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'Miami Vice' Looks Pretty, Acts Tough


Pastel suits, ultra-cool shades and stubble are back. Miami Vice, the movie, blasts its way into theaters today, and at least one of the original perps returns to the scene of the crime.

Michael Mann was the executive producer for the 1980's TV series. He's written and directed the new movie. This time, Colin Farrell takes Don Johnson's role as Detective Crockett. Jamie Foxx picks up where Philip Michael Thomas left off as Tubbs.

Los Angeles Times and MORNING EDITION film critic Kenneth Turan has this review.

KENNETH TURAN reporting:

In movies from Thief to Collateral, Michael Mann has reveled in stories where the night is alive with menace.

This story has two Miami cops getting in over their heads as they go deep undercover to infiltrate the mother of all drug cartels.

(Soundbite of movie, Miami Vice)

Mr. JAMIE FOXX (Actor): (As Det. Ricardo Tubbs) Jose Yero, cocaine producer. Yero's middleman is part of a bigger, transnational operation run by Arcángel de Jesús Montoya.

Mr. COLIN FARRELL (Actor): (As Det. James Crockett) Montoya's the new (unintelligible).

Mr. FOXX: (As Det. Ricardo Tubbs in Miami Vice) Worldwide.

TURAN: Danger not only stalks the characters, it's drawn a bead on writer/director Mann, and he doesn't come away unscathed.

The moviemaking in Miami Vice is impeccable, but its story turns out to be too flimsy a read to support all of the weight put on it. The film does look great, as Mann works once again in razor sharp, high definition digital video. Every image we see is thought out and then thought out again.

If an airplane flies past a cloud, it's the cloud of a lifetime. If a drug dealer has a hideaway, its near Brazil's spectacular Iguazu Falls. Nothing is casual. Nothing is done without yielding maximum visual effect.

(Soundbite of movie, Miami Vice)

(Soundbite of gunfire)

(Soundbite of car engine, tires squealing)

Unidentified Man #1 (Actor): (speaking foreign language)

TURAN: After the look, the next thing we notice about Miami Vice is the endless supply of attitude. Everyone in the movie is way past mythic, way past cool. If lean, hard, macho looks could kill, there would be even more corpses littering the street.

(Soundbite of movie, Miami Vice)

Unidentified Man #2 (Actor): Once we pick up the load, the next time you hear from us it'll be a date, time, and a place. Like there's an 18-wheeler in a parking lot in North Miami with the keys in the ignition. You pick it up, you drive away smooth. That's how we do it.

TURAN: Part of the fun of a film like Miami Vice, obviously, is watching our heroes be too cool for school. But these guys are just too, too cool. Their cocky attitude feels repetitive and it hamstrings them from acting in any other key.

Mr. FOXX: (As Det. Ricardo Tubbs) White prison gangs (unintelligible). Meth labs and trailer parks, bouncing the old lady around until they get busted back.

TURAN: This is especially true when Colin Farrell's Crockett is drawn to a ruthless cartel financial officer named Isabella, played by Chinese star Gong Li.

Mr. FARRELL: (As Det. James Crockett) Do me a favor.

Ms. GONG LI (Actress): (As Isabella) Yeah?

Mr. FARRELL: (As Det. James Crockett) In return for the risks you took in recovering your (unintelligible), allow me to buy you a drink.

TURAN: But this is a Miami Vice version of romance. Isabella is such a convincing dragon lady that a relationship with the equally self-involved Crockett is doomed in more ways than one.

Ms. LI: (As Isabella) What do you like to drink?

Mr. FARRELL: (As Det. James Crockett) I'm a fiend for Mojitos.

Ms. LI: (As Isabella) I know a place.

TURAN: Both characters are too in love with themselves to make their pairing believable.

Mr. FARRELL: (As Det. James Crockett) It's a bad idea.

Ms. LI: (As Isabella) This is (unintelligible).

Mr. FARRELL: (As Det. James Crockett) And it has no future.

TURAN: In the end, Miami Vice turns out to be just an old fashioned B picture with an A+ budget. But money can't buy it all, even in Miami.

GONYEA: Kenneth Turan is film critic for The Los Angeles Times and MORNING EDITION. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Kenneth Turan
Kenneth Turan is the film critic for the Los Angeles Times and NPR's Morning Edition, as well as the director of the Los Angeles Times Book Prizes. He has been a staff writer for the Washington Post and TV Guide, and served as the Times' book review editor.