Monday, February 12, 2007

Film Review: Miami Vice

When I first heard that they were making a movie based on the famous 80s cop drama, I was a little skeptical, but, admittedly, a little excited.

Michael Mann has always been a little cutting-edge, a little off-centre in his directing techniques which can have some wonderful results, such as the epic Heat. Even in more mainstream fare such as The Last of The Mohicans, you can tell the man behind the camera is a little "deep".

But sometimes Mann's artistic vision can get the best of him and you end up with a convoluted mess of an artsy film that takes itself way too seriously - Miami Vice.

I'm not quite sure where to start with this one. Well, you know what they say: start at the beginning. Right off the bat, this movie loses half its audience, I'm sure. There are two intense scenes right off the top that have nothing to do with each other. The problem is that lots of names and characters are being thrown at the audience and before you can get the faces straight *boom* we're right into the main plot. Oh, and those guys you saw in one of those opening scenes? Forget them, they're not important anyways. Oh, and the second set of guys? Well, they're actually a little more important, but don't worry about it 'cause all you need to know is that they're bad. But - oops - the 32nd and 33rd characters? You might want to remember them.

15 minutes into the movie and I'm not sure who is who and why what is what. Not good. It doesn't help that there's a ridiculous amount of pretentious cool-speak in the exposition, with acronyms thrown around like the characters have nothing better to do than to recite the alphabet. I was barely keeping the story straight in my head, but I could sense my friend was already half-asleep.

But, hey, Heat was a little confusing too at times. But Heat had something going for it: one of the best ensemble casts of all time, including the first on-screen meeting between characters played by Robert DeNiro and Al Pacino (the rest of the cast included the likes of Val Kilmer, Jon Voight, Natalie Portman, Tom Sizemore, Ashley Judd and William Fichtner).

Miami Vice had no such luck. Colin Farrell and Jamie Foxx are the only two "stars" in this film. That's not a bad thing if Mann had wanted to feature some great talent that had been heretofore overlooked by Hollywood. The rest of the cast can't act to save their lives. Worse yet, you can hardly understand a word that comes out of their mouths. Li Gong? Fuggetaboutit. Even Eddie Marsan who is English is incomprehensible - don't ask me what his accent is supposed to be (Alabama?). To make matters worse, everyone in this movie acts as if displaying an emotion will get them fired. "Too cool for school" works for some characters, but when it's all the characters all the time, it's just downright boring and unbelievable. Colin Farrell at least has enough screen time to develop some semblance of a persona, but Jamie Foxx might as well have not even been in that movie.

Ciaran Hinds? Wasted. Justin Theroux? Wasted.

But the greatest waste without a doubt was Barry Shabaka Henley as Lt. Castillo. WTF? This was the coolest character on the original series (famously played by Edward James Olmos). Here, he's an afterthought and comes across as a buffoon thanks to his inept strategy skills.

Like any Mann project, this film looks great. It seems, however, that it came at the expense of character and plot.

Thumbs down.

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