Despite its obvious and often distracting flaws, Michael Mann’s Miami Vice was the standout mainstream adult entertainment of 2006’s summer season. As Colin Farrell and Jamie Foxx saunter through both the streets of Florida’s greatest city and around the world, their adventures are knee-deep in busty babes, oil-tanker-loads of contraband drugs, and the kind of rat-a-tat gunplay that Mann holds dear (just check out the center section of Heat if you don’t believe me).
Although this writer has never seen an episode of the original television series Miami Vice, I feel like the film’s plot structure is stridently similar to that of a potential hour-long story arc. Farrell and Foxx play die-hard cops who get put in charge of a massive sting to bring down an underworld drug smuggler. It’s a mission that brings them to Colombia, Cuba, and a slew of exotic western hemisphere locales where they can show off their $5,000 suits and impeccably-styled haircuts to as many locals as possible. But as the boys venture farther and farther up the food chain toward the head boss-man, things get in the way. Farrell starts getting it on with businesswoman Gong Li (who may or may not have more than just a colleague-to-colleague relationship with the drug lord). And Jamie Foxx’s lady friend is a fellow cop that gets kidnapped by one of the crime lord’s under-bosses. He’s a nasty who smells the aroma of undercover cop on Farrell and Foxx the minute they come to town.
When Miami Vice showcases all the action and bravura gunplay that come with the film’s many siege scenarios, it’s nothing short of an adrenaline rush posing as a feature film. What’s so majestic about Michael Mann’s controlled visual environments is that his audience is literally in on the action. Other action directors have a better knack for sequencing, pace, and dramatic suspense (hey, James Cameron, make another damned movie now), but Mann’s fly-on-the-wall camera presence is perfectly suited to Miami Vice’s good-guy/bad-guy vibe.
Like every other Michael Mann film, consistency is not Miami Vice’s strong suit. The film’s middle section focuses on Farrell and Li’s blossoming sexual and romantic relationship, and while the first couple of images of these handsome actors’ naked flesh flying around the room in erotic abandon is a nice mood-setter, their amorous tomfoolery goes on forever. I don’t remember the sequence being all that interminable when I saw the film in theatres last September, but dear lord it drags on in this unrated cut.
But when Mann is working on all cylinders, Miami Vice sizzles with humid steeliness. So what if the film feels way too long? What Michael Mann film couldn’t be cut by twenty minutes? The mood and feel of the picture is just right. And when it comes to summer escapist fare, that’s number one on any filmmaker’s to-do list.
The Video: How Does The Disc Look?
Slam! This 2.40:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer is so good I almost can’t believe it. The film was shot with high-definition digital cameras (usually the Sony HDW-F900), and this digital image has been down-converted, color-corrected, and manifested on DVD with exceptional precision and delicious consistency. Black levels are deep and inky, the film’s washed-out color palette is smooth and exceptionally appropriate for the film’s dark undertones, and finely grained detail appears to be just as poppy and shaky as Mann intended. Miami Vice is a movie that’s supposed to look ugly – and it does – but the ugly image is presented almost perfectly here.
The Audio: How Does The Disc Sound?
First of all, let’s get it out of the way; Michael Mann cares about mood and presence and couldn’t give a rip about well-recorded dialogue. With that in mind, this Dolby Digital 5.1 mix is a stunner. Effects are robust and excellently-placed, atmospherics are non-stop and enveloping in all the right ways, and while one gets a bit tired of Mann’s preference for Moby music after a while, there’s no doubt that the music is presented in the soundscape with finesse. This mix is one of the best examples of extraordinary dynamic range on DVD I’ve heard in quite some time. And not only is fidelity strong at both low and high frequencies, the .1 LFE channel gets a hell of a workout. Amazing.
Included are a French Dolby Digital 5.1 track, English, French, and Spanish subtitles, and English Closed Captions.
Supplements: What Goodies Are There?
First up is Michael Mann’s screen-specific audio commentary, which is exceptional. Mann’s been involved with Miami Vice since it was a TV show, and his discussion of all things Vice is nothing short of invigorating. He talks about casting, cameras, difficulties in production, working with actors – nothing is off limits. Mann may not be as consistently good a filmmaker as we might like, but he’s a monolith in the industry, nonetheless.
As far as this being a director’s cut, the only differences I can recall compared to the film in theatres is that the beginning is altered. Maybe it’s a little bloodier, too; I’m not sure. I can tell you that this cut is seven minutes longer.
The six featurettes are also far better than the bonus fare on most big-budget Hollywood DVDs. Miami Vice Undercover investigates Colin Farrell’s and Jamie Foxx’s preparation for their roles, a prep that included joining a police drug bust. Miami and Beyond focuses on the film’s exotic locations and how Michael Mann chose where to shoot his film. Visualizing Miami Vice showcases Mann’s visual style and how he incorporated that sensibility into the production of this film. Gun Training shows us our heroic actors learning to use the weapons their characters had to operate in the film – totally awesome. Haitian Hotel Camera Blocking shows just how complex it can be to stage a blowout action scene in a tight locale. And Mojo Race looks at how the Miami Vice production constructed a boat that would serve both as a work vehicle for camera and sound crews and as a functioning vehicle for actors to use while filming.
Exclusive DVD-ROM Features: What happens when you pop the disc into your PC?
None are included on this disc.
Oh, man, discount Miami Vice if you must, but not only is Michael Mann’s movie a full-throttle (but flawed) blast, this unrated version of the movie is one of the best DVDs of the year. With a bombastic video transfer, a thunderous sound mix, and a rock-solid set of fascinating bonus features, this DVD is well worth a purchase. Highly recommended.
Universal Studios Home Entertainment / 2006 / 140 Minutes / Unrated
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