Far too patchy

Miami Vice is beautifully shot by Don Beebe. The ambience is right but the zing is missing, writes Ervell E. Menezes

Can successful TV serials be turned into good films? It isn’t easy. Charlie’s Angels was one example. In fact it flopped. Miami Vice is better but nowhere near the original.

Jamie Foxx and  Colin Farrell in Miami Vice
Jamie Foxx and Colin Farrell in Miami Vice 

Director Michael Mann helped produce the serial and though he has gone through extensive research as director of the film, it really doesn’t show. It is far too patchy, the establishing shots are weak and it has too many blanks (read pauses) and one misses the mumbling dialogue at key moments.

"There’s undercover, and then there’s which way is up," undercover agent Ricardo Tubbs (Jamie Foxx) tells Sonny Crockett (Colin Farrell), his sidekick and that exemplifies the maze-effect.

They have to talk and walk like the bad guys, the ones who are in the drug cartel. But the clever plot keeps everyone guessing. Then you have the cartel’s beautiful Chinese-Cuban middle-person Isabella (Gong Li, she was in Memoirs of a Geisha) who blossoms into the femme fatale. There’s a touch of good old James Bond and his female spies. Or is it Lady Chatterly’s Lover?

Drug middleman Jose Yero (John Oritz) heads the bad guys with Montoya (Luis Tosar) as one of his contacts while FBI special agent Fujima (Ciaran Hinds) is pitted against them. Opening with a nightclub shot Miami Vice is beautifully shot by Don Beebe whose hand-held camera shots are just enchanting. Most of the action is at night and the lighting is divine. But that isn’t sustenance enough.

Mann seems to be obsessed with the layers of undercover and tends to waste too much footage on it. When it comes to action, and the latter half picks purely because of it, he is in his element. Shades of Collateral. But alas one has to wait inordinately.

That Colin Farrell has to do justice to the Don Johnson (it is the role that launched him as an actor) is a tall order and he does his best, but is it good enough? The love/sex affair with Gong Li lacks credibility and has a debilitating effect on both Farrell and Gong Li. In that respect Jamie Foxx is more precise and effective and underplays his part as he did in Ray, which won him an Oscar.

John Oritz is brilliant as the bad guy who weighs his words while Ciaran Hinds of Munich fame is quite anonymous. Naomi Harris and Elizabeth Rodrigues are there to add glamour and probably succeed to a degree but they only add up to the heavy baggage Mann imposes on the viewer. The ambience is right but the zing is missing.