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Miami Vice (2006)
Colin Farrell, who gets a little clumsy when he has to do speeches with his American accent, gives Mann exactly what was needed when we feel the moment in his eyes or gestures
second big variation is the storytelling which, unlike MVTV, or really any television series, doesn't spend much time telling us where the ride is going. Basil Exposition is on permanent vacation
no need for Sir Ian here. Mann's characters - he wrote the script also - are people of actions, not verbosity. They live what they are feeling, thinking and doing on the screen. This may be a little jarring in the first 15 minutes, as you try to catch up with exactly what's going on. But you will catch up. And, by the third act in particular, the pay off will be that you feel like you are in the experience and not watching the experience. Mann has dealt with sex before in his work. Most of his movies have an interesting sexual undercurrent. But here he lets his character get down to business. As a result, we get to learn a lot more about Jamie Foxx than I ever expected to in his scenes with Naomie Harris. (Seeing Mr. Farrell and Ms. Gong exposed is not such a surprise.) But in the Foxx scenes, we also get one of the most beautifully shot acts of intimacy to be shown on screen in a long time. Mann, as is so often the case, gets to the heart of getting busy without needing to reach for the more graphic imagery. On the other hand, give the guy a gun, and he'll blow some holes in people. My greatest surprise pleasure in this film was Mann's casting choices and the execution (figurative and often literal) of his actors. It's always fun to see Barry Shabaka Henley in Mann's projects. But here Mann came up with a whole new group of players. The brilliant Ciarin Hinds is here, subverting his Irish accent for a somewhat southern one. In fact, Mann has a bunch of English and Irish actors (Tony Curran, Eddie Marsan) playing Miamians. He also has Me, You & Everyone We Know's and Deadwood's John Hawkes on board. And even Domenick Lombardozzi, who is suddenly familiar after a multi-show guest stint on Entourage. Elizabeth Rodriguez is a terrific surprise as the Gina Calabrese character, neither brunette nor hips-Dalian. She doesn't get a load of lines, but she can handle a gun and when she gets a line, she can handle that too. But the biggest joys were, first, Gong Li, in what is easily her best, most raw performance yet in English. Mann didn't just want a beautiful woman, but he wanted a performance that stripped her to her freckles. And he gets it. It starts a little chilly and accent distracting. But as the movie progresses, this turns into a really lovely and intimate piece of work from this actress. Even more surprising were Luis Tosar and John Ortiz as the baddest bad guys in the piece. Tosar is known more in Spain and Ortiz hasn't really gotten The Break before, but Mann's choices with both of them were to take characters that could have been over the top and ratcheted them down to dry, smart, scary performances. Tosar plays the Kingpin, Jesus Montoya, who doesn't move much, has a fifth level of hell beard and facial hair (the most powerful on-screen eyebrows since Belushi) and an absolutely terrifying calm. And Ortiz, who plays the Local Guy who runs operations for Montoya in Miami, has the showier role and works it with real glee, but never becomes an evil movie caricature. It really is a brilliant performance. Early on I was thinking, "I guess Bardem (who loved working with Mann in a tiny Collateral role) was busy." But by the end of the picture, I was glad that one of the world's greatest actors wasn't there because these guys were so brilliant and so unexpected. Telling you too much about the storyline is not only a spoiler, but an irritant. You kinda know already. They go deep, deep, deep undercover in the most dangerous possible situation. Romance, guns, drugs, boats, planes, and trouble ensue. In the meanwhile, Mann & Beebe get some exterior images that literally took my breath away. The digital look of the film becomes familiar within 20 minutes or so and offers imagery of the streets of Miami, South America, and Havana in colors that speak to the real beauty of those places, not the movie dream of them. You know you are the hands of masters. The first acts drags a little, though I suspect on second viewing it will go down more easily. And then there is the great feeling I had walking away from the screening room. This movie will play and play and play and play. No, it's not quite Heat. I do look forward to Mann working in this digital format with stars as iconic as Pacino and DeNiro. Foxx is solid as a rock here. And Colin Farrell, who gets a little clumsy when he has to do speeches with his American accent, gives Mann exactly what was needed when we feel the moment in his eyes or gestures. For me, this a big step from Collateral, which was a gimmick movie
a good gimmick, some good actors, a great visual styling (the digital production is not the gimmick I mean), but ultimately it is a clock film with a forced relationship that has to stick to that clock and a massive movie star playing an ice cold killer. Miami Vice is more free to roam. And because of it, the box office might not be as strong. On the other hand, it might be stronger, because this, to me, is a much more interesting, challenging, better movie. I kind of expect it to split critics and audiences. But I also expect it to age really well over time. And that is the price that Michael Mann so often pays for being Michael Mann. Thank goodness he is willing to do it for all of us.