' ' Cinema Romantico: Showing How It's Done

Monday, July 31, 2006

Showing How It's Done

Let me open with the following disclaimer - I'm a complete devotee of director Michael Mann. If you make "Last of the Mohicans" you get a free pass for life, of course. But if you also make "Heat" AND "The Insider" you get a free pass for any number of lives that may follow. Mann disappointed me a bit with "Ali" but then rebounded spectacularly with "Collateral". Now he's back with "Miami Vice. In an interview I read regarding said movie Mann commented, "I had zero interest in pastels or art-deco." That's the Michael Mann I love.

The title "Miami Vice" is quite misleading in actuality and that's ashame. I fear the title will drive many people away thinking it to be a campy rehash of the infamous TV show from the 80's when, in fact, such a sentiment could not be further from the truth. It bears pretty much no resemblance to the TV show. The only similarities would be a character named Crockett and a character named Tubbs. That's it. What you'll find here is more raw and gripping and tense and, quite frankly, the best "summer movie" of the year.

"Miami Vice" is undeniably a Michael Mann film. If you know his style, you'll recognize here it instantly. The stylish clothes. The gritty good guys. The gritty bad guys. Fast cars (and fast speedboats in this case). A killer soundtrack (the movie score, anyway). Many scenes at night specifically to allow for luminous shots of sprawling city lights in the background. Spectacular locations (a mansion at Victoria Falls in particular). Shots that linger unexpectedly. Stingy dialogue that bites with ferocity.

The story concerns Crockett (Colin Farrell) and Tubbs (Jamie Foxx) going deep undercover to assist in bringing down an international drug lord but perhaps they wind up getting in too deep. If you think you've heard this before that's probably because you have. But nothing Mann does is routine. He always gives his films a soul. Here he focuses in on a relationship between Farrell and a woman he meets while undercover. It's not as complex as what he gave us in in "Heat" but it's 100x more deep than what you normally find in the steaming months of summer. In filmmaking God is in the details and Mann pays great attention to the details. What he can do with a character simply buckling up the seatbelt for another character is downright amazing.

The action sequence near the end is a doozy. Machine gun fire rat-a-tat-tat's away in the night as most of the key characters come face to face. But Mann has always been smart enough to know the possibility of never seeing a loved one again is much more gruesome than a bullet in the head. This movie is no exception.

Lately, Cinema Romantico has been criticized for providing too many spoilers. Number one, reviews are by nature spoilers. That's why I avoid them if I want to see a movie. Number two, all those movies were bad and Cinema Romantico did not want you spending your hard earned money on entertainment that did not live up to its namesake. But "Miami Vice" deserves your hard-earned money. You will be rewarded. And so Cinema Romantico will say no more.

Well, nothing except for this. Nothing - literally nothing - will prepare you for the moment involving a female cop (played by Elizabeth Rodriguez who I must admit to being wholly unfamiliar with) delivering an update on the famed Eastwood "Dirty Harry" speech. As a person who never talks in the theater even I found myself saying aloud to no one in particular "wow".

"Miami Vice". See it. Believe it. That Michael Mann - he's gone and done it again.

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