July 20, 2006


MIAMI VICE posterIt's definitely not as bad as I thought it would be. I'm talking, of course, about Michael Mann's MIAMI VICE remake which stars the odd trio of Jamie Foxx, Colin Farrell and Gong Li. The shoot was troubled, Colin was hiding gallons of hard liquor in his stomach and also possibly mountains of narcotics in his nose, Gong Li looked silly in the photos and plus, come on, it's MIAMI VICE.

But I'll tell you a secret.

I love MIAMI VICE. A lot. When I was growing up it was the coolest thing I'd ever seen - its heavy MTV playlist rotation, its scalding neon, its kewl attitude...it blew my eyelids right off. I remember in the third or so season there was an episode where Sonny was busting up a snuff film ring and then he found out that the girl who was set to be the star victim in the next movie was doing it voluntarily because she had a terminal illness and wanted to send the money back to her family. Frustrated, Sonny broke up the producer's house with a baseball bat and then stalked off down a dark, neon-smeared alley, sunk in a funk of moral relativity. This blew my young mind. How could something this good be on television?

And it had cool music. And no one had socks. And, in a world of pretty television people, Edward James Olmos' crater face was downright shocking, and to an acne-smeared teenager it was a warning: your skin really could get that bad for the rest of your life if you picked at it. This was heavy stuff.

So here comes Michael Mann's MIAMI VICE feature film and it's such a completely faithful remake of the TV show that it's a failure as a movie. The whole two hour and twenty minute movie feels like Episode Three in Season Two of a great new VICE revamp. Unfortunately, that makes it a weak movie. Jamie Foxx might be good, but I couldn't tell because like the TV show, Tubbs is second fiddle. Maybe third. Colin Farrell does a spot-on Don Johnson imitation and his hair looks like Johnson's signature 'do if it had run away off his head, spent some time living off the grid in a jungle, and then come back years later looking like sasquatch.

Gong LiAnd Gong Li? She's fine - she fits in perfectly with the rogue's gallery of able supporting actors. She looks good, and with her make-up scraped off she looks younger than she's looked in a while. Her Spanish sounds great, but her English gets a little stiff at times. And apparently one of the woes of being an international drug lord is that you can't buy clothes that fit. In one scene you see her bra and it's cutting into her back like a razor blade going through a marshmallow. And in a lot of the scenes she's obviously wearing a girdle and there's the occasional skirt that won't zip up all the way. But, you know, the wages of sin, I guess. Later, after she's been liberated by Sonny's love she's allowed to wear some more casual, loosely-fitting outfits but by that point she and Colin are cooing to each other in sexy talk which is kind of tough to take.

Gong Li and Colin FarrellNow, Gong Li can dance, which surprised me, but she still can't add a lick of dignity or feeling to a scene where she does Colin Farrell in the back of an SUV and then gazes into his eyes and purrs, "Hola, chico." And her tough woman dialogue ("I know where to find the best mojito.") sounds like the worst TV writing ever. But as long as the movie lets her be a middle-aged, single, Hong Kong investment banker type who's into money and maybe some mullet action, she turns in some good work.

MIAMI VICE always had great guest stars, and Gong Li joins the ranks of Wesley Snipes, Willie Nelson and Julia Roberts in MIAMI VICE's great guest stars gallery and she acquits herself just fine. But overall this flick is hurting for three reasons: 1) no story, 2) no sense of humor, 3) no theme song. I expected to hear the good o'l MIAMI VICE theme song blaring out like there was no tomorrow, at least once. But nope, never happened. You do get "In the Air Tonight" over the closing credits but otherwise: no pop hits + no theme song + no awesome clothes = no fun.

July 20, 2006 at 10:18 AM in Film Reviews | Permalink


"Hola Chico" Hello Little? LMAO!!

Posted by: kaelly | Jul 20, 2006 5:15:26 PM

man gong li is sell-out asian trash for doing that b.s. scene with colin in the movie. all asians should simply turn down stereotypical negative roles for hollywood, PERIOD.

