Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Miami Vice (2006)

Let's note that the screening I went to of Michael Mann's Miami Vice was marred by terrible audio that rendered about a half-hour unintelligible. A good excuse to see it again, but the following are provisional thoughts at best.

Narratively it is a bit of a mess, and the pacing is unforgivably slack, but as a visual document (of Miami, Haiti, Columbia) and a study in motion it is often exhilirating. First of all, the boats. Sonny (Colin Farrell), working undercover, requests some "Go Fast" boats (seriously) from Columbian drug-lord middle man Yero (John Ortiz) in order to transport some coke (they all say "transpo", in the impenetrable and fascinating cops'n'robber speak utilized in the film). They do as advertised, and cinematographer Dion Beebe (who also lensed the superior Collateral) swoops down to capture the boat in action in ravishing shots on the water, switching between video and film as grains in the image surge and dissipate. The sense of speed is palpable - and can there be any greater film fantasy than to be speeding to Havana with Gong Li for mojitos?

Gong Li is speeding with Farrell, and they dance at a Cuban jazz club at the peak of their romance - the rest devolves into the obsessed professionals not being able to focus on a relationship thing that Mann did much better in Heat. I think Mann should just give up on creating female characters, or at least just hire females to roles he wrote for males - because now they just take up time in grueling subplots of male rescue fantasies.

Next. Miami Vice has the greatest plane flying through the sky shots I've ever seen. Not plane over landscape, but against the blue sky - it's the clearest, cleanest shots I've witnessed. Pretty.

Nobody records gun shots like Mann - each type of weapon resounds differently with rattling loudness - his gunfight scenes are overwhelmingly chaotic soundscapes with brief instances of violence. He usually keeps his glorifying instinct in check, but as this is some sort of blockbuster, he gave in with some absurd gunplay towards the end. I forgive you Mike.

Great beards and performances by the villains, especially by Luis Tosar as Montoya, the head honcho. Deep-voiced and deliberately spoken, with impossibly perfect posture even when sitting in bed, he's a startingly original creation.

The relationship between Farrell and Foxx is nonexistent, except for an excellent fist bump, but the surprise here is how good Farell is and what a nonentity Foxx is. Partly a matter of script and editing, as Farrell logs more screen time - but he actually carves out a personality for himself, with a wounded loping walk and a believably gruff voice, his anti-social loner stereotype gains some unexpected color.

But let's see it again. At least for the boats and the planes.


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