Movie Review : Miami Vice (2006)
Although Michael Mann's Miami Vice flopped in theaters right out the gates in 2006, it has become customary to call it an overlooked masterpiece since. It's been a popular debate among moviegoers for five or six years, which I find amusing. While I haven't seen the original show, I don't believe it was meant to be taken all that seriously to begin with. What are we going to argue about next, you know? A Walter Hill reboot of Smokey & the Bandit? So, I finally watched the Miami Vice movie and guess what?
I found it amusing.
So, this alternate universe version of Sonny Crockett (Colin Farrell) and Ricardo Tubbs (Jamie Foxx) receive a phone call from a panicked informant (the sublime John Hawkes) raving about a drug deal gone wrong. A drug deal they weren't aware of. They are recruited by the FBI for an inter-agency task force since they're complete unknown to all the parties involves. Crockett and Tubbs are mandated with infiltrating the cartel of a dangerous kingpin named Montoya (Luis Tosar), who looks like the aging bassman of a grunge band, circa 2002. Sloppy policing, hilarious romantic and a LOT of violence ensues.
This movie is fun for the same reason Road House is. It fails at being a straightforward and intelligible action movie, but it succeeds at everything else. Mostly at being hilarious, though. One of Miami Vice's quirks is that it's edited like a eighties television show, so everything seems to happen within the span of like, 36 hours. Crockett and Tubbs don't go to bed unless it's to have sex, they are warping from one action scene to the other with little context provided and never have any concerns about the consequences of their actions. Unlike most Michael Mann movies, Miami Vice goes fast. So fast it might lose you in its convoluted international drug smuggling plot with Columbians, Russians, White Supremacists and other factions that will make it even more confusing.
But it's part of Miami Vice's charm, I assure you. Another thing I loved about it was the sloppy policing. Crockett and Tubbs will go at any length to get their man, even if it means endangering the people they're supposed to protect and serve. They casually walk out on their informant's spectacular suicide (too busy); Crockett bangs the underboss of an international drug cartel, making it personal for every party involved; they get into a firefight with Nazis with one of their own held hostage in the middle with a BOMB around her neck, the list goes on. Michael Mann's Crockett and Tubbs are gunslingers, contemporary cowboys dealing with evil, more than they are actual cops and I thought it was thoroughly entertaining.
A strong, nuanced antagonist is what makes or breaks conventional movies and narratives. This is not the case in Miami Vice. The bad guys are bloodthirsty drug dealers with no regards for anything, except for their own profit. What makes it more interesting than the banal good vs evil struggle most big budget movies seems content with offering is the recklessness and the personal vendettas of Crockett and Tubbs. They're not white knights. They're in this shit to get laid, shoot guns and feel good about themselves. They're good investigators, but their boneheadedness regarding every other aspect of their job is refreshing. It was the eighties-est thing about Miami Vice and its very best asset. It's a competition between dangerous businessmen and driven egomaniacs.
So, making a movie based on a television series that spawned from the 1980s drug epidemic in Miami in 2006 seemed like an impossible task, but Michael Mann kind of made it work? Miami Vice is definitely anachronistic and bizarre, but I believe it qualifies for what author and B-movie savant David James Keaton calls "almost good". A movie made by someone talented who tries way too hard to knock it out of the park, which makes the result both awesome and disposable. Miami Vice earned its cult status, guys. It's awesome and bizarre and I feel like there's a hundred weird details I missed because that thing is going way too fast for its own good. A surprisingly pleasant experience if you have a sense of humor.