Miami Vice

on July 28, 2006 by Annlee Ellingson
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With this cinematic adaptation of the 1980s TV series he executive produced, director/writer Michael Mann has made a stark departure in both style (for the better) and storytelling (for the worse). As a result, "Miami Vice," although stunning to look at, is ultimately a joyless viewing experience.

Taking over the roles made famous by Don Johnson and Philip Michael Thomas are Colin Farrell and Jamie Foxx as Sonny Crockett and Ricardo Tubbs, undercover cops who become entangled in an interagency investigation when a high-level leak leads to the exposure and execution of two federal agents and the murder of an informant friend's family. In Mann's abstruse plot, somehow the involvement of Aryan Nation thugs takes the detectives to a transnational smuggling operation run out of South America. There Crockett seduces/falls for the cartel's Chinese-Cuban financial officer Isabella, played by Gong Li, and she, along with Tubbs' intel-analyst girlfriend Trudy (Naomie Harris), personify the clash of the personal and professional in this line of work.

Not fully abandoning the Italo-casual men's fashion first popularized by the show two decades go, costumer Janty Yates has opted for muted grays and blacks instead of the franchise's trademark pastels while preserving the sports-jacket-over-a-T-shirt favored by Sonny Crockett. Like the costumes, Miami itself gets more mature treatment here, with the South Beach locales favored by "CSI: Miami" eschewed for a grittier, underbelly portrait of the city. It's a design that works well with the grainy, handheld HD cinematography by Dion Beebe ("Collateral"), Mann's clever misdirection in his shot construction and composer John Murphy's incongruously moody symphonic score during climactic action scenes.

A drag on the proceedings, however, is pacing that, until it tightens up a bit in the third act, is as choppy as the whitecaps out on the open ocean. In a move to explore the interiority of his characters, Mann takes romantic detours that give little indication as to the passage of time and thus significantly slow the momentum of the narrative. Meanwhile, during the intense negotiations, whether with allies or enemies, the scenes linger a beat or more too long on the meaningful pauses between lines of dialogue. In the criminal underground, it seems, no one ever smiles, not even when being flirtatious, and tough broads blink away tears during sex. Lacking the levity of the source material, in which Crockett lived on a sailboat guarded by a pet alligator named Elvis, this "Miami's" vice is its unrelenting gravitas. Starring Jamie Foxx, Colin Farrell, Gong Li and Naomie Harris. Directed and written by Michael Mann. Produced by Michael Mann and Pieter Jan Brugge. A Univeral release. Crime drama. Rated R for strong violence, language and some sexual content. Running time: 132 min

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