Friday, September 22, 2006

Miami Vice

We Wage War, Not Make Love

Again we got the short end of the stick, having the movie released under NC-16 with snips, when an M-18 rating would have left the movie intact. And what was cut to satisfy the lower rating, were the sex scenes, as if to say we're all ok with the violence, but too prissy to make love.

Written and directed by Michael Mann, who served as one of the executive producers of the original 80s television series starring Don Johnson as Sonny Crockett and Philip Michael Thomas as Rico Tubbs, this is one of the rare recent Hollywood remakes that had someone from the series helm the project. However, the movie version is a mixed bag, and it's not hard to understand why.

Mann has built a reputation for solid, intense movies like Heat, The Insider and Collateral, and is deftly able to balance quiet moments with loud action. Miami Vice turned out to be flitting from one end of the spectrum to the other, with the quiet moments being absolutely horrendous, only to be saved by the roar of noisy toys, ranging from the Ferrari F430 Spider on land, the Adam Aircraft A500 in the air (flown only by Foxx cos he got experience from Stealth), and the Donzi speedboats on water, peppered with the authentic symphony of various weapons like the Heckler & Koch G36C and the Benelli M4 Super 90 12-gauge semiautomatic shotgun (this one is a beauty I tell you).

While I like to think of it as a sophisticated cops and robbers movie, at times its execution is less than slick, and the storyline just pretty ordinary. It didn't help with its plot loopholes, or credibility issues with its police operations looking very much like what you can find in many Hong Kong movies of the same genre - the calvary only arrives after the heroes have taken out the baddies. The finale was climatic, but it suffered from the usual calvary problem, much akin to the monologues of villains when they have the heroes at their gunsights. What irked me more was perhaps key team members taking five, and unaccounted for during gun battles. It just didn't make much sense.

In fact, the entire story arguably didn't make much sense, especially with the villains being so well informed and having access to intel, nor having the story compelling enough to engage the audience the full 135 minutes. Having trust issues is a given for any crime lord, but it probably means one thing - go do the damn job yourselves and build their own distribution channels. The cat and mouse here really went around and around, and capitalizing on an Asian-Cuban in Isabella (Gong Li) having a thing for white meat, is already a dangerous strategic play.

The romance bit between Isabella and Sonny Crockett (Colin Farrell) is totally unbelievable (yeah right, cos they making moves on each other, y'all), and really slowed down the entire movie. Speaking in bad English just made matters worse for Gong Li (you can't fault her for effort) too, and having them exhibiting their touchy-feely luurve in the den of the lion, is stupid.

Colin Farrell and Jamie Foxx (as partner Rico Tubbs) lacked the chemistry two undercover buddy partners should possess. Most times they seem like two individuals outdoing each other, though there are moments where one gives up the limelight to the other. The trust between their characters is rarely shown, and amongst themselves, they seem to be challenging each other to outgrowl one liners in gruff tones while oozing machismo behind shades. They got attitude, but they got no soul. Despite being primarily a two-man team, they do have a backup squad straight out of Mission:Impossible, who steals some thunder during times of action.

What worked with excellence, is the cool gritty cinematography from the HD cameras, giving this Miami Vice the look of danger and urgency from its jerky motions. Its action is no frills, most of the time being over before you get to see much, and everyone's plain trigger happy, which works - show no mercy, one shot one kill, go for the head style. Gun battles are few and far between, but nonetheless vividly realistic and the complete opposite to the poetic styles of John Woo (fast vs slow motion, matter-of-fact vs deliberate style).

Like many scenes in the movie where the weather always threatened to rain with its incessant thunder and lightning over the horizon, the movie had a roaring potential in delivering what the television series could not in terms of spectacle and the ability to punctuate the series' spirit. However, it turned out only to be a slight drizzle, and ended up just Miami without much Vice.

P.S. for our print at Grand Cathay, what's up with telling us that the print is copyrighted and certified for exhibition? Is it a UK thing? And no, we can't be bothered with taping the movie from handheld cameras.

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