Miami Vice (DVD)

The format of Miami Vice - pastel shades, designer gear, cops and shoot-outs, all set to a soft rock soundtrack - always suggested that it would suit the big screen. Now that Michael Mann, the man behind Heat and one of the original producers of the show, has unleashed his movie adaptation, its blockbuster potential is obvious.

Miami Vice DVDHowever, while it’s still very stylised - you won’t believe the number of conversations that take place on rooftops at sunset or on deserted beaches - Mann has added something very unexpected: grit. Miami Vice, the movie, is clearly not Miami Vice, the glossy series. This is harsh, in-your-face, seriously grim stuff. Quite how it sneaked under the wire of the 15 certificate is also a mystery. The first 20 minutes or so features a decapitated woman, a man walking under a truck and a shoot out that leaves some of the victims with big gaps where their arms should be.

There is still a hint of the 80s here, most notably in Colin Farrell’s hairstyle, but otherwise Mann has reinvented things dramatically. Where the series was slick but vacuous, the film requires concentration. This is not your common summer blockbuster or the anticipated dumb cop drama. This is a dark and involved thriller and one that demands you pay attention. Following the death of a one-time informer and with an apparent high-level security breach at the FBI putting a major drug operation at risk, Crockett (Farrell) and Tubbs (Foxx) are forced deep undercover to destroy a South American drugs operation. Passing themselves off as traffickers, they become increasingly embroiled in the ring, and find themselves moving closer to the king pin. The situation is intensified by Tubbs’ relationship with a fellow agent (Harris) and Crockett’s passionate - and very poorly timed - relationship with the drug cartel’s daughter, Isabella (Li).

The plot and the action unfold at different paces, meaning you’ll frequently have watched an event but have to wait for a snippet of dialogue - possibly some 15 minutes later - to have it explained. That’s a very bold move for a supposed multiplex pleaser and, while it takes some getting used to - not least due to the volume of the thing - it’s very satisfying not to have everything spoonfed for once. Mann’s unusual take on the franchise, his carefully designed composition and steadfast refusal to pander to the teenage crowd makes for an unusual experience. Action is kept to a minimum, which increases the impact of the violence when it does occur, and makes Miami Vice a decidedly “grown up” film.

EXTRAS * Just two making-of featurettes - Miami and Beyond: Shooting on location, and Miami Vice Undercover - and a music video from In The Air Tonight

Stuart O'Connor is the Managing Editor of Screenjabber, the movie review website he co-founded with Neil Davey far too many years ago. He likes all genres, as long as the film is good (although he does enjoy the occasional bad "guilty pleasure"), and drinks way too much coffee.

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