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Miami Vice

Universal // R // August 26, 2008
List Price: $29.98 [Buy now and save at Amazon]

Review by Aaron Beierle | posted August 23, 2008 | E-mail the Author

"Miami Vice" became a frequent topic of discussion for film fans during the show's production, as the film encountered budget issues, hurricanes and other various problems on-set. While it met with a bit of a mixed reception upon release, I found "Vice" to be another solid effort from Mann. While the film doesn't quite reach the heights of the director's"Collateral" - one of the best films in the last few years, in my opinion - it's still a fitting follow-up.

The filmed adptation of Mann's enormously popular 80's TV show focuses on Sonny Crockett (Colin Farrell) and Rico Tubbs (Jamie Foxx), two Miami undercover officers who, as the picture opens, must find out how a sting went wrong and find their way into the operations of Jose Yero (John Oritz), a major drug smuggler who works for Montoya (Luis Tosar). While the duo find their way into the cartel, every second they're in danger of being caught by criminals whose trust in them is thin to begin with. Crockett manages to put the two in deeper by falling for a chilly member of the cartel, Isabella (Gong Li).

"Miami Vice" was sold in some of the ads an action picture and while there certainly are action scenes on occasion throughout the movie (such as the intense final sequence), "Vice" certainly goes more along the lines of "Collateral"'s focus on men going about their jobs. Many scenes go by with little dialogue, with Mann's masterfully constructed mood and atmosphere doing the rest of the talking. As with "Collateral", there really isn't very much to the story, but the picture gets by (and then some) on the film's strong sense of style and the film's magnificent ability to create a dark, surreal world for the characters.

About the look of Mann's "Collateral", I said: "The film's cinematography is also another of the film's many strong elements. Working with hi-def digital video, cinematographers Dion Beebe ("Chicago") and Paul Cameron ("Man on Fire") use the format to the fullest extent I've seen it used, turning Los Angeles into a haunted, atmospheric maze of streets heading everywhere and nowhere at once." Mann, once again working with Beebe, has achieved a similar effect here with "Vice", a film where, once again, hours of design and planning seem to have gone into every second of every scene. While George Lucas may have been the first filmmaker to push digital video as the wave of the future, Michael Mann is the first director to figure out how to make the format shine, which was apparent in "Collateral" and once again in "Vice". Again, the director's use of digital video filming here manages to give "Vice" an urgency and haunting, surreal quality that's fascinating.

Where "Vice" can't match "Collateral" is the acting. While Foxx was stellar in "Collateral" playing up against Tom Cruise (who also gave one of his best performances in recent memory in that film), Farrell doesn't quite bring the required slow boil intensity that the film needs and neither of the leads have quite enough detail and depth to their characters. Foxx and Farrell are convincing playing undercover cops who've worked together long enough to gain each other's trust wholly and completely and their performances, while lacking a certain spark, are fine. The film's other concern is the running time, as while the film is never boring, 15 minutes or so of trims (this DVD edition is 6 minutes longer than the theatrical cut) out of the nearly 150-minute picture would have helped the pace a bit.

Overall, while it's not as grand an effort as "Collateral", "Vice" still remains a tense, stylish and enjoyable reimagining of the 80's series.

Note: the Unrated Edition adds approximately 6 minutes of footage.


VIDEO: "Miami Vice" is presented by Universal in 2.40:1 (1080p/VC-1) on Blu-Ray. The results are generally excellent, as the material is likely difficult to transfer perfectly and, while there are a few concerns here, Universal's transfer has mostly done justice to the intended look of the movie. Sharpness and detail vary throughout the movie, largely due to the digital filming techniques used, but the picture does sport improved definition over the DVD.

During the film's daylight sequences, the images look crisp and usually quite clean. However, once darkness begins to set in, scenes start to show noise, which is an intended element of the digital video filming and gives the picture a gritty, intense look. As day turns into night in the movie, scenes take on an even more grainy appearance, as the noise becomes heavier. A few instances of minor edge enhancement were also spotted.

Colors looked subdued during many scenes, but could also appear bold and well-saturated in others. Flesh tones also remained accurate, as well. This may not be the title anyone reaches for when demonstrating the Blu-Ray format to others, but it does a first-rate job presenting the film's visual style. English SDH/French/Spanish subtitles.

SOUND: The film is presented in DTS-HD MA 5.1 by Universal on Blu-Ray. The sound design is fantastic, with the film's detailed, layered sound design working alongside the mood and atmosphere of the visuals to completely immerse the viewer into the world of the film. Surrounds come to life with various sound effects and ambience, as well as reinforcement of the score.

Audio doesn't sound speaker-specific, instead seemingly drifting about in the distance, adding to the feeling of being in the midst of the situation with the characters. A good example of this are the instances of thunder rumbling a short ways away during a couple of the night sequences. Audio quality was fantastic, with crisp effects and dialogue that remained clear and free of distortion or other issues. The DTS-HD presentation lets loose with deeper bass during some of the action sequences, but also sounds more precise than the Dolby Digital presentation from the DVD. A French DTS 5.1 soundtrack is also offered.

EXTRAS: Director Michael Mann offers an audio commentary for the picture. The duirector discusses everything from the development of the film to the visuals to some background on the details of the operation that Crockett and Tubbs find themselves in in the film. We also hear more details about production obstacles, shooting on location, casting, props and scoring. The director opens the discussion chatting about how this is not a director's cut of the film, but a "revision", with some shots taken out and other material added.

"Miami Vice: Undercover" is a 13-minute "making of" documentary that focuses on the rehearsals and preparation that the actors had to go through with the real undercover agents that were advisors on the film. The documentary also discusses some undercover stories, as well. "Miami and Beyond" is an 11-minute documentary discussing how the production shot on location in Miami, the Dominican Republic, Paraguay and elsehwere. Mann was seeking realism and, as a result, the production sought out neighborhoods not on the map. As he does in the commentary, Mann discusses the best ways to go about filming in a small neighborhood in another country, and how to cooperate and work with the local community. We also hear about shooting in Miami.

"Visualizing Miami Vice" is a look at the creation of the look of the film, from choosing the look of the furniture of a room to the appearance of the skies to shooting the film on digital video. Finally, we get three brief behind the scenes featurettes: "Gun Training", "Haitian Hotel Camera Blocking" and "Mojo Race". The featurettes are not presented in HD.

The U-Control feature offers an interface that allows users to access different features during each scene, including GPS tracking, cast bios, production photos, tech specs (somewhat detailed text notes about some of the gear used by the characters) and picture-in-picture features (including some enjoyable behind-the-scenes interviews/features.)

Final Thoughts:Overall, while it's not as grand an effort as "Collateral", "Vice" still remains a tense, stylish and enjoyable reimagining of the 80's series. The Blu-Ray edition offers mostly terrific video quality, very good audio quality and a solid set of supplements. Recommended.
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