Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Miami Vice (Michael Mann, 2006)

Saw Miami Vice on DVD and the question that immediately popped into my mind was: why didn't I catch this in the theaters? It's a policier, and its cold perfection resembles a diamond--brilliantly cut and faceted, geometrically precise, with a beauty that leaps beyond the precision and perfection.

It goes a long way towards fetishizing guns. I can't say Mann actually sensualizes the weaponry (no long, lingering shots on gun barrels, or much slow motion shots of blood exploding out of hapless human bodies), but he has an awareness of ordinance and ammunition that--well, I never fired a weapon before, but my fingers itched to get their hands on that .50 calibre sniper rifle (what do they say in Mythbusters? "This .38 will kill you. This .50 calibre will kill you and everyone else in the room."), not to mention the way said rifle shoots very large holes into a car, the car seats inside, the people sitting in those car seats, and the engine block sitting in front of all the perforated people.

But I can't see a gun freak grooving to this film; the weapons are taken out and used; no one refers to them or talks much about them (except perhaps in one memorable incident, a brief moment of glory for the character named Gina). They're just tools to be used in the trade (same with the boats, which look as if they could blast off, the Ferrari and BMW, and that beautifully swanlike Adam A500 plane). Actually, I can't see anyone grooving to this film other than a film critic--it's iced ice, exhaling pure carbon dioxide. But it looks gorgeous.

Even more interesting than the weapons or transport are the tactics used, particularly on the raid on the trailer home: establish your positions, get as much reconaissance intelligence as possible and (if the moment befits it) use a bit of improvisation, like a discarded pizza box. These people move the way I suspect Mann directs.

There is heart here, but like the weaponry it's barely glanced at: the interplay between Tubbs and Trudy and the understated concern they have for each other (understated not meaning they don't feel all that much, but that they bury their feelings under some tough-talking shell); an edgy affair between Crockett (Colin Farell) and Isabella (Gong Li) that seems like a totally screwed-up idea (when infiltrating an organization, do you sleep with the boss' squeeze?) and puzzlingly placed--it slows down the action when things should be speeding up. But it's like an added origami fold, an odd bent in a classic-looking form that makes the whole more interesting as a result.


And it leads up to a satisfying (for me, I wouldn't know about the general public) conclusion--after all has been fired upon and blown away (in a gunfight that seems to be trying to outdo the one Mann staged in Heat), what matters, sometimes, is the furtive act of compassion.

The overall result is a quality I find in most Mann films--a realistic action flick where the most interesting action is directed inwards, towards the still, carefully suspended core of the protagonists' souls...

Not bad, not bad at all; if I'd seen this earlier, I'd call it one of the best of last year.

15 comments:

RC said...

i still haven't seen it, but i feel like people who have seen on dvd like it much more than those who saw it on the big screen...maybe it's expectations.

Oggs Cruz said...

I was fortunate enough to catch this on the big screen, and liked it. I remember having complaints, but that didn't stop me from salivating over the steelly cold feel that Mann told his story with. I should see this again.

.ian said...

try grabbing a copy of the director's cut DVD and compare it to the theatrical release.

i agree that Mann does make a mean action movie. I saw it again and the rich tones of how dark his angles exudes in the movie can be a symbolization on how undercover cops work.

Noel Vera said...

Probably wold never happen, but if they re-release this in theaters, or have some kind of special showing--I'd like to go see it.

I've heard arguments that Mann overfiddles with his director's editions--that the theatrical opening, straight into the dancing woman in the club--is better, gives you a stronger sense of a story caught in media res, rhyming with the quiet ending. Also, that the ending as originally shot is more consistent with what Mann intended, as something more than a violent policier.

Joseph B. said...

I saw this twice in the theaters- once on a regular film projector and once on a digital projector. My god.... if all digital films look like "Miami Vice" did on the screen, I'm fully supporting the transition. I mean, Mann's films always look good, but the crispness of the colors and the nuances of purple and black in the sky were breathtaking at times. DVD does this film no justice, unfortunately. One of my favs from last year.

Dodo said...

This was one of my favorites from last year,too. Thought I was the only one who actually liked it.

Noel Vera said...

Yo, Dodo--actually quite a few auteurists (check a_film_by for some of their posts.

Sachin G. said...

I quite liked this one too. I was lucky enough to catch this in the theatre last year on a warm afternoon day. The cool atmosphere in the film made me get over the oppressive 'heat' that existed outside :)

Like you mentioned, I also felt that the weapons in the film were merely tools of the trade. I felt the movie was more about the lives of the main characters. The fact that they happenned to be undercover cops or drug dealers was a technicality. I can envision Mann making such a cool film about car salesmen but ofcourse in that film there would be no need for guns, fast boats or even making exotic trips of seduction.

No wonder this film was called a failure at the box office. I can imagine guys heading on opening night and expecting a film with plenty of action and explosions but instead they got served a truly visual feast of seduction.

Even though the Gong Li affair slowed it down, for me that was the best part of the film. Something about that scene when she is sitting on the chair looking at Sonny was electric.

Noel Vera said...

Possibly he already made that car salesman film, or something like it--consider The Insider, where the drama is as unvisual (corporate tobacco stoolie) and immobile (man on a chair, doing nothing) as ever. It's still quite compelling.

Richard X said...

Spot on review! I just passed this review by chance but I'm glad I did. Miami Vice was one of the best films of last year. In fact, on my website, I put it at number 1. I got a lot of flack for that but it's well worth it. My only complaint about the DVD is that it opens with the boat race. I thought the theatrical version, where Mann opens straight into the club, was more effective. Great movie nonetheless.

Noel Vera said...

Absolutely. One great regret I have is that I didn't see it in the big screen, with that opening.

goldenbetty said...

What is the weapon used at the end of Miami Vice (2006) that kills Jose Yero?

Noel Vera said...

I believe it's an HK69 40 mm grenade launcher, with canister shot.

But don't take my word for it.

Riza said...

A bit late in the day, but I think one word sums up Miami Vice best: sensuous.

Whether it's the grainy night sky lingering in the background, gunfire sounding in muted thuds, or Farrell and Gong Li dancing with abandon in the nightclub while everyone else looks horrified at how they've blown cover... it's rare to find an action movie that has so many quiet moments. Deep stuff, and if you're in deep, how do you know which way is up?

Noel Vera said...

Follow the bubbles.

Except--I remember reading this novel where a man escaped from a collapsing sub, followed the bubbles, realized that at the depth he's in the bubbles are so compressed they're actually heavier than air--? Don't know the physics of that, but I suppose any phenomena has its possible exceptions...

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