So masculine it could reverse a vasectomy, Michael Mann’s feature length Miami Vice actually tells the same story that eventually ground down the TV series – Crockett (now Colin Farrell, then Don Johnson) and Tubbs (now Jamie Foxx, then Philip Michael Thomas) go undercover with a drugs gang, get so deep they’re not sure which way they’re facing any more, then refind themselves before screaming towards a guns-blazing finale, designer clothes looking immaculate. Built from what look like a series of high-end international aftershave adverts showcasing the very pinnacle of fast living, it is an out and out exercise in cool glamour. So was the 1980s TV series, of course, but Mann (who produced but never directed any of the TV series) seems out to show everyone concerned that this is how you do it.
“Maximum chromatic saturation” is how Mann describes the look. Full on, might be another. And it applies across the board. Gong Li puts on the stoniest of faces as the implacable villain, while the dialogue is either spat out at whipcrack speed, mumbled in that too-cool-to-enunciate way, or yelled. No one just speaks. Now take all that – the clothes, the guns, the guys, Gong Li, the unnatural vocal styling, then put some shades on it and throw it into a speed boat bouncing across the waves towards a Ferrari 430 Spider, all to a slinky electropop soundtrack. Everything in this film hums, seethes and purrs. It is a hell of an exercise in mood management. It’s so great, in fact, that you’ll hardly notice there’s no real plot.
Miami Vice – at Amazon
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© Steve Morrissey 2006