the aggressor was injured.
  • Jan Hammer was asked to do a different type of score, but turned it down.
  • The quotes in the theatrical trailer, "We get down, if the play calls for it bud" [Crockett], and "We can close each others eyes real fast, but then nobody's gonna make any money" [Tubbs], were both lines from the 'Smugglers Blues' episode of the original series.
  • Gunshots heard outside of the film's Dominican Republic set on October 24th, 2005 caused the crew to delay filming for three days.
  • The RZA was hired to do the films score, but was later replaced with Organized Noize.
  • The sunglasses worn by Colin Farrell are the "Slam" model made by Sama Eyewear.
  • Several of the firearms used in the film include the Barret M82A1 .50 sniper rifle, the Heckler & Koch G36C and G3A3 assault rifles, a Heckler & Koch HK69 40mm grenade launcher, a Benelli M4 Super 90 12-gauge semiautomatic shotgun, a Sig 552 carbine, a Remington M24 sniper rifle, and a Colt M4A1 carbine.
  • The boat taken to Cuba by Sonny and Isabella is a MTI 39' foot powerboat. Top speed: ~115 miles per hour.
  • Crockett's car in the film is a Ferrari F430 Spider, which according to Ferrari of North America, has a top speed of 193 mph and can go from 0-60 mph in just 3.9 seconds.
  • The twin engine pusher/puller airplane is an Adam Aircraft A500.
  • The following boats are used by Crockett & Tubbs to transfer the load from the cargo ship into Miami: Donzi 38 ZR, Donzi 43 ZR, Donzi 38 ZF Daytona.
  • Mann had his actors train with real-life undercover law enforcement officers. Colin Farrell stated that he was told they would be tagging along on real sting operations. During one such operation, guns were drawn and the officers identities questioned. Farrell reports being scared for his life. The next morning, Farrell was contacted and told that the sting operations were staged and that the dealers were actors. Farrell stated feeling "punk'd."
  • During filming in Uruguay the crew came across bootleg and other illegal merchandise for sale in a similar fashion to that of the film's theme. Mann purchased a copy of "Collateral" for two dollars while he was there.
  • It was Foxx who first brought up the idea of a "Miami Vice" film to Mann during a party for Muhammad Ali. Jamie had gone on for more than 20 minutes about why the movie should be made. This led Mann to revisit the series he helped create.
  • Like "Collateral", which also starred Foxx, most of the film was shot with the Thompson Viper Filmstream Camera, and the remainder was shot on Super 35mm film.
  • Also like "Collateral", there are no opening credits. The title appears at the end of the film.
  • The first teaser trailer to appear for the film featured the Linkin Park/Jay-Z song "Numb/Encore".
  • When filming was completed, Colin Farrell entered into rehab for exhaustion and dependency on prescription medication. The medication had been prescribed to him after he suffered a back injury while filming "Alexander".
  • According to a Euroweb article, Tubbs' suits were designed by famous fashion designer Ozwald Boateng. He had worked with Foxx in the past and caught Mann's eye who then asked him to work on the movie.
  • Crockett's Boat (white paint and labeled "Mojo") is a MTI (Marine Technology Inc.) 39 Series with two Mercury Engines fitted. In correct sense it is a Offshore Catamaran.
  • Prominent product placement occurrences include Apple, BMW, Bacardi, IWC, Range Rover and Sony.
  • Lyndon LaRouche has stated that his slogan for his 2008 Presidential Campaign will be Rico Tubbs' line "Smooth. That's how we do it".
  • Luis Tosar who played drug lord Arcángel de Jesús Montoya does not dub himself in the Spanish version.
  • When deciding if they will continue to work with Yero, Tubbs quotes The Eagles by saying "Let's take it to the limit one more time", a reference to the song "Take It To The Limit".
  • Special Agent Fujima (Ciarán Hinds) asks Sonny "what does that have to do with the price of tea in China?". In "The Insider", the character Wigand asks the FBI agent the exact same thing when he asks Wigand if he owns a gun.
  • Lines between Crockett and Isabella about life being short and whatever time people have being luck echo a line spoken by Robert DeNiro in Mann's crime saga "Heat". Also in Mann's "Manhunter", Detective Graham has a similar conversation with his wife.
  • Edward James Olmos was offered and declined the opportunity to reprise Castillo, saying he'd never actually watched the original show. Sigh, that woulda been cool.

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