Miami Vice

It's Michael Mann, right? What do you expect? The film vs. digital debate is a bit academic, I think. You trade colour for versatility, and whether you are prepared to accept those terms depends on what you're aiming for. Mann has found he can do more with his tiny cameras, and on the evidence, I say leave him to it. But hey, it's Michael Mann, right? Every frame is beautiful.

The film kicks off at a nightclub, where undercover police are keeping their eyes peeled for some pimp to show. Which gets you to the centre of what Miami Vice is about -- the observation, prediction and ensnaring of enemies. The scene is repeated mid-way thru the film, but this time the crooks are watching the cops, and the consequences are disastrous. You gotta be more guarded.

Which might explain why everyone speaks in this super cool, professional manner. All the dialogue in the film is either business or small-talk with subtext. When Sonny and Rico have their heart-to-hearts, or when Sonny gets all flirty with Isabella, this becomes extremely hilarious. Relationships are built, maintained, and destroyed with photography and sound-design, which makes them appear entirely physical. When (gods-forbid!) the characters actually start talking about their feelings (you know, the way real people sometimes do!) they do so aphoristically and with terrible metaphors. And when you try and do soppy Romeo + Juliet stuff in this circumspect way, it just doesn't work.

Mann is keen on the love-interest sidelines, and seems to want to explore the way personal lives can fuck up the business of competition and survival. But (once again) this descends to ladies getting into trouble because they are not smart, cold, or hard enough, and getting saved by resourceful gents who ARE that smart, cold and hard. Well I'm sorry, but Trudy should have made mince-meat out of those two aryan supremacists, and Isabella should have thrown Sonny out of her house as soon as he interrupted the booty call with negotiation. That's what would have happened if I was in charge.

Just to stir-up the controversy a bit, Miami Vice shares more than a few common features with what is still Michael Bay's finest film, Bad Boys 2. The latter is a garish cartoon, its fetishes border-line offensive. But it's striking how many of its cues Mann, a respected auteur, follows. Mann buys his inimitable style with humourlessness, and if I had to pick, I'd stick with Will Smith and Martin Lawrence rather than Colin Farrell and Jamie Foxx.


  1. you are SO right, I hated that they went more for the drama-like story rather than action or whatever. Miami Vice ended up being such a bore...

  2. Thanks. A lot of film buffs adore this film, not realizing how ridiculous the conceit becomes when you try and do it straight and serious.