Thursday, September 14, 2006

MIAMI VICE: It Still Sizzles!

MIAMI VICE (crime thriller)
Cast: Colin Farrell, Jamie Foxx, Gong Li, John Ortiz and Naomi Harris
Director: Manfred Mann
Time: 133 mins
Rating: * * * (out of 4)

Farrell and Gong Li
WHAT’S THE BIG DEAL? There’s good news and bad news for those keen on catching this remake of the popular Eighties TV series on our screens. First, the good news: Miami Vice sizzles in both its action and romance departments -- with Colin Farrell, Jamie Foxx and Chinese screen siren Gong Li delivering the goods.
Under the direction of Michael Mann (who also helmed some of the TV series), this updated crime thriller is both stylish and intense, keeping our adrenaline pumping almost throughout the movie.
The bad news? Our Censorship Board has sliced off much of the ‘icing’ and we are left with only our imagination of what could have happened -- and some choppy sequences. Still, Miami Vice is riveting enough for the most of its two-hour footage.

WHAT’S IT ABOUT? The action starts off in a pounding disco where our heroes, Sonny Crockett (Farrell) and Rico Tubbs (Foxx) are on a stakeout. Halfway through, however, Crockett gets a disturbing call from an undercover agent and soon discovers that the FBI has been infiltrated by the drug lords. Result: A whole sting operation is blown to bits, including some of its agents.
To plug the leak, Crockett and Tubbs are assigned to infiltrate a vicious drug syndicate led by Jose Yero (John Ortiz) and the kingpin Montoya (Luis Tosar) in Haiti. Posing as ‘transporters’, the two cops meet Montoya’s business associate Isabella (Gong Li) and Crockett takes a fancy to her.
They go to Havana on a date, then to bed and gradually become lovers. Unknown to Crockett, his relationship with Isabella also incurs the jealousy and wrath of someone very dangerous. He sets our heroes up for a huge fall – and this also involves Tubbs’ girlfriend Trudy (Naomi Harris).

HIGHLIGHTS: The ‘private life versus public duty’ theme is played to the hilt here, and the sense of danger and doom is palpable, aided in no small measure by a throbbing soundtrack. After some initial scenes of exploding missiles piercing through bodies, we brace ourselves for more to come as the two cops try to convince the nervous crooks of their usefulness to their cause. Yes, despite knowing at the back of our minds that a sequel should be pending, we still get the pervasive sense of danger and betrayal throughout the movie – even in the love affair between Isabella and Crockett.
And although the whole set-up is about an odd-couple pair of cops, there is none of the usual buddy-bonding rituals that we get in movies like Starsky & Hutch. Crockett and Stubbs exchange very few lines as director Mann, who also wrote the screenplay, hones up on the action and the narration. There is also chemistry between Farrell and Gong Li who appear rather awkward at first. However, it is evident that it is these two who provide the human factor in the story and make it compelling. The Tubbs-Trudy affair gets scant screen time but the relationship has an outcome that will also rock us.

THE LOWDOWN: In The Eighties, the Miami Vice TV series redefined music, fashion and scenic locations. Here, Mann recreates them all in the opening scenes and moves on to more important stuff. Like concentrating on the sting op, the romance and suspense. Yup, the ‘icing’ may be gone but there is enough excitement in the cake that remains. Get your fill of it.


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