The Miami Vice movie will not remind anybody of the colorful, stylish television series. Michael Mann's big screen re-imagining of his quintessential 1980s show trades pastels for grainy digital video. This is a necessary change for Mann, as he has no interest in doing a campy film -- a sense of humor not being one of Mann's strong points. For his particular style to work, Mann's stories need to carry some existential weight. His best films (Heat, Manhunter, Thief) use their slick style in order to get inside the minds of criminals, killers, and cops. The story he cooked up for Miami Vice hits all the familiar story points from his representative work, as well as from pedestrian episodes of any cop show. Colin Farrell and Jamie Foxx are fine as Crockett and Tubbs, but the plot offers no surprises either in their characters or in the work they do to hunt down the drug kingpin. We've seen the undercover cop fall for the girl of the bad guy, and we've seen the good guys save the willful but kidnapped wife of one of their own. Mann is talented enough to transcend familiar material, but the physical look undermines him. There is nothing realistic or gritty about the tale being told, and that fact is underscored when the look of the movie is supposed to indicate the kind of naturalism achieved on something like an episode of Cops. The cinematography also clashes with Mann's typically precise shots. He frames his images so exactingly that one is always aware of the stylist behind the camera. This severity of Mann's formalism clashes with the realism inherent in any footage shot on video. Between the misconceived visual scheme and the bland story, Miami Vice disappoints both Mann fans and genre enthusiasts.
by Perry Seibert review