Posted by: k | Jul 20, 2006 10:00:35 PM

Gong Li is playing a Cuban Chinese. I don't know too many American movies that have Asian actors playing inhabitants of Hispanic countries.

So how does that make her a "sell-out Asian trash"? Just cause she has a love scene with a white man?

Posted by: the running man | Jul 20, 2006 11:01:31 PM

No, because she's doing the stereotypical thing of playing a 'bad' guy. I'd like a movie where the odd asian fella or lady starts out as a good guy :P

It's all stereotyping: Asians / Hispanic types as drugdealers, the white cop as hero, and the black cop as sidekick. That's not to say it's not enjoyable, but still terribly 80's ;)

Posted by: Sjekster | Jul 21, 2006 1:40:50 AM

"No, because she's doing the stereotypical thing of playing a 'bad' guy. I'd like a movie where the odd asian fella or lady starts out as a good guy :P"

Simply playing the role of a "bad guy" does not equal automatic stereotype. One can still play a "good guy" and still have that role be a stereotype.

It all depends on the role itself and none of what I read so far equals that. Like I said, she is playing a Cuban Chinese. Not a type of any kind of role that I have seen for an Asian ever. Especially in Hollywood.

Posted by: the running man | Jul 21, 2006 8:23:10 AM

who gives a fuk about her playing a cuban chinese. ooooh instead of me luv you love time and sucky sucky now its replaces with holla chico? wtf is that ..bottom line is this hollywood is RACIST period. when chow yun fat doesnt even get a kiss from mira sorvino in replacement you know the system is fuked up and fuk you if you think any different

Posted by: g | Jul 21, 2006 3:53:37 PM

First of all, if you are gonna curse sir, at least spell the curse correctly.

Also, you haven't seen the film, neither have I. The only thing you know that she has a love scene with a white man which you are spinning into "sucky sucky now". Sounds to me that you are the one holding the prejudice.

And comparing this film to Replacement Killers, which was made years ago by a completely different team of film makers, is ludicrous.

Posted by: the running man | Jul 21, 2006 6:14:01 PM

You're right, we haven't seen it, but you can't blame us for being sceptical, with Hollywood's trackrecord in mind. And I kinda agree that it doesn't make it any different if the role would be cuban, chinese, or both. Almost every race that isn't white gets a stereotypical treatment, at least in these blockbuster type films. But we'll have to wait and see, I agree..

Posted by: Sjekster | Jul 22, 2006 10:49:27 AM

Hahaha, it's a Miami Vice movie and who's worrying about stereotyping? Yes, this film MUST make a stand against...? It's Miami Vice for Tubb's sakes!

Btw, it's no worse than the 'white face' always being the bad guy in Asian film. Good Lord, they don't even find decent actors, or try to make their costumes fit. When was the last time you saw an Asian leading man kissing a white girl in an Asian film?

I'll volunteer to lay one on that leading man as long as I don't have to say 'Hello little'. :) Someone's GOT to be a pioneer and sacrifice to end this interracial taboo'ing!

Should I feel sorry for Gong Li!? Okay, maybe. Cause it's Colin Farrell and he's kind of 'yuck' in that he might be septic, or belch in your mouth. Augh! Poor Gong Li.

Posted by: Screaming Mimi | Jul 23, 2006 11:28:17 AM

Why are you so negative about Gong Li?

Posted by: jnani | Jul 24, 2006 11:25:48 AM

Gong Li is one of the world's greatest actresses! She outclasses Julia Roberts and those others you mentioned--just watch some of her Chinese movies. This movie looks like it's going to be fun. Who cares if she gets with Colin F. in the back of an SUV? Trust me, she is very high on herself and would never sell out. She does what she wants, and it is obvious she wanted the role. As for Replacement Killers, who wouldn't want to kiss Chow Yun Fat? It was refreshing though, that there was no loving. Maybe that was the point? All of those movies usually end with some loving. No kiss = something a little newer.

