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Miami Vice

Review Written by: Blade Le Flambeur
Film: A
What the MPAA Rating should be: R (for violence and profanity)

Directed by: Michael Mann
Written by: Michal Mann
Based on the television series by: Anthony Yerkovich
Produced by: Michael Mann and Pieter Jan Brugge
Starring: Colin Farrell, Jamie Foxx, John Hawkes, John Ortiz, Gong Li, Luis Tosar
Studio: Universal Pictures

Miami Vice is based off the time capsule 1980s show of the same name, but the styles couldn't be anymore different. This will undoubtedly upset some who were expecting a conventional remake of the show, Michael Mann decided to make a gritty, HD shot, noir/drama. The results are captivating, utterly original and this is truly one of the best movies of the year.

There are no opening credits. Just the Universal studio logos then into a nightclub (playing the trailer theme song by Linkin Park/JAY Z.. slightly confusing, but I digress) where Dets. Sony Crockett (Colin Farrell) and Ricard Tubbs (Jamie Foxx) are on a sting operation, along with Michelle Rodriguez partners played by Naomie Harris and Elizabeth Rodriguez. Unexpectedly, Crockett receives a cryptic phone call from an informant named Alonzo Stevens (John Hawkes) who kills himself shortly after. So begins the undercover agents descent into the underworld to find out more about an FBI leak that Stevens mentioned. Soon they end up operating with the intense José Yero (John Ortiz) and Isabella (Gong Li), a Chinese-Cuban accountant for the smuggling operation. A business relationship is worked out, but things spiral out of control when Crockett falls (hard) for Isabella, who is the girlfriend of the main kingpin Arcángel de Jesús Montoya (Luis Tosar). The plot is minimalist to say in the least, as Mann doesn't spoon feed the audience with what's going on. Names of characters aren't spoken way into the movie, leaving a better sense of realism. What makes Miami Vice so sublime is the man behind the camera, Michael Mann (no pun intended).

Employing the unmatched talent of director of photography Dion Beebe (who won the Oscar for Memoirs of a Geisha, also starring Li), Mann shoots in new HD format. This decision gives the film a gritty, almost unnerving feel, revealing deep clouds and beautiful Miami sunsets but also darkening the dangerous slums of Columbia. Mann penned the screenplay, based off the show he and Anthony Yerkovich created, which has some uninspired lines and moments, but is ultimately original. Despite the fact that Miami Vice fits in the genre of action, there are only few explosions/gunshots until the very end. Yet, with his choice of settings and plot details, the film is every bit as exciting. The first few gunshots in the film come as complete surprises and the audiences literally jumped then started laughing/applauding. The actors use firearms realistically and also they suspiciously always make their mark, one must keep in mind that they are special cops with extensive training. Mann also make smart decisions when it came to casting. Both leads fit in naturally with their roles and the supporting players all contribute valuably. Li has a tough time speaking English and struggles, but I was able to understand everything she said. All the considers, the actors did fine considering the often limited emotional nature of the roles. But it is as a director that Mann fits everything together.

Known for his realism (firearms training for actors is the norm), Mann who directed such thrillers as Heat and Collateral embarks on familiar territory but with a refreshing eye. Shots are always well placed and gorgeous, the action comes in sporadic bursts but fit in the with the story. The film is intense even during the scenes of dialogue, because the audience is unsure what exactly will happen next.

This film definitely is one of the highlights of the year, along with Richard Linklater's A Scanner Darkly. Although some clichés knock it down from being perfect, Miami Vice is definitely one of the must-see movies of the year.

Jamie Foxx and Colin Farrell star in the updated Miami Vice.
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