Written and Directed by Michael Mann
July 20, 2006 (Westwood, California) / July 28, 2006 (United States) / August 24, 2006 (Germany)
Two Miami Dade Police Department detectives go undercover to break up a drug operation after an incident with a former informant.
As a kid I was only a casual observer of the original series when it was on. It had a style and cool that defined the era but was not the fun of Knight Rider or A-Team nor was it science fiction. Thus I came into this film viewing only marginally invested at best. However I really dug this movie and from what I do recall of the show this film felt just like it. It does not hurt that series producer Michael Mann directed this cinematic version of the series.
Mann has a style and a distinctive look to everything he does. He makes things look slick and styled. And it is what Miami Vice the movie and TV show are in part. He did a very good job of bringing an 80s show to film in the present day. This felt very much like it fit right in even if Mann skipped using the series’ iconic theme.
Colin Farrell and Jamie Foxx were very good choices for the parts of Sonny Crockett (Don Johnson in the series) and Ricardo Tubbs (Philip Michael Thomas in the series) respectively. They can both turn in good performances and were able to channel the iconic characters in the present day.
And it is not just the two big characters that get brought into the present. They recast Det. Trudy Joplin (Olivia Brown in the series and Naomie Harris in the film), Det. Gina Calabrese (Saundra Santiago in the series and Elizabeth Rodriguez in the film), Det. Stan Switek (Michael Talbott in the series and Domenick Lombardozzi in the film), Det. Larry Zito (John Diehl in the series and Justin Theroux in the film), and Lt. Martin Castillo (Edward James Olmos in the series and Barry Shabaka Henley in the film). These are not characters that are readily identified with the show when people think of it. They are not the first names that pop in your head other than maybe Castillo but that could be because Olmos was the originator of the role and how can you forget him?
One standout in the film that was not repeating a character from the series was John Ortiz as José Yero. He was more or less the main villain of the story even though he was not the head of the organization they were attempting to bring down. I have seen him more often than not in good guy/nice guy rolls and he is just not as good in those as when going sinister. I think he should just pull a Vincent Price and play almost exclusively villains. I am talking the type that would kill you without a second thought. Ortiz is a very good bad guy.
The weakest actor in the film is Eddie Marsan who plays Nicholas which is the character that provides Tubbs and Crockett with their in. He is a great character actor and a fine performer, but the twang accent employed here is just so very fake sounding. Even American speakers can have trouble doing a good one but for any English actor not named Gary Oldman it is all but impossible. I say just stop at sounding American. Do not push your luck and he definitely pushed his luck.
What we get with this movie is a good undercover crime drama thriller. There are plenty of twists and turns and the film is always very tense and very stylish. It is a solid story with solid characters that have depth and defined motivations and relationships. Mann did not necessarily coast on nostalgia or the base audience’s familiarity with the show and characters.
As I said before I was not a strong watcher of the show, but I saw enough to have a feel for the two central characters and from what I recall they get them right here. Crockett was generally the impulsive romancer while Tubbs was the more levelheaded and in control of the two. And wouldn’t you know it in this movie Crockett while undercover decides to bang the drug lord’s lover Isabella (Gong Li). That is not a good idea in reality, but it never bit James Bond in the butt, nor did it harm Sonny Crockett ever in the show really and it does not hurt Colin Farrell’s Sonny Crockett physically.
While it is not the most convincing of romances you do get the sense that both characters realize it will end in disaster for them in some fashion, but they pursue it anyway. There is some strong emotion between the two. Farrell got to flex his acting chops in a good role which appears to be rare for him. Too often it is either shit roles or shit movies or shit roles in shit movies for him and that is real shame for such a talented individual. Fire your damn agent!
Miami Vice is one of the better TV to film translations I have seen. It is an enjoyable movie that I have watched a few times since buying it. I guess this is a watch it!