Posted by: nena | Jul 27, 2006 11:19:57 AM

I hope this performance does not typecast Gong Li. American audiences are now familiar with her work in two big-release films--as a villainness. AN ACTRESS OF HER CALIBER DESERVES BETTER ROLES!

Posted by: moviegirl | Jul 27, 2006 1:37:06 PM

Hey, can anyone tell me who teh "leak" was inside the FBI? I totally missed that; and I thought that was the point of their whole undercover operation.

Posted by: Rick | Jul 30, 2006 12:04:57 PM

"As for Replacement Killers...Maybe that was the point...No kiss = something a little newer."

Nena, I hope you dont really believe that. Something a little newer would be having the Asian male lead kissing/getting the non-Asian female. Now that would be something we dont see in Hollywood.

Btw Grady, http://angryasianman.com/angry.html referenced your little review. Someone on the site (not anyasianman) thinks your review for this movie couldn't be more off-base.

Posted by: Buma | Jul 31, 2006 12:49:53 PM

Miami Vice rocks

I went to see Miami Vice the other night, I wanted to do it without reading anything or hearing anything from anybody, and I managed to do that.

I'll start out by saying Wow! Fantastic!

The opening sequences are the epitome of the Miami club scene, fantastic music as is always the case and Michael Mann's movies. I couldn't help moving with the beat.

Something you notice immediately about this movie is the manner in which its shot, lots of tight close frames that actually give something of a closed in feel, this works well in these opening sequences where people are packed into this club, immediately you get the sense of being in the crowd, a rather confusing mass of arms and bodies and faces. Somehow this is indicative of Miami. It's a technique which sets up a pattern throughout much of the rest of the movie. It seems as if the steady cam is turned off much of the time, as if you were actually walking or moving your head in the scenes. Quite daring I think.

The opening action sequences are confusing from the audience's perspective you've just stepped into Crockett and Tubbs's life in the middle of some kind of operation. No set up whatsoever. This doesn't much matter since you're being given so much to look at, you hardly notice you don't have any idea what's going on initially.

Immediately we move to a speeding car flying underneath the yellow orange sodium lights which dominate the highways overpasses and flyovers of Miami. From there to a shot of the Miami skyline taken from the top of one of a downtown building, the sodium lights stretching to the horizon. Somehow this Miami is a more accurately portrayed than any I've seen in any movie to date. It's only at this point do we get an idea of what's happening in the storyline.

I should say spoiler alert, but I don't think anything I tell you about what happens in the story could spoil this movie. So read on if you dare.

We move to a shot of a drug deal gone bad, which is something of an understatement. Be warned the violence in this movie is brutal and vicious. The exchange of gunfire in this scene is the type of thing you might see in Iraq right now. 50 caliber sniper rifles opening up on a vehicle, and the frighteningly realistic effects of those projectiles on that vehicle and the people inside, shockingly depicted in painfully slow motion.

From there we go to a roadside scene under the sodium lights again where we get to see something that only Florida State Troopers and traffic cops usually run across. The money shot is only a few seconds, but it is sickeningly realistic as well.

It's obvious that this movie was shot during the summer, the moisture in the air distorting the lights into a kind of diffuse halo so familiar to anyone who's lived here. In the summertime Miami is about as tropical as cities get in the US. This is in contrast to the night shots in Michael Mann's last movie Collateral, where the lights are crystal clear in the dry air of LA.

We are only 10 minutes into the movie, and we've already seen more action than you would normally see in the first 30 minutes of your standard action flick. It's a good thing you only get small doses because it's very intense.

Although Miami is a virtually flat city with no geographic elevation changes, between the high-rise shots, the elevated highway shots, and a downtown rooftop parking garage shot, the cinematographer has given us multiple perspectives of the same area, providing a relieving counterpoint to the earlier tight shot technique, setting up another visual theme throughout the movie, multiple perspectives of all the locations and action. This method moves you from being an observer from a distance, to intimately involved in the moment.

