DV Michael Mann–because there is a difference between Michael Mann on film and Michael Mann on DV–doesn’t bother giving Miami Vice a first act. I suppose he intends the absence to be some sort of cinema verite thing, but it doesn’t work, it just gives the audience no characters to identify with. Lethal Weapon 2 did the same thing, except it was a sequel. So, maybe Mann intended the audience to just assume Miami Vice the movie follows up “Miami Vice” the TV show, but I doubt it. Some of the film’s problems stem from this lack. Colin Farrell flounders through the first half hour (or hour, time stands still during Miami Vice) because his character is never defined. Mann even gives him a character arc, only leaving off the front part of it. A houseboat and a pet alligator might have been useful. Poor Jamie Foxx, despite being top-billed, is barely in the movie. He dominates the beginning, the pre-Farrell story parts, when Miami Vice seems like Mann’s greatest stylistic misfire. The film barely ever feels like Michael Mann, but once Farrell’s story takes over, it gets closest to it. Even the awesome gunfight at the end is lacking any of the depth Mann usually brings to a film. The difference in Miami Vice is the bad guys. Heat had one, maybe two, bad guys, everyone else was gray. Miami Vice has seven good guys and thirty bad guys–and the bad guys are real bad (which makes the end a lot of fun, but not really dramatically solid).
Rating Mann’s use of DV is difficult. At the end, he seems to be going for ultra-realism (which, I imagine, is why the supporting cast is made up of low profile actors, no one famous), but during the film, he doesn’t embrace it. Miami Vice occasionally looks like a documentary, but never plays like one. The quality of the DV shots change from time to time, especially at night, or in contrast-heavy lighting. Maybe Mann needs to shoot in studios and do CG backdrops, something besides the DV, which simply does not look good.
I hoped Miami Vice would be a soulless, blockbuster version of Heat but Mann had different ideas. There’s some evidence he had more story for Jamie Foxx, maybe an examination of his relationship with fellow officer girlfriend Naomie Harris (who’s good). It’s also possible I’m just making excuses for Mann, because he didn’t even see the need to make Farrell and Foxx convincing partners. He still casts right (Li Gong impressed me, even with the pigeon English) and Colin Farrell can actually smile with his eyes, which is a neat trick. I went from–at the beginning–thinking Mann had finally lost it. By the end, I decided he still had something left, just not a lot. He probably should stop writing, but he definitely needs to drop the DV.
Directed by Michael Mann; screenplay by Mann, based on the television series created by Anthony Yerkovich; director of photography, Dion Beebe; edited by William Goldenberg and Paul Rubell; music by John Murphy; production designer, Victor Kempster; produced by Mann and Pieter Jan Brugge; released by Universal Pictures.
Starring Jamie Foxx (Ricardo Tubbs), Colin Farrell (Sonny Crockett), Li Gong (Isabella), Naomie Harris (Trudy Joplin), Ciaran Hinds (Agent Fujima), Justin Theroux (Zito), Barry Shabaka Henley (Lt. Castillo), Luis Tosar (Montoya), John Ortiz (José Yero) and Elizabeth Rodriguez (Gina).