Friday, November 15, 2013

Overlooked Film of the Week- "Miami Vice" (2006)

Overlooked Film of the Week-#31

Miami Vice
Michael Mann's 2006 re-imaging of "Miami Vice" always puts a smile on my face. There are several reasons why I cannot get enough of this movie. One of those reasons is when I first saw it, I hated it, was not a fan. The film feels overlong, outstretched, too talky and doesn't seem to produce enough action. I felt all these things the first time around, and for many years, I kept "Miami Vice" out of my mind completely. 

A couple years ago, I felt a need to return to the film. I don't know what sparked it, perhaps it was my love of Mann's overall filmography, perhaps it was because I caught a couple episodes of the original television show on Netflix. For whatever the reason, something was compelling me to return to this film often. Now, its a film I enjoy very much. There is something very unique about Michael Mann's style and how he captures the essence of Floridian law enforcement. Funny, because Michael Mann also created and helped produced the original television show with Don Johnson and Philip Michael Thomas. That television show had lucrative criminals and very much danger, but it was flashy, poppy, and fun. 

The 2006 film doesn't really tap into that very much. Sure, there are good-looking women, fast cars, faster boats, exotic location after exotic location but the glitz and the glamour are not the only things Mann is grabbing. Mann seems to tap into the gritty realism of being so far undercover, that you don't know which end is up. Mann is also using a lot of the tricks in his toolbox from his earlier films, the Digital camera look from "Collateral," the kinetic action from "Heat," and relentless drama from "The Insider." Everything we have grown to love about Mann's narrative and visual style is on top display here. The crystal clear look at all the locations using the digital cameras is overbearing in the best possible way. Whenever I watch this film on blu-ray, I literally feel like I am in Florida.

Instead of Don Johnson as Crockett and Philip Michael Thomas as Tubbs, we get Colin Farrell as Crockett and Jamie Foxx as Tubbs. Even though Crockett and Tubbs are both Miami-Dade police detectives in this movie, this is a very different adventure that we are used to. This movie is dark, its drenched in realism, this is a police movie for this modern age. As the film opens, Crockett, Tubbs and their team of under-covers are at a Miami club, waiting to make a deal/bust of a local pimp. All is going to plan when an old colleague of Tubbs abruptly calls him in a panic, asking if Tubbs will look after his family. Seems Tubbs' friend got in over his head with an Aryan Brotherhood and that killed his family as well as two undercover FBI agents. Once the FBI is involved, they recruit Tubbs and Crockett to go undercover to find out who is supplying the Aryans with state-of-the-art weapons and drugs. What the duo uncovers is a highly-organized, highly-disciplined, transnational drug ring. 

The look of all the places is magnificent, as we move from Miami to Mexico to Colombia to Cuba and around again. The film captures the riches and slums of each country perfectly. The film is brought to life by a great cast, both Farrell and Foxx are very good. But the film is also complimented by a great supporting cast; which includes Naomi Harris, Gong Li, Domenick Lombardozzi, Justin Theroux, Barry Shabaka Henry, John Hawkes, Luis Tosar, John Ortiz and Ciaran Hinds. Each cast member brings the details of police under-covers as well as the dark, gritty world of international drug trafficking. Gong Li in particular has great chemistry with Farrell. She plays the drug operations financial advisor Isabella, a woman who is determined to her job but begins a secret romance with Crockett. A romance which makes things very dangerous for both of them. "Miami Vice" also features one of the best film soundtracks in recent memory. Using techno, hard rock and international ballads to match scenes and create engrossing atmosphere. I can't remember the last time that such a wide range of music was used so well on film.

If you haven't seen this movie, rent it now. If you have seen this film and you didn't care for it at first, I strongly advise to give it another try. I would advise to give any film you may not have liked another try. Its fascinating to see how much your tastes grow as you get older and it maybe a fun experiment for you. In terms of "Miami Vice," I am glad I did. Michael Mann has a visual style and a pulsing narrative that I find irresistible, which is probably why I watched "Miami Vice" again in the first place.

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