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Category:    Home > Reviews > Drama > Thriller > Crime > Drugs > Miami Vice (2006/Theatrical Film Review)

Miami Vice (2006/Theatrical Film Review)


Stars: Jamie Foxx, Colin Farrell, Gong Li

Director: Michael Mann

Critic's rating: 2 out of 10


Review by Chuck O'Leary


Once again, all the negative advance buzz was right, and Michael Mann's film version of Miami Vice is Hollywood's disaster of the week.  But Miami Vice isn't just a terrible movie.  It's a terrible movie that looks like absolute crap. 


Here's a big-studio film that reportedly cost $125 million by some accounts and $150 million by others, yet somehow looks worse than somebody's bad home videos.  Shot on high-definition digital video, the cinematography in Miami Vice is so grainy, dull and blurry; it has the appearance of a 15-year-old VHS tape that's been played at least 100 times.  While you might be able to get away with such shoddy technical work on a shoestring budget, such technical incompetence is inexcusable with a budget this huge.  


Miami Vice is the ugliest-looking major film in memory, and it begs the question: Where did all the money go, because it's definitely not on screen.  In reality it looks like it cost about $25 million and the rest of the money was blown on Colin Farrell and Jamie Foxx's party bills.  Or did somebody pull an Elie Samaha?  Samaha was the head of the now defunct Franchise Pictures (producer of such bombs as Battlefield Earth, Get Carter and A Sound of Thunder), and allegedly he purposely inflated budgets on certain movies, only to cut corners and pocket the leftover money.  The producers of Miami Vice should also be investigated to see where all the money went.


This piece of cinematic slop should make Hollywood take pause and seriously examine the issue of shooting major films on HD digital video.  The HD used on Mann's latest is exceptionally bad, but no matter what kind of spin the industry wants to put on it, HD never looks as good as regular film.  Hollywood would like to have you believe otherwise so they can save a few bucks on the crap they peddle you, but HD is always grainier, darker and lacks the sharpness of film.


Based on the trend-setting, 1980s cop show of the same name that was produced by Mann, and starred Don Johnson and Philip Michael Thomas, Mann's big-screen version of Miami Vice ranks with The Lady in the Water, The Lake House, Nacho Libre and The Da Vinci Code as another insultingly senseless piece of excrement that brings summertime moviegoing to new lows.  You really got to hand it to modern-day Hollywood.  Just when you think they've hit rock bottom, they inexplicably always find a way to sink even further.  I swear Hollywood is purposely trying lower standards with their garbage to keep the expectations of audiences and critics low so they can continue being lazy.  If this is the case, they've already largely succeeded.


Mann made a couple of the best crime dramas of the past 25 years with Thief (1981) and Heat (1995), so nothing prepared me for the abomination that is Miami Vice, which easily replaces The Keep (1983) as Mann's career nadir.  While watching this crushing, amateurish bore unfold, it's hard to believe this is the same guy who made Thief and Heat.  It's as if he started using the illegal contraband his Vice characters are always dealing in.  Mann has been on the decline ever since his excellent The Insider (1999) failed to find a wide audience.  His subsequent Ali (2001) was a biopic hurt by Mann's lionization of the controversial boxer, and Collateral (2004) was a ridiculously overrated thriller that somehow managed to get critics and audiences to ignore the fact that it was hopelessly contrived.


After The Insider flopped despite enormous acclaim, maybe part of Mann just died -- God knows John Carpenter's work has never been the same after The Thing and Starman disappointed at the box office.  In any event, it's a shame to see a once reliable filmmaker like Mann sell out in such a big way.


What made Thief and Heat such strong crime films was all the attention Mann devoted to the development of his characters.  But with Miami Vice, Mann seems to be doing some kind of experiment to see if he can make a film with zero character development and zero background details.  His latest feels like a complicated miniseries where the viewer wanders in two-thirds of the way through, and doesn't know what the hell is going on.


For those of you who think a review isn't complete without a plot summary, I'll do my best: Crockett (Farrell) and Tubbs (Foxx) are Miami vice undercover cops who get recruited by a federal agency to participate in a sting that involves Colombian drug dealers and their white supremacist partners in America. Crockett falls in love with the wife (Gong Li) of one of the drug lords.  This leads to an endless amount of esoteric talk about setting up drug deals interspersed with a few confusingly edited action sequences, and all looking like one of my worn-out 15-year-old previously viewed videotapes.


I was never the biggest fan of the TV series, but it was never this bad.  Otherwise, it wouldn't have lasted 5 seasons.  At least the series, which ran from 1984-1989, had its own sense of style, a memorable theme song and often did a good job of evoking mood thru the popular songs of the day.  Johnson was also quite charismatic as Sonny Crockett with the five o'clock shadow, pastel suits over T-shirts and grizzled attitude.


Conversely, in Mann's movie version, Farrell and Foxx boringly mumble their way through the roles of Crockett and Tubbs, the plotting is incoherent and all the music is instantly forgettable, including a dreadful new version of Phil Collins' In the Air Tonight during the end credits.  Jan Hammer's famous theme song is nowhere to be found, and the synth-sounding instrumental music used instead is nothing special.  Just compare this anonymous junk to the great, mood-setting score by Tangerine Dream in Thief.


Miami Vice is a hideous hackjob that's going to bore the action audience silly.  Like most of today's movies, if it does any business it will have everything to do with hype, and nothing to do with quality.


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