At this point I think I began to realize that the dialogue was less important than the shots of people's faces. They were telling the story while the dialogue just filled in some of the gaps.

Again we are immediately transported to the site of a bust, once again closing in the camera work to tight shots which create the feeling of confusion once again. You find yourself on the ground as if you were the perp being cuffed. At this point I heard the Haitian Creole phrase "ferme bouche" (shut your mouth) something one of my friends says to me often. It's rather rude, the kind of thing that either makes someone smile, or makes them angry, depending on where it's coming from. Nice bit of realism.

Next we are given a Florida morning shot from a condo on the beach, hazy and undefined, it's hard to tell exactly where the clouds and sky end and the water begins.

Naomi Harris, the British actress from 28 Days Later plays Trudy in this movie. She's hot and she can act. We see her in a shower scene with Jamie Foxx using the same tight shots once again. Nice to see people bodies depicted as they really are in these situations. The shots are intimate without being graphic or vulgar in any way. The bodies of the actors are not objectified just shown. Between the city night shots and these scenes you begin getting a sensation of heat that seems to build throughout the movie. Heat is a big part of the life down here, and it seems to affect everything, people's sexuality not the least. A level of warmth is also reflected in the actors emotional behavior in this scene giving you an idea of their relationship.

Next we find ourselves in South America, an entirely different place, but the heat keeps building. Multiple images cross over each other and blend together transporting you along without anything being said. If you look here you'll notice another continuing theme throughout the movie, shots of people's hands moving through the shadows blurring and swinging out of frame drawing your eyes but reminding you that things are happening outside of the shot that you can't see.

Next you see Ricardo on a Lear jet, and we are transported to Haiti. Stitched together power lines over narrow streets and old small buildings from the 40s and 50s, peeling paint and pastel colors with a kind of fluorescent Caribbean twist. Here we get to see Crockett and Tubbs do their undercover thing, revealing themselves to be just as crazy as the people they go after. Some of that famous attitude that these characters had in the old show is touched upon.

This isn't a remake of Miami Vice, its Miami Vice with the volume turned all the way up to 2006. I think this was the show that Michael Mann wanted to make all along. Maybe we're just now getting to see it.

In one of the first scenes, with Li Gong (Isabella) we see close-ups of people's hands again, so close you can see the imperfections in her manicure. Looks and glances are saying things well beyond the surface dialogue, and none of it is obvious or overly contrived.

Once again we are off, this time on some of the most advanced civilian turboprop aircraft available today skating through the kind of rugged vertical greenery you'll only find on mountainous Caribbean islands like Hispaniola, beautiful aviation footage.

The locations change so fast it's hard to keep track, next we are in the Overtown part of Miami with another kind of aging architecture, the kind that's disappearing all over South Florida except in those depressed areas where no one has an interest in rebuilding. From there to a high dollar modern home on the water in the old Florida style, manicured grounds contrasted with wild mangrove on an island nearby.

Soon Crockett takes off with Isabella for Cuba. This reminded me of when my mother was young, and everyone who lived or came to Miami would always go to Cuba. As in the movie, with a fast boat on a calm day you could hit the northern coast of Cuba in an hour from Key West. If it weren't for Castro, everyone would go there on the weekends still.

Again you can feel the heat, heat permeates this movie. And the sexuality which comes between the male and female characters seems to follow as a natural result of that heat. This is the Caribbean and the Florida that I know. The camera work which felt so closed in during the action shots effectively pulls you into these scenes between the men and women making you almost a part of the intimacy.

There is a second shower scene, this time with Crockett and Isabella, sunlight filtering in revealing them selectively. Dark hair matted across Li Gong's wet skin glowing in the warm sun, so close you can almost feel her.

The Digital filmmaking used in this movie seems to reveal a depth and quality of detail different from film. The texture of skin and the subtleties of sweat on a brow are somehow different and new in this film. