LA GRANGE, New York, U.S.A. — Miami Vice, written and directed by Michael Mann, the executive producer of the hit ’80s television show of the same name, is a smart film starring Jamie Foxx as Ricardo Tubbs and Colin Farrell as Sonny Crockett. And while the film shares the same title and the same character names, there is not much else the two have in common.
“Miami Vice,” the show, was a pastel-covered, stylish, pulp-infused thrill ride with moments of intelligence and a never-ending amount of coolness. Miami Vice, the movie, drops the show’s cavalier action and style and replaces it with a vibrantly real and undeniably grabbing study of two undercover cops and the events that unfold because of their jobs.
There is very little, if any, laughter in the movie. Many of the film’s lines are three to four word sentences that involve codes and meeting points and the names of complicated weapons and machinery that only cops would use. Though this will alienate the viewer for a time, the film as a whole gives off a feeling that we are getting a peek into a world few people know about.
The film begins with Crockett and Tubbs on an undercover operation that is halted when an informant warns the two cops that he gave up information on a deal going down that involves undercover FBI agents. The FBI agents are killed by the criminals, with the criminals also killing the informant’s girlfriend, causing the informant to then kill himself.
Tubbs and Crockett discover that the only explanation for the criminals knowing so much information about the deal before even talking to the informant is for there to be a mole inside the FBI. This is where the main plot line begins.
Tubbs and Crockett must go undercover as drug traffickers in order to smoke out the mole.
This plan soon turns into something bigger, as the two cops get deep into the drug cartels and realize they can catch a big fish. However, lines get blurry when Crockett falls for one of the drug cartel’s chief advisors (Gong Li).
In short, this movie is an extremely well done, extremely serious retread of Bad Boys II.
Now this is not meant to be an insult, merely an illustration of writer/director Mann’s ability to take an action movie plot and turn it into something more. Mann achieved this in both Heat and Collateral.
The only thing that makes those prior films superior to Miami Vice is the depth of the characters. In Heat, the odd brotherhood between cop and robber was shown as something complex, giving both Al Pacino’s detective and Robert De Niro’s thief a deeper side to their motivations, the viewer investing more in both of their fate’s.
In Collateral, the odd relationship between Tom Cruise’s hit man and Jamie Foxx’s everyman, along with great dialogue, created a journey through Los Angeles that showed the lowest and highest moral places a man can travel. The action in that film became secondary to the actions of the characters.
In Miami Vice, the love relationships and the partner relationship between Foxx and Farrell are secondary to the shootouts and intense drug deal scenes. On that level of pure adrenaline and suspense, Miami Vice succeeds as maybe the smartest, coolest summer action movie ever made.
Unfortunately, the only thing the film lacks is the ability to take that step from an action movie to a character study.
Dan Mecca is a Reporter for Youth Journalism International.