Fri July 28, 2006
Miami Vice is nice, a guilty pleasure.
By John DeSando, WCBE's "It's Movie Time"
The new "Sonny" Crockett and "Rico" Tubbs are not prettier, but Colin Farrell and Jamie Fox are at least as competent as the infamous "Miami Vice" detectives of early 80's television days. More competent than all of them is wizard Michael Mann, who directed the TV show but more importantly for me the film Manhunter, starring Brian Cox as Hannibal Lecter and William Pederson (CSI). He directs Cox to nearly as powerful a performance as Sir Anthony Hopkins' in Silence of the Lambs.
Miami Vice is nice, a guilty pleasure of a rapid refill from the original prescription. Fast cars, boats, women, and camera. A "trifle light as air," insubstantial by any cinematic yardstick, yet entertaining for the whole 2 1/2 hrs. The look is grainy, hand held jitters with the multi-informational HD digital advantage in dark scenes, a precise metaphor for the dark, ruthlessly edgy world of narcotics and its companions, guns.
These pumped-up super cops are not above breaking the law themselves, making Miami vice a free-for-all of amorality and existential angst. Yes, Crockett still is searching like his namesake Davy but in the urban jungle for love and justice. When a high angle shot of him and a babe in a sleek boat shows them taking off for Havana, the search is on, and we rejoice in the promise of fun and naughtiness in the name of justice.
The complication to the otherwise relentless quick cuts, mumbled foreign accents, odd camera angles, and low key lighting is the relationship each of the cops has to a significant other. Mann wants to inject human vulnerability into an otherwise otherworldly environment of cigarette boats, black SUV's, Lear Jets, and high-tech weapons of destruction. Unfortunately, this injection of weakness for Tubbs and Crockett adds to the already clich?d world of Colombian cartels, very bad drug dealers, and Chinese and Cuban operatives who would be more menacing if we could understand what they're saying.
But Mann keeps it all going, managing even to make a femme fatale out of the usually understated Gong Li. Her romance with Farrell seems unlikely given she's attached to the lord of the cocaine rings, a guy who doesn't like to be crossed. Suspending my disbelief easily in order to enjoy the film, I was caught up in the star-crossed nature of their love, the fineness of Tubbs's romance, and the certainty that the minute these unlikely heroes fall for a woman, they will fall down hurt. It just goes with the formula.
Mann's achievement is to engage my summer thrill-ride goal, give me plenty of guns and sex, and leave me thinking about Camus. Only Superman so far has indulged my trashy movie vice. But Miami Vice still has a wardrobe that makes Superman's red and blue pale by comparison.
John DeSando teaches film at Franklin University and co-hosts WCBE 90.5's "It's Movie Time," which can be heard streaming at www.wcbe.org Fridays at 3:01 pm and 8:01 pm and on demand anytime. Contact him at JDeSando@Columbus.RR.com