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Miami Vice

Film Four Stars

From the opening scenes you can tell how this movie is going to go. You are straight into the action with no titles to get in the way and the style is evident in every shot. Gone are Hollywood dialogue explanations and in place is a voyeuristic style that lends itself to watching the action rather than retelling the events as they happen in front of you.

We meet Crockett and Tubbs and get an instant glimpse of their characters. They are tough, relentless, and they care. This isn't the same as the television series, here we are seeing a Miami Vice steeped in reality, and that reality hits us hard in these opening scenes.

Michael Mann is all over this film. His style is stamped on every shot, every scene and every line of dialogue, and that's what makes the film so strong. Lingering scenes, broody and dark framed shots, and plenty of strong tunes to back up the style. It's superb Mann styling.

MiamiVice_Poster.jpgThroughout the film you can see shots that remind you of Vice the series, but more often than not the style is very recognisable as that of Collateral. It swaps to hand held often, keeping a very voyeuristic feel to the film so that you're watching events as they happed rather than watching the story being retold to you. You'll be looking over character's shoulders, from their viewpoint and their eye level, and it pulls you closer to the story and the characters, and it needs that.

There's a high level of reality about the film, from conversations and characters reactions to the gun fights and stunt sequences. Of course some things are over the top, for example the Ferrari that the vice drive, and the access to planes and boats, but other than that the film is hard and gritty, keeping everything as close to reality as possible to give almost a documentary feel to the film.

Nowhere is this as obvious and strong as during the gun fight sequences. The first scene that really shows this is the opening drug deal, where the high velocity sniper rifles rip apart the car and occupants. It's filmed in a harsh matter of fact that shows limbs flying and the very messy reality of death.

Later on the storming of the trailer shows how well the actors have been trained in police tactics, they really do look more like trained soldiers than casual policemen. The whole sequence of the rescue and aftermath leaves you tense and in awe as the smoke rises from the body.

The final gun battle has a similar feeling, there's nothing glamorous or stylised here, the bullets are flying, there's confusion, noise and again proper covering tactics from the vice team. It's all superbly filmed, and never does it resort to close up shaky camera work where you really can't follow what's going on.

There does seem to be a first half-second half split in the film. It's really difficult to try and put my finger on, but the first half just doesn't flow well enough. I've tried thinking of the pacing, or of the editing, and there doesn't seem to be one thing that's wrong that does need fixed. Yet it's not until the second half picks up the pace and begins dragging you along with it do you start to wonder why all this tension and excitement was saved for so long.

I do feel that it could do with a re-edit for the first half, and perhaps this would resolve the issue, I'm just not sure. Maybe it was too many lingering shots of the two leads not talking to each other, or of staring into the distance, and yet I really did enjoy these moments as so many films now suffer from over explanation.

Perhaps it is that we spend too long understanding how these guys go undercover, but once they are there the payoff is big. The tension builds, the pace quickens, and the story really does come together.

The ending is strong and keeps that reality feel, in other words life is harsh and doesn't work out as you'd like. This is another excellent aspect of the film, but what it also means is that there are some elements of the plot that aren't resolved properly and just left hanging. Not in the usual attempt to leave the idea of a sequel open, just left there, unresolved. It's not a major point that really does get to you, but it's there.

As for the characters well with retrospect, having seen this film a few days ago, I'm quite ambivalent. I find myself wondering what Jamie Foxx was doing in this movie other than looking about frowning and seeming serious, and shooting some bad guys. He's very underused and his character doesn't really get involved enough, he does seem more of a bystander and a member of the team than one of the leads.

The same could be said for Colin Farrell, but there's definitely a lot more of the story concentrating on him and his human side, allowing him to show a lot more emotion than he has in many other roles.

However it really is Li Gong that steals the show, for amongst all the posturing and stand offs, she delivers a very strong and emotive performance. Behind her is John Ortiz who delivers a twisted character in so many ways.

Overall it's excellently filmed and gives a superbly strong style that we're not used to seeing from Hollywood. Mann forgets what Miami Vice was all about in the television series and brings Manhunter and Collateral together for one superb ride.

So although there wasn't a great connection with the two leads, the expansion of the team did help the story, they are much more of a permanent feature than backup, and it gives the feel that they are part of a team rather than just two complete mavericks. After all the original characters really could not have fitted in such a harsh reality.

Yes, there are some issues with the first half and the need to explore some of the characters a bit better, but the overall effect of the film does counter this and entertain and excite. Forget the Crockett and Tubbs you might remember and leave any idea of them at the door. Once again Mann delivers style, and harsh reality within a strong story, just not what you might expect.

I would love to see a DVD Director's re-edit of this film, but for now I can recommend that if you liked Collateral then this is a movie to go and see. It's tough, exciting, and definitely steers clear of so many stereotypes from Hollywood.


Trailers
Harsh times
This is the same trailer as I've always seen and it still looks exciting. Christian Bale and Freddy Rodríguez with Bale bringing his psycho self to the fore again.

Right at Your Door
My first thought was Speed from CSI Miami, but that quickly disappears as you realise that this film is about a large-scale terrorist attack using chemical weapons. From the trailer it looks like it could go either way, looking a the affect on the city or a very personal look at a man trying to deal with the events as his wife is missing somewhere in the city. Whichever it looks like a strong performance from Rory Cochrane and a very emotive subject.

Lady in the Water
The same trailer, but each time I see it there's still an element of intrigue and mysticism about it, despite what the critics are saying.

Nacho Libre
Seen this trailer before, and there were no laughs in the cinema again. Am I missing something?

Snakes on a Plane
Well, it's that trailer again, although this is the one that let's us have the back story before they get on the plane and before the snakes attack. Oh yeah, that helps a bundle.


Edinburgh Ocean Terminal Vue Cinema
IMDB UK Film Details





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Comments

One film that this reminded as much of as any of Mann's previous films was David Mamet's "SPARTAN". Both are no-nonsense nose-to-the grindstone films which throw unnecessary expostion out the window and lob you right in the middle of things (both fittingly end as abruptly as well).

Vice wins points in the cinematography dept. though. Simply a gorgeous motion picture.

Of course, both films (Miami Vice and Spartan) are labelled as 'glum' by their detractors. I can't figure that one out, both are smart films built to entertain rather than to pander to their audience. I like that.

I like it too, in fact I appreciate not feeling hand held through a film and being credited with a degree of intelligence.

Hardly glum at all in this case, just far closer to the reality of life than most Hollywood films, that's not glum at all.

I'll drop Spartan on my DVD list...

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