Shot almost exclusively on HDCAM, Michael Mann’s Miami Vice (2006) is a peculiar anachronism – taking something that was popular in the 1980’s and completely modernizing it. The film, indeed, looks nothing like the original TV series of which Mann was Executive Producer, nor does it contain itself to Miami, expanding as it does to South America and the like.
Crockett and Tubbs (Colin Farrell and Jamie Foxx taking over for Don Johnson and Philip Michael Thomas some nigh-on 20 years after the series ended and long since Mann stopped his involvement) are hard, grizzled and stylish as ever – but gone is the humor, the bright colors and bouncy pop music that populated the “dark” world of Miami Vice.
Rather, Mann has populated his film with dark colors and settings and characters to match. While his music sense is more or less intact, the film feels nothing like the TV series, instead recalling much of Mann’s more recent work – cold, harsh, violent and alien (in part due to the digital cinematography which takes the richness out of the frame and often bleeds it of color – with the possible exception of some shots in the theatrical version’s opening night club sequence).
Thematically, the film takes Mann’s theme of domesticity going head-to-head with a sense of duty and a violent nature to new heights (?). While Tubbs enjoys his relationship with fellow vice officer Trudy (Naomie Harris), Crockett begins an affair with Isabella (Gong Li), the Chinese/Cuban wife of his arm dealer prey. Invariably, the line between law enforcement and its breaking becomes blurred as only Mann can blur it.
Although it did make a profit, it is still unclear to this viewer who thought it was a profitable idea in 2006 to take a popular 80s TV series and make it into a modern film (although certainly Tim Burton’s 2012 reiteration of Dark Shadows raises an eyebrow)…