The Heat Is Off In Miami

Review of Miami Vice

by Denna Rivera

The replica of the 1984 action series hardly lived up to its original predecessor. Agents James “Sonny” Crockett (played by Colin Farrell, S.W.A.T) and Ricardo “Rico” Tubbs (played by Jamie Foxx, Collateral, also directed by Michael Mann) seem out of place in this lackluster “action” movie.

The two critically acclaimed actors fulfill their duties as the brooding, dedicated undercover agents, incapable of personal relationships and “about the job.” However, the plot is unfocused and wandering, and the action is fleeting. One moment you are in Cuba (filmed in the Dominican Republic) believing that you finally have grasped the sub-plot of romance interfering with work and in the end, work prevailing. Then after a whirlwind of unexplained events, you are back in Miami, not quite understanding how or why.

Michael Mann’s depiction of the TV series is less than thrilling, short of any expectations he or the original hit series that so defined the 80’s are capable of. The two actors were about the only thrill the audience had, that and their steamy sex-scenes with co-stars Trudy (played by Naomie Harris, 28 Days Later) and Isabella (played by Gong Li, Memoirs of a Geisha). This is the closest taste of action the audience and the actors experience. Minus a few shoot outs, one in a trailer park and the other in the closing scene in a parking lot, the overall aura is, well blah.

The movie starts off in a hot Miami nightclub and it is unclear as to why Crockett and Tubbs are there. The plot then turns towards a fellow detective (played by John Hawkes) whose mission has gone array as his identity is revealed, His family has been sacrificed as a result, which has caused him to take his own life in front of Crockett and Tubbs. The two detectives are placed on the assignment immediately to uncover the leak. This is the basic mood of the film, life gets in the way of the job, or is it that the job gets in the way of life? Either way, it appears to be enticing, but as the movie rolls along, you are left hanging, waiting for any sort of retribution or explanation to the movie’s opening.

As Tubbs and Crockett stroll around in dingy linen suits, the reverse image of the popular neon look of the original series, they have given themselves credit for a case that has not even commenced. For them to portray their so called “brave copper roles” is quizzical and in addition to that, there is no chemistry between the actors. Crockett has some big shoes to fill, as he attempts to bring back the same energy that Don Johnson embodied so well 20 years ago. Despite that, his acting is convincing, it is more as if we don’t like his character, or maybe we don’t like the very unattractive mullet and greasy mustache look?

Foxx on the other hand, did a pretty impressive job as the serious hard cop, with a soft side, displayed in his intimate moments with partner Trudy. His affection for her brings a human quality to the bloody circle of lies the movie is based on. Foxx is consistent with his acting throughout the movie, living up to his potential, as an academy award winning actor should. Philip Michael Thomas, the original Tubbs, is easily forgotten by Foxx’s cool, calm and collected version of Rico.

Trudy, a fellow detective, lives with Tubbs in their Miami home. Her acting is descent and even commendable, until she is kidnapped by a group of white supremacists and used as collateral for a drug shipment. After her moment of salvation by her loyal co-workers, she spins into an over-dramatic release of anger directed at her dead kidnappers. This display of emotions is far from convincing and more like embarrassing to her, considering that the bodies lay lifeless at her feet, we are pretty sure she will not act on her rage. After her role in 28 Days Later, we expect more from this Jamaican born actress than empty innuendos of threats towards her enemies.

In fact her sidekick Gina Callabrese (played by up and coming actress Elizabeth Rodriguez, from the movie Blow) proves that some things are better left unsaid. You are able to count the amount of lines she has on both hands, but she says them well. There is a scene in a trailer park where she shrewdly warns a man of the way she will kill him with her scary weapon, one word, classic.

Isabella, the girlfriend and right-hand to one of the world’s largest drug-traffickers Archángel de Jesús Montoya (played by Luis Tosar), and the target of Crockett and Tubbs’ investigation, is good at looking the part. Speaking the part however, is not her strong point. Her accent causes her dialogue to be near incomprehension. After several attempts to strenuously decipher her sentences, it would be quite simple to lose interest or even forget her role, if it weren’t such a large part of the plot.

Lucky for Li she does a great female antagonist impression, her head is held high and she is vicious and manipulative. In one scene when Crockett and Tubbs use the drugs they have “uncovered” as a trade in for their place on Montoya’s team Li says, “If we wanted you dead, you would have been dead in Miami.” Chills actually pass through your spine, when the certainty of their endless power and alarmingly close connections remind you of the severity of the case and the threat of the enemy.

Yet even with that knowledge, the movie does less then a convincing job of proving the dangers of the job. Crockett and Isabella are playing a risky game, flaunting their affair in front of Montoya’s partner, Jose Yero (played by John Ortiz) also known as “Crazy Pig” in the drug-trafficking world. Such an outward display of disrespect to the “boss” downplays the danger that anyone knows will always come out of such an affair, and usually gets one killed or worse, tortured to death.

Now what about the music? What about it? It is surprising that in a movie that is set in Miami, known for its hot night life and flashy clubs, there was really none of either. There were no bright colors or great music to keep you enticed. There were those few Spanish songs in which Crockett and Isabelle danced their forbidden dances to in a Miami night club and Cuba (set in the Dominican Republic), and a few seconds of Phil Collins,’ In the Air Tonight. Other then that, the only sound that came from the movie theater was the man behind me snoring and my own foot tapping impatiently.

 If you are going into this movie expecting a modernized version of the 80’s hit series, you are in for a disappointment. Perhaps the pressure to re-create what once was fell hard on Michael Mann. Or perhaps it was the cheesy dialogue where there should have been action. It is a difficult task to recreate an iconic mini-drama. You either have to create something so incredible that the original is forgotten by your usual nostalgic audience, or create something entirely new, worthy of its own merit. Whatever the case, this is not the summer blockbuster that is expected when a major titled action movie is re-created and re-introduced to audiences.

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