Being as that the television show “Miami Vice” was born the same year that I was and ended its run when I was five, it wasn’t exactly on my list of things to watch. It wasn’t animated and its stories had less to do with who was vandalizing the amusement park and more with bringing down drug dealers.
Thus, going into the movie Miami Vice, the only thing influencing my expectations was the trailer.
If you’re going into Miami Vice expecting an original story involving undercover detectives, you should look elsewhere. However, if you’re looking for a movie that’s dark and serious and so real you can almost smell the sweat coming off the screen, then you’re in for a treat.
The movie drops us in the middle of one undercover sting that Rico (Jamie Foxx) and Sonny (Colin Farrell) are working, only to have them get a frantic phone call from a former informant who’s now working for the feds. The informant’s death leads to the feds requesting Rico and Sonny’s help in ferreting out a leak within one of their departments.
The story, sadly, is rote, just the sort of thing we expect from an undercover cop movie. Does a member of the team get hurt/killed? Yes. Does one of the bad guys suspect the undercover cops are not what they appear? Of course. Does one of the cops fall for a hot woman who’s with the bad guys? Yes, and they spend 20 minutes legitimizing the “relationship.”
What Miami Vice has going for it is Michael Mann. It’s the style, the mood, the way that it feels less like a big-budget movie and more like Michael Mann got the chance to go undercover with a couple of cops. It’s dark, gritty, and grabs you from the get-go. There are no opening credits; no “getting to know yous”; we’re just dropped into the middle of an undercover operation. It’s jarring, but effective.
Miami Vice doesn’t pander to its audience, and it’s not going to hold you by the hand and take you step by step through the undercover operation so that you know everything and understand everything. You’re just thrown in there with Sonny and Rico, and have to hope that you’re smart enough to keep up with them. I might have liked that better if it had been easier to understand what everybody was saying. As it was, it’s too easy to get lost, especially at the beginning.
The only real humor comes from a few choice lines, delivered dryly enough to elicit a chuckle. It’s nice that they don’t have a character shoved in the mix for the sole purpose of providing some comic relief. Unfortunately, that means there’s no real break from the tension. This is a very serious movie, and for the most part the polar opposite of what’s in theaters right now.
You don’t get attached to the characters, either. You’re not seriously invested in them. So one of them has a serious girlfriend, and the other is getting busy with the bad guy’s woman. Whoop dee doo. We don’t care. This movie is about the mood, and capturing that seedy underbelly feel. It’s also about one hell of a climatic gunfight that’s the best scene in the movie.
Miami Vice is really about the mood. If you’re going to see it expecting much more than that, you’re going to be disappointed. But stylistically it’s interesting enough to hold your attention for most of the two hours that it’s on the screen.
From 2003 up until 2007, I was lucky enough to have “movie reviewer” as my job description. As such, I’ve built up a *lot* of reviews for just about every movie that came out during those years, as well as reviews of classic movies. This is one of the reviews I originally wrote during that time.