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Published on June 21st, 2008 | by simeon


Miami Vice

In 1984 a show arrived on NBC that instantly became a media sensation and set new standards for television dramas, as well as for music and fashion as it soon became a cultural icon.
The show was Miami Vice, and up until the final episode in 1989, legions of viewers tuned in every Friday night for a heady mix of action, music, color, and sex making series stars Philip Michael Thomas and Don Johnson some of the most identified and emulated celebrities in the world.

As time passed, the fickle television audience cooled on the show and it passed to television history, but not before leaving an indelible mark upon pop culture as to this day, the mere mention of the show unleashes a flood of memories and images from fans the world over.

Now close to two decades after the show went off the air, the creative talent behind the show, Michael Mann, has unleashed a cinematic version of his hit series, and it has arrived awash in the trademark neon colors, action, and style that made the series such a hit.

This time out, Oscar winner Jaime Foxx and Colin Farrell are Tubs and Crockett respectively, and they soon find themselves deep undercover posing as drug runners while trying to get to the bottom of a leak inside one of the law enforcement agencies. As troublesome as the leak, is, the fact that leaked information caused the deaths of undercover agents, by suspected white supremacists armed with the latest in high tech weaponry.

The deadly game of cloak and dagger unfolds as Tubbs and Crockett find themselves deep into a major criminal organization, and to add to the tension, Crockett finds himself drawn to an attractive member of the organization (Li Gong), who “belongs” to the head of the criminal plot.

As the plot unfolds, the danger of being discovered as well as becoming lost in the parts they are playing becomes a growing danger for Tubbs and Crockett, as they not only battle to keep their cover, but to stay alive and protect those closest to them.

The film has a plot that is a bit muddled at first, but like the world in which Tubbs and Crockett find themselves, there are not always clearly defines parameters as well as individuals. As simplistic as the basic plot may seem, the varying layers of characters, locales, and motivations keeps Miami Vice, a changing mystery, yet one that is lacking tension and deep drama.

The first hour of the film plods along with plenty of sex and setup, but surprisingly little action. I noted that there were five scenes of sex, and at least two more implied sex scenes before one of the lead characters even fired a weapon, which surprisingly came at 1 Hour and 40 minutes into the film.

While the film may take a while to get to the action, when it does come, it is surprisingly effective without falling victim to the usual Hollywood Traps of numerous gigantic explosions, car chases, stunts, and an abundance of C.G.I.

The violence in the film is also very graphic as there are numerous headshots, as well as splatter moments and gaping exit wounds. Despite this, it does not seem gratuitous but rather realistic as it portrays the brutality of the characters as well as the world in which they live and work.

The surprisingly effective finale confrontation satisfies and like any good director, Mann knows when to pull back, and when to go full out, without letting the action dominate the characters and the story.

Farrell and Foxx do a solid job with their characters without having the luxury of a deep back story. Mann’s script takes the approach that the viewers will know the characters and their history and omits things like Crockett’s ex wife, son, houseboat and pet alligator Elvis.

While this may seem trivial for a film that is over two hours in length, it does provide viewers with a better understanding of the characters and their actions and motivations, which I hope will be fully explored should a second film in the series be made.

That being said, despite the long setup, and a somewhat muddles plot, Miami Vice is a stylish and refreshing film, that should entertain fans of the original show.

3.5 stars out of 5

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