To really embody the cocaine cowboys of the 1980s – not so much Bret Easton Ellis’s rich-bitch abusers but the grown, effortlessly cool sharks of TV’s “Miami Vice” – everything needs to be real.

Angela Cesere
“No, no. Smoking marijuana is totally harmless, I swear. I do it all the time!” (Courtesy of Universal)

Real is Giorgio Armani Black Label suits. Vintage Armani will have “A Milano – Borgonuovo 21” stitched on the label.

Real is trafficking thousands of bricks of cocaine through the port of Miami. Unadulterated cocaine hydrochloride will be pearly white. If you’re looking at rocks – God forbid – make sure the coke flakes off cleanly.

Real is setting previously unmentionable subject matter to a sonic backdrop of Phil Collins. It’s B-list actors finding small-screen success during the Reagan era, busting drug kingpins in a Ferrari Testarossa.

This deliciously flashy excess makes the “Miami Vice” of the 1980s seem like utter camp in retrospect. So for director Michael Mann (“Collateral”), shouldn’t making a darker, edgier film than its predecessor guarantee success in this anti-kitsch 2006?

At the very least, an Oscar winner (Jamie Foxx, “Ray”) and a semi-talented lothario (Colin Farrell, “The New World”) must equate sexier results than the Don Johnson/Philip Michael Thomas collaboration.

Certain cosmetic details aside (see Farrell’s porn-star mustache), “Miami Vice” the film is aesthetically perfect. The film follows Miami-Dade detectives Sonny Crockett and Ricardo Tubbs (Farrell and Foxx, respectively) as they get mixed up in an undercover drug op. It’s part of a cryptic storyline that may or may not involve white supremacists, but definitely has to do with Colombian druglords doing business in Cuba. And maybe Jackson Pollock.

Of course, nothing is easy when you’re Mann movie partners, especially two stars guaranteed cinematic snatch. Notably, Crockett gets romantically involved with drug king Jesus Montoya’s (Luis Tosar) tough-as-nails cohort (the stunning Gong Li, “Memoirs of a Geisha”). Explosions, business-related tension and salsa dancing abound – all beautifully shot in the Dominican Republic.

The swell of emotion you feel when Crockett and cocaine queen Isabella (Gong) race off to Cuba for cocktails (the former, we learn, is a “fiend for mojitos”) may not stem from realization of their inevitably doomed romance but the breath taking long shot of their boat jetting across the dizzyingly blue expanse; it’s the way the camera pulls out just as Patti LaBelle’s voice hits all the high notes in the background.

Looks aside, for all of the film’s style, Mann seems unable to control its substance, instead attempting to squeeze too much in two and a half hours. Mann obviously wants the film to be more impressive than the original series, and does as much as he can with what he’s been afforded – a considerable lot with an estimated $150 million budget. The accessories Mann uses to illustrate the action only complicate it. Somewhere between the audience’s first glimpse of the duo’s topless black Spider and a trip to Ciudad del Este with assault weapons packed in the luggage, the viewer gets lost. How many rounds of drug deals are they going through? What do white supremacists have to do with Barranquilla, Colombia? And when will the cover of “In the Air Tonight” come up?

Understanding a big-budget summer movie shouldn’t be this difficult.

Humor in “Miami Vice” is unintentional, resulting from co-screenwriter Mann’s decision to sacrifice dialogue for unnecessary interjections of Audioslave. There’s barely enough Crockett-Tubbs interplay to assume the close buddy-buddy relationship associated with the detectives in the original series.

During the drug op’s preliminary negotiations with hotshot middleman Jose Y

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *