Every other review for this film uses the words "gritty" and "dirty," so I won't. However, if you're looking for the slick, smooth neon glow of the 80s TV show, you'll be sorely disappointed. Michael Mann has completely overhauled the show to a new vision that he makes his own. It is very comparative to a perfect blend of Heat and Collateral; Mann's two previous films.
One minute into the movie and you'll find yourself emmersed into a dangerous world. There are no opening credits to distract us. It seemed a bit odd, but I loved it; we just get moving with the story immediately. We know who the good guys are and who the bad guys are, but other than that, we have no idea what the hell is going on or why. It takes about 20 to 30 minutes to finally piece everything together and follow the plot-line, which is simple, but seems more complicated than it really is with several characters, on both ends of the good vs evil spectrum, that are constantly shaking things up and convoluting what should be a simple plan. Drug lords from South America need a way to ship and distribute their drugs in the U.S. Crocket and Tubbs go undercover within this mob to expose secrets and make busts. Simple right? Well, because of the unpredictable direction that the story takes, we never know who will die or who will betray and who will be redeemed.
A better cast could not've been chosen. Farrell's scruffy 4 o'clock shadow and raspy, breathy voice makes him a man among men; the toughest guy on the force who is obviously capable of bringing back the coolness of a mullet (not an easy task). He was a great choice to play Sonny Crocket. His talent for showing emotion with the bare minimum of facial expression captivates me. Foxx plays Tubbs; Crockett's partner and possibly the more cool-headed of the two; yet he is still head strong and unforgiving, and he shows again why he is in the acting business. A great character actor (Ray, and Stealth) that brings presence to the screen everytime and demands attention from the viewers. The great Gong Li breaks into a Hollywood role as the go-between for the top men in the drug trafficking trade. Her performance was a little stiffer than I'm used to (2046, Eros, Farewell My Concubine), but I think that has something to do with this being one of her first English speaking roles that is completely devoid of any Asian culture whatsoever. She is still beautiful and her chemistry with the other actors still shines through gracefully and confidently. One scene in particular that is non-verbal was absolutely amazing and shows why she is the Chinese superstar that she is. I can't divulge the scene specifically because it may be considered a spoiler, but watch for the tear drop.
If you're expecting a plethora of action, guns and explosions, again, you'll probably be let down. This movie is one big pressure cooker. For almost two hours, things build and build before the steam is finally released in a climax of gunfire and whizzing bullets. That's not to say the set-up is boring; not by any stretch. Each scene is so intriguing and has the potential for disaster and bloodshed, that I sat with clenched fists waiting for the pressure cooker to explode. At points, there is some steam let out to avoid said explosion; and that steam can at times, be extrememly violent. The blood that is shed during the course of the film holds nothing back, and is shocking and realistic.
Even the love scenes are not completely unnecessary like in most other films. The relationship factor in this film means something important. Betrayal and mistrust and true love all play roles in the guy-girl interactions and had me thinking I knew what to expect and when, but I didn't.
The entire film has a very unique look and style. A high contrast, grainy tone that gives you this weird sense of reality. It feels like an episode of "Cops." Much of the action is shown using a hand held or shoulder slung camera that gives us almost the feel of a documentary; albeit a highly intense, chaotic documentary. I had no problem with this not being a remake of the 80s tv show. My only complaint would be this, where are the cars? There is one scene that showcases how cool Crockett's Ferrari is, but that's it. The rest are all basic BMWs and Toyota Four-Runners. I will give the film maker's credit for having beautiful scenery shots and amazing looking "go-fast" boats that scream just above the surface of the water. To nit-pick on the point of the absence of cars though, would be criticizing the movie for the exact reason that I liked it: dark and jagged; not smooth and slick.
So I think Mann has outdone himself again. I was intrigued and mesmerized throughout the entire film. The climax action sequence reminded me of the street battle in Heat, which is a very good thing. It is realistic in it's look and sound, and you just don't know what to expect. Who will live, who will die? The title Miami Vice is just a clever marketing tool. The only true connection I can find between the film and the television show, are the two main characters' names. Miami Vice is it's own film with a unique and interesting feel. Though it may sound to be just another cop vs. drug dealer story (and it is), it appears to be so much more. Mann's ability to grab hold of us and slowly tighten his grip before releasing us right at the zero hour holds no parallel. An enjoyable film through and through if you hold no expectations walking into the theater.