07 January 2007

Miami Vice

In the new cinematization of the popular ‘80s television series, director Michael Mann (who was an executive producer of the original show) has removed all of the show's beloved gaudiness, replacing it with a sleek, washed-out aughties cool. Apparently, in this post 9/11 world, not only is irony dead, but so it kitsch. But does the film really warrant the sobriety with which it is imbued?

Like any self-respecting action-adventure flick, the characters do a good deal of globe trotting, interhemisphere-hopping between Haiti, Havana, and South Florida. Unlike one, however, it drags a lot. What kind of action movie spends most of its time actionless? An engaging first act gives way to a second that is disengaging and dull, and it never resiles. What’s more, the story is considerably convoluted, and the dialogue is chockablock with esoteric lingo.

Colin Farrell and Jamie Foxx play undercover FBI agents who infiltrate a large drug ring for the purpose of finding the leak in their department. But, then they don’t care about the leak anymore, because it turns out there’s a very powerful drug kingpin involved. When the movie focuses on men engaged in dangerous deals it’s at its strongest, but too often it’s distracted by romantic interludes that fall flat. Some directors are a bit inept at handling romance (like Walter Hill; see our review of Broken Trail), and a glance at Mann’s oeuvre (Heat, Collateral, etc.) seems to indicate he’s far more adept at portraying men’s relationships with one another than the ones they have with the ladies.

There are a few effective set pieces -- a meet & greet in Port-Au-Prince, the shoot-out finale, and a rescue mission to recover Foxx’s abducted lady friend – but three good scenes do not a worthwhile picture make. Throughout his career Mann has perpetually produced three-star movies that were good, but never great. Here, he doesn’t even reach good. As far as summer blockbusters go, you could do a lot worse, and Mann could do a lot better.

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