The Movie Binge

Review: Miami Vice


Oh, Miami Vice. How your teaser trailer seduced me! As just about anybody who’s been anywhere near me in the last three months knows, I felt that the initial announcement trailer for this movie was pretty much scientifically proven to be the greatest trailer of all time. It contained absolutely nothing but shots of boats, planes, cars, expensive lighting, boats exploding, cars exploding, and beautiful women dancing, all set to flawlessly-chosen music (Jay-Z and Linkin Park’s “Numb / Encore” – it’s techno! It’s hip-hop! Lowbrow people think it’s cutting-edge! Cutting-edge people think it’s lowbrow!) and garnished with a single line of dialogue. And oh, what a line of dialogue it was! “You understand the meaning of the word ‘foreboding’?” asks Colin Farrell, his sensational mustache quivering, expensive cellphone to his ear. “As in badness is happening, right now.” It’s like a Zen koan in its brutal absurdity: memorable, quotable, and vaguely retarded. The line, like the trailer, set the tone for the film immediately: consumed by stylization and hopped-up on uncut drama.

Unfortunately, that line didn’t make it into the final cut of the movie (and believe you me, I was watching for it). The exploding boats did, though, as did the planes and the women dancing and just about every song on the soundtrack (sometimes more than once). But while I’ve got few real complaints about the film overall, I just can’t shake the feeling that the teaser trailer was a more satisfying aesthetic experience. Why do in two-plus hours what you can do in a minute and a half? The frantic lifestyle-porn of the teaser is actually played down a bit in the film, demanding more of a focus on the professional lives of Crockett and Tubbs (played competently, if coolly, more in the emotionally-distant way and not the socially-admirable way, by Farrell and Jamie Foxx), at which point things get a little dicey in terms of believability. The bill for these guys’ hair-care products and salsa dancing lessons alone would bankrupt the Miami-Dade Police Department, putting aside the cost of a vehicle and accessory lineup that would make your average Batman action figure jealous. It’s certainly both fun and interesting to think that vice agents like this exist and are doing this job every day, but the unfortunate reality is that they are most likely doing it with busted-ass equipment, receding hairlines, and stress-induced beer bellies. While Miami-Dade is lavishing all this cash on Crockett and Tubbs, however, it might not hurt to get Crockett, i.e. Farrell, some kissing lessons – there’s an intriguing desperation in both the emotional and physical content of his relationship with Gong Li’s Chinese narcotics operator, but as a make-out artist, the dude seems like he could use some work.

Miami Vice is nothing if not competent, and there are certainly thrills and surprises to be had from both the plot and the filmmaking, but the buzz overall is much mellower than the crystal-meth-dissolved-in-Red-Bull vibe of that glorious, glorious teaser. It’s a respectable addition to Michael Mann’s oeuvre, but ultimately it blends right into that oeuvre, when something with a slightly different tone might have wound up being a lot more… well, fun.