If you have been fortunate enough to see the recent films of Michael Mann, you will have been treated to some of the finest action movies to come out of Hollywood in years: Heat, Collateral and now Miami Vice. It's tempting to wish he made more films - he directs roughly every couple of years - but then again it's doubtful whether he could maintain his high standards. It's also tempting to say that his films are more than action movies, but really they are not. They are simply the hallmark standard for the genre offering not only incredibly realistic and dramatic action sequences, but a depth of character and plot that is the vital missing ingredient from so many other actions flicks. Why should I care whether the hero lives or dies when all I've seen him do is kill people?
The trademarks of a Mann film are here in spades. He has a real economy with dialogue, and it's taut and sharp throughout. There is little in the way of mindless exposition, and at the start of the film it's quite difficult to follow the developing plot, although it is actually quite simple. Crockett (Colin Farrell) and Tubbs (Jamie Foxx) are undercover cops who are thrust into the middle of a massive drugs empire, where they pose as a transportation operation. Much of the film involves tense meetings with nasty people as we build towards an inevitable, and incredible, showdown.
As much as I enjoyed this film, there are certainly some faults that need to be addressed. Primarily, the middle portion of the film feels a little bit limp at times. It's more or less action free, which is fine if the time is used well, yet somehow we still find out so little about Crockett and Tubbs - as individuals and as partners - that it feels rather a waste. There are plenty of sex scenes for each of the leads, and a particularly lengthy romantic wooing in Cuba with Farrell and Gong Li, but there are literally two scenes in the whole film where Farrell and Foxx have a conversation. Given that we are meant to believe these guys have worked together for years and trust each other completely, it seems strange that at no point do we see them bonding or even just having a cuppa.
No, it's purely business between them, and it's for this reason that the film falls below Heat, which managed to instill every character with a personality and a life of their own. Whereas in Miami Vice we have Crockett and Tubbs accompanied at all times by their support team, who we never get to meet. It's hard to care about characters when all you see them do is stand in the background and only catch their name in passing.
What we end up with is a film that feels like it may have been heavily edited. The opening in particular seems choppy and nonsensical, as some kind of deal occurs in a nightclub and then we are off on the real mission. This would have been a good time to introduce characters and their roles, and perhaps to get to know some of the other officers. Given the whopping forty minute difference in running time between Heat and Miami Vice, it seems clear that Mann was not given the sort of durational freedom he so enjoyed on his other films.
This is a very enjoyable film from a great director. Mann’s films seem to be made with a quasi-robotic attention to detail and shot construction, and some of the camerawork is quite incredible. A beautiful film with exquisitely crafted action sequences and mounting tension, there is also an emotional core that just needed a slight nudge to the surface to make it that much better.
American writer/director whose flashy, dramatic style has made for considerable commerical success on the big and small screen. After writing for television during the late 70s, he made his debut with the thriller Thief. The Keep was a failed horror adaptation, but Mann's TV cop show Miami Vice was a massive international success, while 1986's Manhunter, based on Thomas Harris's Red Dragon, was one of the decade's best thrillers.
Last of the Mohicans was a rip-roaring period adventure, Heat a dynamic if overlong cops 'n' robbers story, and The Insider a gripping real-life conspiracy thriller. 2002's Ali, Mann's much-touted biography of the legendary boxer, was a bit of an anti-climax, but as ever, stylishly rendered. Mann's next film was the thriller Collateral, starring Tom Cruise as a ruthless contract killer, and his big screen updating of Miami Vice divided opinion, as did his vintage gangster recreation Public Enemies. His cyber-thriller Blackhat was a resounding flop.