Michael Mann’s decision to rework his 80s television hit series ‘Miami Vice’ with a new look and attitude will have surprised some, but he may well have hit the jackpot with the most effective of this US Summer’s blockbusters. (Not that Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest, Mission: Impossible III or The Da Vinci Code have given it much competition).
Shot with handheld digital video cameras which produces a distinctive style (although it is similar at times to that of Mann’s recent Collateral), Miami Vice is an attractive package – glamorous lifestyles, expensive toys and beautiful people abound – and yet the grainy visuals suggest the darker underbelly that must surely be revealed. Thrown immediately into the fray with no explanation whatsoever, the audience is left to figure out who is who and why, and this introduction to the characters played by Colin Farrell and Jamie Foxx works very well indeed. The intial sequences don’t waste any time or words, and one is engulfed by the vice of the title.
That what follows the excellent first act is sometimes laboured and occasionally misses the mark is a tremendous disappointment. Mann attempts to introduce tension into the partnership between Foxx and Farrell, a partnership that seems instinctive and unbreakable, but sadly the attempt fails. It is hard to believe that Farrell’s ‘Sonny’ would ever mess up his relationship with Foxx’s ‘Rico’, and some clumsy scripting and corny ‘buddy-cop’ moments reduce the potential for a nailbiting will-he won’t-he dramatic arc.
None of the blame can be borne by either Foxx or Farrell, however, with both turning in excellent performances. Farrell in particular is absolutely magnetic on screen, and upon reflection his scenes are far more readily recalled than those of his partner, suggesting he is much more the focus. This is not to say that Foxx doesn’t play Rico well – he certainly needed a meaty role after the abhorrent Stealth and the average Jarhead – and he provides a strong and steady foil for the actions of the more excitable Sonny.
There are perhaps one or two too many steps taken to get to the final outcome, leaving Vice with an overlong running time of 134 minutes that occasionally drag. A tighter approach to editing in the slowish mid-film may have kept the audience on a knife’s edge.
All faults aside, Miami Vice is certainly entertaining, and when it finally does come, the big finale is excellent – full of the shooting and death that had been hinted at throughout. This final action sequence is masterfully shot, and is absolutely gripping. It’s a shame the performances and the strong opening and closing scenes are let down by the disappointing mid-section.Rating: