Saturday, March 07, 2020
Based on the 1980s TV series by Anthony Yerkovich, Miami Vice is the story of two Miami police detectives who go undercover to deal with a drug dealer and drug trafficking that is happening in and out of Miami. Written for the screen and directed by Michael Mann, the film is a suspense-action thriller that follows two detectives who embark on a case that becomes highly dangerous as they also go into different paths to stop this drug dealer. Starring Colin Farrell, Jamie Foxx, Justin Theroux, Gong Li, Naomie Harris, Ciaran Hinds, Barry Shabaka Henley, Luis Tosar, John Hawkes, Eddie Marsan, and John Ortiz. Miami Vice is an evocative and gripping film from Michael Mann.
The film is about two detectives from Miami who help the FBI by going undercover as drug runners to meet with a drug lord over drug trafficking in and out of Miami as it explores a dark culture of drugs and crime. It’s a film with a simple premise yet Michael Mann doesn’t go for anything simple in terms of the execution in his screenplay as it explore the life of these two detective in James “Sonny” Crockett (Colin Farrell) and Ricardo “Rico” Tubbs (Jamie Foxx) as they both seen at the film’s opening sequence trying to nab a pimp until they get a call from one of their informants over an attempted bust gone bad. After meeting with FBI agent John Fujima (Ciaran Hinds), Crockett and Tubbs agree to help him nab drug cartel security official Jose Yero (John Ortiz) who is trying to continue his drug trafficking ring from Colombia and into the U.S for his boss Arcangel de Jesus Montoya (Luis Tosar).
Mann’s script play into the life that Crockett and Tubbs have as they often do jobs with other cops led by their superior Lt. Martin Castillo (Barry Shabaka Henley) while Tubbs is in a relationship with one of fellow detectives in Trudy Joplin (Naomie Harris). During their undercover work, Crockett meets Montoya’s financial adviser/lover Isabella (Gong Li) whom he would fall for as they begin an affair that eventually leads to trouble. Especially as they learn about what Montoya and Yero are doing and who they’re working with to get the drugs into the U.S. as it complicates matter including putting Crockett and Tubbs’ fellow detectives in danger.
Mann’s direction definitely has some elements of style yet also has this low-key approach into the presentation as it opens at a nightclub where Crockett, Tubbs, Joplin, and other detectives are set to bust a pimp as it goes straight into the action and not waste time. Shot on various locations including Miami as well as other locations in Uruguay, Paraguay, parts of South Florida, and on various Caribbean islands, Mann creates a world where drug trafficking feels like the norm with these gorgeous wide shots of the sea and Miami skylines at night along with shots of the jungles and other places the character go to. Mann’s usage of aerial shots and scenes set on the sea on speed boats and planes also help establish this world while he also makes Miami as a character in the film but not as this vibrant locale that is filled with parties and excitement. Instead, he aims for something far darker and grittier as much of the scenes in Miami are shot at night with few scenes shot in the day as Mann prefers to showcase few of the cities famous sites in favor of just using it as a backdrop and go into parts of the city that not many are aware of.
Mann’s usage of close-ups and medium shots help play into the interaction with the characters but also in the suspense that include a showdown between a group of rednecks and the Miami PD where Detective Gina Calabrese (Elizabeth Rodriguez) is shown in a close-up with fierce intensity as she knows whether the person who wants to kill everyone really can do it but she knows he’s bluffing as she is intent on putting a bullet in his head. Mann also knows when to break from the action as it play into the persona lives of Crockett and Tubbs with the former engaging into this affair with Isabella that would eventually cause trouble. The climatic showdown between the Miami PD and Yero’s men is bloody as there is this great build up to the suspense in the medium shots and close-ups to capture all of the action and violence that is thrilling and dangerous. Especially in what is at stake while the ending is filled with ambiguity into the fates of a few characters but also the reality of the drug culture and what some do to survive. Overall, Mann crafts an intoxicating yet visceral film about the life and work of two Miami police detectives going undercover to stop a drug lord’s empire.
Cinematographer Dion Beebe does incredible work with the film’s cinematography as it is shot largely on digital video to capture some of the grimy look of the city as well as some of the vibrancy in the hand-held shots as well as not aim for anything overtly stylized in favor of something low-key and realistic. Editors William Goldenberg and Paul Rubell do excellent work with the film’s editing as it has some stylish usage of jump-cuts as it also play into some unconventional rhythms in the cutting to play into the suspense and drama. Production designer Victor Kempster, with set decorator Jim Erickson plus art directors Carlos Menendez and Seth Reed, does brilliant work with the look of the some of the homes of the Miami PD’s informers as well as the lavish home of Montoya and the casino that Yero runs. Costume designers Michael Kaplan and Janty Yates do fantastic work with some of the stylish clothes that Crockett and Tubbs wear when they go undercover as well as the posh designer clothes that Isabella wears.
Special effects makeup artists Jake Garber and Harrison Lorenzana do superb work with the look of a few characters during some of the film’s violent moments as well as the look of the Aryan gang that work with Yero. Special effects supervisor Rick Thompson and visual effects supervisor Robert Staad do terrific work with visual/special effects as it help play into the action along with some bits of set-dressing in some of the visual effects. Sound designers Elliott Koretz and Tak Ogawa do amazing work with the sound in capturing the sounds of gunfire, boat engines, and the atmosphere of the locations as it help play into the suspense and intrigue that is rampant throughout the film. The film’s music by John Murphy is wonderful for its somber and ambient-based score with some pulsating electronic-based themes that help add to the suspense while music supervisor Vicki Hiatt provides a nice music soundtrack that feature a mixture of ambient, hip-hop, rock, soul, Latin music, and electronic music from Goldfrapp, Audioslave, India.Arie, Mogwai, Nina Simone, Moby with Patti LaBelle, King Britt, Linkin Park w/ Jay-Z, and Emilio Estefan as well as an awful cover of Phil Collins’ In the Air Tonight by Nonpoint.
The casting by Francine Maisler is marvelous as it feature some notable small roles and performances from Isaach de Bankole as a pimp Crockett and Tubbs try to nab early in the film, Eddie Marsan as an informant who gives the Miami PD some information, Tom Towles as an American dealer in Nicholas who is aligned with a group of Aryan drug dealers, Domenick Lombardozzi and Justin Theroux in their respective roles as Miami detectives in Stan Switek and Larry Zito who help Crockett and Tubbs with their work, Elizabeth Rodriguez as Detective Gina Calabrese who is a no-nonsense woman that is also dangerous but reliable, John Hawkes as an informant in Alonzo Stevens who calls Crockett and Tubbs early in the film as he makes a chilling discovery that puts him in trouble, and Luis Tosar in a terrific performance as the drug lord Arcangel de Jesus Montoya who runs an empire and wants to control all of Miami. Ciaran Hinds is superb as FBI agent John Fujima as a man who had accidentally ruined Crockett and Tubbs’ case early in the film as he decides to help them to try and stop Montoya despite his dislike towards them.
Barry Shabaka Henley is fantastic as Lt. Martin Castillo as Crockett and Tubbs’ superior who is the mediator between them and Fujima as well as being someone who is aware of what is going on as well as be a father figure of sorts for the team. John Ortiz is excellent as Montoya’s security agent Jose Yero as a man that at first is believed to run an empire yet is someone who watches over Montoya’s drugs and shipments while is also someone extremely dangerous as he grows suspicious towards Crockett and Tubbs. Naomie Harris is brilliant as Detective Trudy Joplin as a detective who also gathers intelligence and information for others while is also Tubbs’ lover as she grounds him while she deals with her own troubles as a detective. Gong Li is amazing as Isabella as Montoya’s financial adviser/lover who works with Crockett and Tubbs only to engage into an affair with the former that eventually becomes troublesome as she copes with falling for Crockett but also handling business for Montoya and Yero.
Finally, there’s the duo of Colin Farrell and Jamie Foxx in incredible performances in their respective roles as James “Sonny” Crockett and Ricardo “Rico” Tubbs. Both Farrell and Foxx bring a grounded and reserved approach to their characters with Farrell being a bit more dangerous once Crockett has an affair with Isabella making Tubbs uneasy. Foxx is more no-nonsense but is also someone who can do negotiations the right way and win over dealers through his charm and wit. Farrell and Foxx also provide that air of toughness to their characters when it comes to doing their jobs as they both provide the grittiness that the characters needed for the film.
Miami Vice is an incredible film from Michael Mann that features top-notch leading performances from Colin Farrell and Jamie Foxx. Along with its supporting ensemble cast, Dion Bebe’s gorgeous photography, emphasis on realism, and John Murphy’s intoxicating score. The film is definitely a low-key yet more reserved approach to the suspense-drama and detective film while not aiming to be a direct remake/homage to the TV series with Mann wanting to do something entirely different yet engaging. In the end, Miami Vice is a remarkable film from Michael Mann.
Michael Mann Films: (The Jericho Mile) – Thief (1981 film) - (The Keep) – Manhunter - (L.A. Takedown) – The Last of the Mohicans - Heat – (The Insider) – Ali - Collateral - Public Enemies - Blackhat - (The Auteurs #74: Michael Mann)
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