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Notes from the back row

Mann delivers darker Miami Vice



Being a cop is the easiest job out there. Well maybe not the easiest, but really, anyone who’s ever watched a movie knows how to do it – you enforce the law by breaking it. Works every time. Just ask Bruce Willis, or Will Smith. Or you could ask Colin Farrel and Jamie Foxx who play the legendary Crockett and Tubbs in Miami Vice opening this Friday at the Village 8.

We’ve seen plenty of action movies this summer and, for the most part, they’ve all been kiddy fare. Michael Mann ( Heat, Collateral) salvages the blockbuster season with an action film for adults. I’m talking sex, drugs, speedboats, blood, and more sex. And it’s about time if you ask me.

Mann, who was behind the original Miami Vice TV series of the late ’80s, doesn’t waste any time building up his characters or messing around with backstory. Right off the start he plunks the boys smack in the middle of a drug-fuelled Miami nightclub and has Tubbs break somebody’s fingers. Soon enough the duo is undercover, deep undercover, posing as drug runners to ferret out the culprits behind a special government sting op gone wrong.

Although many scenes take place in Columbia, Venezula and Cuba, Miami plays a big role and Mann and his cinematographer Dion Beebe are masters of making the city landscape come alive with unconventional angles, hand held cameras, and gritty grainy film. They are true masters of brooding atmosphere and it totally works in this film noir-ish take on the buddy cop flick. This isn’t Bad Boys 3.

While the story is a bit simple, and the dialogue gruff and direct (and realistic, I think) the overall effect is great. This is a cool film with fast boats, bloody deaths, steamy shower sex, and drug kingpins named Jesus (complete with beard). And, of course, the hot exotic femme fatale that has Crockett seriously considering giving it all up and sticking with the life of crime. Sure, it’s a bit long, the plot wanders, the chemistry isn’t totally there and sometimes you can’t really understand what people are saying but I think this confusion adds to the tension and drama. When you’re a true soldier in the war on drugs (un-winnable, by the way) the shit sometimes gets so serious you might not know exactly what’s going on, where you are, or who that is getting shot just over there. We’ve seen some lousy TV show adaptations lately. Michael Mann is making sure that while this Miami Vice is different from the originals, the spirit is still there, it’s just darker, harder, an doesn’t wear a pink jacket.

From cops to communists, or rather a subverted communist kids’ movie that shoves family values messages down our throats by way of philosophical ants in Ant Bully. Lucas is a lonely 10-year-old kid who tortures insects. So some ants toss a magic potion in his ear, shrink him down to bug size, and teach him a lesson about humanity and responsibility and not being a cocky little prick. Now, I like communist movies (ants are communists, even when they’re preaching about how everyone has a unique talent and is an individual they’re still only looking as far as the betterment of the whole colony) and there are some huge name actors doing the voices in Ant Bully, but I’m sick of animated movies. It’s one a week nowadays.

Plus this is produced by Tom Hanks and I can’t stand that guy. Go see Monster House instead. Or mess around with the cops – cause mischief and stuff, those guys are probably just itching to go undercover and blow some shit up.

AT VILLAGE 8 July 28-Aug. 3: Miami Vice; Ant Bully; John Tucker Must Die; Lady in the Water; Superman Returns; You, Me and Dupree; Clerks 2; Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Mans Chest.