I’ve been pretty pumped for the theatrical release of Miami Vice ever since i read about it 6 months ago. So, in preparation of the movie’s release this weekend, i had been watching episodes of the first season of the Miami Vice TV show. That, and listening to Jay-Z’s and Linkin Park’s Numb/Encore every chance i could get (that’s the song playing in the movie’s trailer). Watching the tv shows this past week, two episodes stick out in my memory from that first season, 1) the 2 hour pilot and 2) an episode called “Smuggler’s Blues.”
Let’s talk about the pilot for a moment. The pilot is a great beginning to a great series. It establishes Sonny Crockett (Don Johnson) as an ex-football superstar from U. of Miami – a boozing, emotionally-crippled, undercover agent whose marriage has fallen apart and has him living on a sailboat with an alligator named Elvis. He also drives a Ferrari and a cigarette boat to keep up his high-roller profile so he can easily co-mingle with the corrupt players of the Miami drug scene. His partner, fellow officer Ricardo Tubbs, is a NY officer (not detective) who has followed a drug lord to Florida to bring him to justice for murdering his brother. After initial friction between Crockett and Tubbs, the two decide to work together to bring down the drug lord and in the process they establish some good chemistry and eventually become partners.
Leaving the theater after viewing the movie version of Miami Vice this weekend, i had a strange feeling in my gut. The movie was incredibly cool: the fight scenes, the women, the cars, the music – all very slick. But, something wasn’t sitting right with me. And it was Colin Farrell. In the TV show, you buy into Crockett as an authentic southerner and a conflicted man who is torn between his job and the people he loves (co-workers, women, family). He is cold, distant and entirely dedicated to his job, yet at the same time has a warm heart and is making progress in dealing with his demons. He’s slowly becoming emotionally available to those who love him.
In the movie, you have no idea who Colin Farrell is. There’s no back-story provided. Because he has the same name (Sonny Crockett) as the TV show, you have to assume he’s the same guy. But he doesn’t act like Don Johnson’s Crockett. There’s no mention of him as an ex-football player, he doesn’t seem southern. In fact, he seems Irish. Like the TV-show Crockett he drives a sweet Ferrari but without any explanation you assume he’s either extremely wealthy like Will Smith’s Mike Lowery in Bad Boys or dirty like Michael Douglas in Black Rain.
Another problem i have about the movie is Crocket’s relationship with Tubbs (Jamie Foxx). In the TV-show, there is always a scene where Tubbs is helping Crockett open up and they have a genuine friendship who have each other’s back. In the film, Crockett basically does whatever he wants to do and leaves Tubbs to handle most of the details. There’s no love shown between the two. From the very first scene when Crockett was hitting on the bartender at a club, writer/director Michael Mann makes Crockett look like a complete cad. I was pretty confident that movie-Crockett would leave Tubbs hanging anywhere at any time for a hot chick. TV-Crockett would never have done that. He was older and not looking to just hook-up with any hot piece of ass that strolled by – all his romances were pretty serious (Gina and Brenda). For example, there’s a scene in the movie where Tubbs and Crockett go to the drug lord’s house in the middle of the Latin American jungle to set up the deal and Crockett asks the financial broker of the drug lord (the beautiful Gong Li) to go for a drink and then just takes off with her on the boat to Cuba. Way to strand your partner. How is Tubbs supposed to get home? Is he going to bum a ride from another drug lord at the house, “um, yeah, hey any of you guys doing a deal downtown? Any chance you can drop me off at my hideout?”
Given my Crockett and Crockett & Tubss issues, i still really liked the movie. It was very cool. In fact, if you haven’t seen the TV show lately, you’d probably enjoy it more. As for the plot, similar to the TV episodes, it is a) totally ridiculous, b) rarely makes sense, c) is never really quite resolved, d) involves a shipyard for the final drug exchange, e) unfortunately does not include the phrase “it’s going down” (which appears in each TV episode roughly 3 times), and doesn’t matter b/c the movie is cool enough without it. Even though the film is not up to Mann’s other classics Heat or Collateral, it is still worthy of a viewing.
The plot happened to be the exact same plot of the “Smuggler’s Blues” episode from the first season. In that episode, Crockett & Tubbs are recruited by DEA to pose as drug smugglers in an effort to expose someone in law enforcement who is murdering drug dealers and their families and ends with Trudy being held and bound to a bomb in a trailer. In the movie, they again pose as drug smugglers in an effort to expose a leak in some law enforcement agency and ends with Trudy being held and bound to a bomb in a trailer. While this plot is entertaining enough, I think they would have been better off remaking the pilot episode which introduces a Miami police detective James “Sonny” Crockett who reluctantly teams with New York bred newcomer to the Miami scene Ricardo Tubbs to solve several murders connected to a mysterious Colombian drug lord (and connected to Tubb’s brother death). This is a much better story that could re-create a twenty-first century version of the Crockett and Tubbs characters and perhaps even start a movie franchise. This could have been the Batman Begins (Christian Bale) of the series instead of Batman Return (Michael Keaton and Danny Devito).
So, bottom line – if you’re looking to get yourself in deep, so deep you don’t know which way is up (a line used in both tv show and the movie), i’d recommend you take a trip to the 80’s and rent the DVD’s rather than turning on Netflix.