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Miami Vice

The good news is that this movie contains one of the greatest gun battles I've ever seen on film. The bad news is that you need to watch almost the entire thing to get to the gun battle. Treating essentially the same subject as Michael Bay's underrated masterpiece Bad Boys II, Michael Mann manages to offer the audience considerably less in the "awesome shit" department but doesn't really add anything. The movie is shot and paced like it's a semi-serious thriller or something but there's actually nothing serious about it. Several characters -- including Jamie Foxx as "the black guy" -- are utterly zero-dimensional and certainly nobody gets a second dimension. The key love story is totally weird and non-credible, and it just doesn't seem to have occurred to anyone that a film whose basic storyline involves a handful of local cops taking down a vast international drug cartel with a couple weeks' work is going to be fundamentally unserious (nothing wrong with that; again, see Bad Boys II) and shouldn't bother pretending otherwise. [spoilers]

No doubt, however, someone will someday decide that this was a brilliant deconstruction of the buddie movie concept. A white cop partnered with a black cop neither of whom seem to interact with each other in any way or have any sort of thoughts or feelings about the other guy. Indeed, the white cop could even pressure the black cop at one point into making a controversial decision (black cop backs his partner up) that winds up getting the black cop's girlfriend kidnapped, tortured, and badly burned by a bomb and -- or so it seems -- neither cop seems to react in any way to this awkward situation other than by redoubling their resolve to get the bad guys. It's pretty sweet. I have a more intense relationships with random people I run into a lot on the elevator.

July 30, 2006 | Permalink


Go watch Monster House. Most entertaining movie of the summer hands down.

Posted by: Antid Oto | Jul 30, 2006 2:11:28 PM

The TV series was never really about awesome shit. Nor plot. It was the tone and (80's) MTV-style direction that made it special, and Mann already covered that ground with Heat.

Posted by: Wade | Jul 30, 2006 2:17:36 PM

Ugh. I enjoy action movies as much as the next guy, but Bad Boys 2 was two and a half hours long! And extremely low in the wit department. The set pieces were too long and there were too many of them. Once your adrenalin is used up more action is like getting repeatedly punched in the head. Action movies should be 100 minutes max.

It was also the perfect example of the lunacy of the war on drugs. Our heros kill countless innocent bystanders (you have to assume the cars we seen flipping over and exploding in the background kill) in the pointless attempt to stop drug trafficking.

Posted by: Chris | Jul 30, 2006 3:19:21 PM

The destruction of the ghettos of Cuba in the climax of BBII was one of those awful movie moments where I sat there thinking, "Oh my god, that asshole expects me to cheer this."

It was a fun popcorn movie for much of its length, but at some point of ethical-political excess, I couldn't accept it.

Posted by: DivGuy | Jul 30, 2006 6:10:47 PM

My favorite part was Martin Lawrence's response to a question about whether he followed due process: "Fuck that shit."

Posted by: Patrick | Jul 31, 2006 2:27:51 AM

It was a fun popcorn movie for much of its length, but at some point of ethical-political excess, I couldn't accept it.

This is part of BBII's strange genius -- taking an utterly unserious film, then tacking on at the end an egregious and awful political message.

Posted by: Matthew Yglesias | Jul 31, 2006 12:33:48 PM

Visually, Miami Vice is incredible. That's about it.

Posted by: supershuttle | Jul 31, 2006 1:12:56 PM

Hola, chico!

Posted by: Gong Li | Jul 31, 2006 1:54:31 PM

Bad Boys II is the best. It's a shame they don't make them like that any more.

Posted by: right | Jul 31, 2006 2:59:39 PM

Hola, chica.


There always after me lucky charms!

Posted by: Colin Farrell | Jul 31, 2006 3:47:07 PM

I hated Heat.

Posted by: keatssycamore | Jul 31, 2006 6:28:31 PM

Yikes, I forgot about the impromptu slum clearance in BB2.

Posted by: Chris | Jul 31, 2006 9:38:23 PM

This is part of BBII's strange genius -- taking an utterly unserious film, then tacking on at the end an egregious and awful political message.

That's brilliant. I hadn't thought to appreciate the film from that angle, but you're absolutely right.

Posted by: DivGuy | Jul 31, 2006 11:35:20 PM

I think I liked the film better than you did, MY, but I completely agree with you as to the completely, showstoppingly, jarring unbelievability of the Farrell-Li subplot. I'm not sure if it would have worked better or worse with [insert 'fiery' Latina here] instead of Gong Li, but in addition to the distracting "WTF? How does a Columbian kingpin have a Sino-Cuban mistress?" there is the additional problem, which is a serious issue for a 'talkie': YOU CAN'T UNDERSTAND WHAT SHE'S SAYING.

Posted by: Pooh | Aug 2, 2006 8:38:29 PM

Miami Vice isn't Michael Mann's best film, but it has all of his strengths and weaknesses as a film maker on full display. You could teach an entire film school graduate program on the first almost-impressionist 20 minutes of that film (from its credit-less dive into the club scene till the guy gets run over by the truck). It's brilliant and evocative visual storytelling that very few directors other than Mann are capable of doing. He tells you an enormous amount with very very little (the open refrigerator, the glove with... wait is that blood on it?... etc.) and manages to make violence both compelling and horrible.

Of course, Mann will never be know as a great writer. And his faults as a writer are on full display here. "Hola, chica"... "I'm a fiend for mojitos"... etc. And as his tendencies as a director get more and more astringent (will his next film even bother having dialogue?) the relationships can be difficult to unpack.

Also... Colin Farrell is terrible in it, and Gong Li, while a wonderful actress normally, ain't too far off. If you're not going to have characters speak their minds very often, you need actors who are very very good at broadcasting and communicating subtext. They ain't.

Also... women are never more than props in Michael Mann films and this is a problem.

Also... the grunge/nu-metal music sucks. As all grunge and nu-metal music always sucks.

But aesthetically, the film is gorgeous, and I allowed that to capitivate me. Michael Bay at his best will never match Michael Mann at his worst for visual panache and creative visual storytelling.

Posted by: isaac | Aug 6, 2006 10:18:03 AM

really, bad boys II was a good movie with character development? you must have seen a limited release directors cut or something, because that doesnt describe the film that I saw billed as bad boys II.

Posted by: jw | Aug 6, 2006 10:42:20 AM


Sounds like Martin Lawrence studied law with Alberto Gonzalez!


Posted by: Stephen Kriz | Aug 6, 2006 11:44:07 AM

Better gun battle than the running gun battle in Heat when they get busted just after robbing their last bank?

Posted by: cramer | Aug 6, 2006 2:46:46 PM

I remember you defended Michael Bay's work overall, and BB2 in particular, at TPMCafe awhile back. Why? While I dig most action movies, BB2 had to be the one of most nihilistic and downright racist movies Hollywood has produced since the Death Wish series. The scene where Smith and Lawrence clear the Cuban shanytown made me sick. And while I had no problem with members of Miami's Hatian community being depicted as drug dealers, the screenwriters couldn't bother to give them any dialouge. They were just gun and machete wielding savages.

Look up Roger Ebert's review of this movie, he had a good take on it.

And while I haven't seen "Miami Vice" yet, I definitely plan to. Mann has yet to disappoint me, and I love what he's been doing with digital film.


Posted by: Joe | Aug 6, 2006 3:37:32 PM

cozaar cozaar

Posted by: cozaar | Aug 9, 2006 8:01:18 AM

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