“The show is written for an MTV audience, which is more interested in images, emotions and energy than plot and character,” said Lee Katkin, one of many directors of the “Miami Vice” series back in the 1980s.We all remember James “Sonny” Crocket and Ricardo “Rico” Tubbs, the pastel-sportsjacket-clad, undercover detectives played by Don Johnson and Philip Michael Thomas, set to infiltrate and disarm the underground drug operations taking place in beautiful, tropical Miami.
The series – executive-produced by Michael Mann, director of the feature film now in theaters – is mostly remembered for breaking new ground in the cops-and-robbers genre. Visually fresh and hip, the episodes were geared to reach the TV audience of the time – as Katkin said, an MTV audience.
The movie adaptation is no exception, except that today’s MTV audience demands more sophisticated, gory, in-your-face effects and trinkets (and less colorful wardrobes). The film starts out by placing the viewer in the middle of an undercover operation inside a disco club. No credits are shown at the beginning; the director is brash enough to be able to pull this off, and the formal introduction isn’t really missed.
After an informant goes bad, the movie’s plot is set in motion and we learn what mission our detectives will be facing. Some exceedingly common stereotypes are found in the film, such as the Colombian drug lord and his drones, but the film can’t be blamed for this. There’s also a love story in the mix that tries to develop, but doesn’t quite cut it – as is the case with most of the picture.
Basically, the whole time, you’re waiting for the next big action scene while Sonny and Rico, played by Colin Farrell and Jamie Foxx, do their best not to blow their cover. Slowmoving and not completely satisfactory, the plot sticks to Katkin’s definition, and the movie suffers for it.
Mann is well versed in the movie-directing business (“Heat,” “Collateral”). But good movies about cops and robbers get better when the viewer is allowed to pick at the plot and at the characters’ strengths and weaknesses, and it’s hard to do that when what you’re watching is an extended episode of a TV show.
The movie is shot in documentary style, giving it a more realistic, gritty feel, reminiscent of Paul Greengrass’ “The Bourne Supremacy.”
A highlight of the film is its soundtrack, which includes a rock cover of Phil Collins’ “In the Air Tonight” by nu-metal band Nonpoint. Other pop-rock songs are pleasantly chosen for different parts of the movie, such as the new Audioslave song that cues the love story scenes.
Overall, “Miami Vice” is an entertaining film that MTV audiences will enjoy.