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Sunday, July 30, 2006

Miami Vice

Finally, I’ve found a vice I can pass up. It’s taken years and years, who knows how many 12 step programs with who knows how many combinations of letters to indicate the vice of their calling, but I’ve found one that doesn’t interest me in the least, and I’ll bet it won’t interest you much either. It’s called Miami Vice.

Miami Vice is the recycled version of producer/director Michael Mann’s 1980’s tv show now stripped of its’ pastel prettiness and rosy
hues and dipped in dark grittiness and Colin Farrell’s bodily fluids to make it “edgy” and “more relevant” to today’s audiences. In other words, Mann resurrected the old cash cow and added some gratuitous sex scenes and more bloodshed and gunfire in the hopes of milking this baby for all it is worth, which, knowing the mindlessness of the American public, is probably a lot more than it should be.

Unfortunately, Mann, who also directed this version, seems to assume that anyone who is coming to see this Miami Vice must have slavishly watched the tv show because he offers nothing in the way of character development or explanation of who the characters are or what their relationships are to one another. Okay, it’s obvious that Colin Farrell (Alexander) plays Sonny Crockett, the “Don Johnson” part and Academy Award winner Jamie Foxx (Ray) plays the “Philip Michael Thomas” part of Ricardo Tubbs, but if you only knew that much about the show then you, like me, were pretty much lost from the beginning, especially since neither actor imbues his character with much personality. Excuse me, Mr. Mann, but I was busy in the ‘80s and didn’t watch your dumb tv show. Hello? A little back-story would be nice. If not for me, then how about for the 2/3 of the audience who were present at the Essex Cinemas when I saw the movie who weren’t even born when the show was on the air. They came because they thought the trailer looked hot and the stars even hotter. They don’t even know who Philip Michael Thomas and Don Johnson are.

Anyway, the movie staggers out of the gate and into a confused mess about prostitution that looks like a group effort a la Mission Impossible with a bevy of
agents up to all sorts of cool tricks while monitoring the tricks and the girls who fleece them when suddenly the story bolts to a whole other plot about an inside informant at the FBI or DEA and drug dealing and a Columbian drug lord (aren’t they all?) who took out an FBI agent. Naturally, the only “clean” agency in the area is the Miami PD who wasn’t in on the operation and so Crocket and Tubbs are recruited to go undercover and infiltrate the drug lord’s operation as “mules”, offering to transport whatever drugs the boss needs brought into the US in their fabulously speedy “go boats”. Think “Speed Racer” for a new generation.

This shouldn’t have been all that complicated to work out, but along the way the story gets muddled by inexplicable subplots that are obvious in their purpose and resolution from the moment they are introduced, like Tubbs’ romance with Trudy Joplin (Naomie Harris; Pirates of the Caribbean 2: Dead Man’s Chest) and Crockett’s tryst with the cocaine king’s concubine, Isabella (Li Gong; Memoirs of a Geisha). Both stories seem mostly to give an excuse to ply the movie with a few random shots of women’s breasts and backsides and give the bad guys “something” of value to use as collateral if needed. In Miami Vice, women are basically tools of the trade used by some evil men who are real tools, if you know what I mean and I’m sure you do.

Most amazingly, for a movie about drugs and gun smuggling, the violence is confined to basically
three battle scenes, which are graphic, but not particularly exciting. I found myself thinking about the original Star Trek tv show during the climatic final confrontation. By then all the sides have been delineated and the actors are killed off in the order of their importance to the story. On Star Trek, the first to go were always the red-shirted ensigns that had never been seen before that particular episode. Here, it is the background bodyguards, followed by the two or three line actors, then the featured players, then the co-stars, leaving the stars to face off in an appropriate show of good versus evil. Conveniently, hurricane season helped with the filming as the skies were forever ominous and the nighttime lightening punctuated the battle just perfectly as Crockett and Tubbs did what they (allegedly) do best. I say “allegedly” because still, after two hours and two minutes, I have no idea what else these characters do except have sex and scowl.

Poor Jamie Foxx, especially, seems to have taken his Oscar and joined Marisa Tomei and Marcia Gay Harden on the road to horrible choices after making a major film accomplishment. Hopefully his Christmas release of Dreamgirls will put him back in the limelight because this, along with Stealth, reduces him to a second banana character actor. What is supposed to be a “buddy/cop” movie is clearly not. Foxx and Farrell barely connect throughout, and when they do it is without energy. This is Farrell’s movie all the way, and, unfortunately, it stinks as much as he looks like he does through most of his scenes. Why he and Michael Mann thought Sonny should appear to be hygienically-challenged is beyond me, but even when he is shown in the shower he looks like he could use another. I know he is pretending to be a rock-hard baddass American criminal, but the Dublin bred actor lets a wee touch of the brogue come through in his speech every once in a while. Would it have been too much to ask that a touch of the Irish Spring come too?

For action enthusiasts, Miami Vice may fill your need to see things blow up, but you’ll have to plan your bathroom breaks accordingly. There is really not much mayhem in the film despite the
previews and ads on television that would have you think it is a non-stop explosion of thrills, so if you run to the restroom at the wrong moment you may miss the No-Doze experience. That’s what I call it when I actually find myself begging for something to detonate just to stay awake.

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