Friday, August 04, 2006

Miami Vice (2006)

Miami Vice (Michael Mann, 2006)

Michael Mann's Miami Vice starts abruptly: with no opening credits, no bullshit. It just greets your eyes with a scene composed of grainy yet undeniably hypnotic visuals. These visuals are accompanied by music Linkin Park, completely drowning the senses with a barrage of stimuli. The scene is set in a nightclub, crowded with dancing party people. Somewhere in the crowd are Sonny Crocker (Colin Farrell), Rico Tubbs (Jamie Foxx), and their team of Miami undercover cops, stoic, patient, and waiting for something to happen. These are the same characters of the television series of the same name which was aired in the eighties. The times have changed, but the crimes haven't.

Mann actually served as executive producer to the 80's television hit series and knows how to work these characters and their setting. From there, Mann became the director of the some of the most notable urban crime thrillers in recent memory like Heat (1995) and Collateral (2004). Mann is therefore the logical choice to direct the cinematic update of the beloved television series. However, instead of merely redoing the show, he also infuses a particular energy that makes the film indescribably powerful. He just borrows the characters, updates the setting (the cars are a lot more gorgeous, the fashion a lot more chic, and the streets a lot more dangerous), and bakes into the story something that resembles an ordinary television episode, but with the visual punctuation and the narrative pump that is worthy of the silver screen.

The story involves the two famous Miami coppers who goes undercover to discover the person who leaks the inside information of the government to the drug dealers. The two travel to an unnamed Latin American nations and deal with one of the largest drug dealers in the whole world, Jose Yero (John Ortiz), who actually turns out to be a mere puppet of an even-larger drug dealer, Arcangel de Jesus Montoya (Luis Tosar). Montoya's trusted sidekick is a Chinese-Cuban businesswoman Isabella (Gong Li), who becomes attracted to Sonny Crocker. Crocker returns the interest, and the two eventually fall in love, culminating in a night together in Havana, Cuba. The plot gets more intricate when it is discovered that the drugs trade actually involve other networks, including a White Supremacist group in Miami, who peddle the drugs to their own customers.

While the story is complex, Mann's masterfully guides us through the intertwining networks and the heated emotions. With the help of his cinematographer Dion Beebe, Mann paints the film with a cool, metallic blue that invokes an icy exterior to the entire endeavor. It is only when passions arise that other colors dominate: reds, yellows, greens. This very apt play of colors and visual gloss punctuate the storytelling, giving the plot a necessary push. The digital filmmaking is actually very effective and Mann makes wonders using the limitations of his chosen medium. The editing is crisp, the acting is mostly superb, and the musical scoring lends to the already rich visuals foreboding tension.

Miami Vice is truly technically astounding. The film beats with its inherent hypnotic rhythm, making you thirst for the incessant gunfights, the deafening explosions, the stolen kisses, and the gorgeously painted vistas. If only for this graduated feel, Miami Vice is something of an achievement. Mann understands cinema, and has injected the television series with his understanding, creating a masterpiece in mood and rhythm.

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