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Based on the 1980's TV action/drama, this update focuses on vice detectives Crockett and Tubbs as their respective personal and professional lives become dangerously intertwined.
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The movie version of Miami Vice was one polarizing experience. I'm sure there are thousands of people who really love this film and consider it a crime genre masterpiece. Others will think that this is a boring film that really isn't about anything. I think both sides are right.
Miami Vice is a brilliantly executed film. The question is if this two hour experience adds up to anything in the end. What were they trying to say? What was the overall point from beginning to end?
We're brought into the world of an undercover cop right from the beginning and the experience doesn't stop until the last shot where Sunny (Colin Farrell) walks back into the Police station ready for another assignment. This is not a glamourized version of the world we live in and the over the top detectives that we see in most movies. Director Michael Mann gives is a very real experience of the criminal underworld of Miami. At least I think it's a real experience because this world scared the crap out of me and I've never seen a movie setting like this before. And Mann is known to shoot in real life situations as much as possible using non-actors (or wannabe actors) as his background performers.
Production designer Victor Kempster is more known by creating a stylized world in his films (Natural Born Killers, Envy, JFK) than an actual realistic world situation. But Michael Mann hired him anyway because he though Kempster would be the one who could bring out the real Miami in Miami Vice. And according to people who live in Miami, Kempster and Mann did just that.
Director of Photography Dion Beebe is a man known for his creative lighting. He'll come up with new ideas to set the mood for a scene in a given moment. I remember observing him on the set of Chicago (2002) and thinking that this man was a genius. I've never seen lighting designs like that before. And chatting one afternoon with his Gaffer, you know that this is a man who really gets it. And he took Mann's direction and Kempster's design to new heights. And the man can light a sex scene too! Which is always a bonus in Hollywood. Take a look at his Oscar award winning film Memoirs of a Geisha and you'll see a man who understands worlds. From Miami to Japan.
But of course it's Michael Mann's world. His storytelling style is to jump right into the world he gives us and not stop the motor from running. The plot always leads his films and through the situations we get to know the characters. In Miami Vice, we get to know Sonny Crockett and Ricardo Tubbs through their very dangerous undercover assignment. These are obsessed personalities who demand to do a great job more than anything else. And when Crockett begins an affair with the drug lord's partner/mistress, we wonder where Sonny's real life world begins and where his undercover world ends.
And that's kind of what Mann is saying. These two guys are so far deep into their jobs, there is no possible way of them getting out. Even Tubbs brings his girlfriend, who he loves deeply, into his undercover world and by doing so harms her life. These are guys who can feel deeply but only with the terms of their job.
Now this is a character plot that most of the movie watchers can't relate with. Guys like Crockett and Tubbs don't go to the movies. So perhaps Mann could of been more obvious about what he was saying . Perhaps he could of tipped his hat a bit more and present his theme more outwardly. Or perhaps not. Perhaps that's the genius of Miami Vice. He gives us a world for 2 hours and each of us goes away thinking different things.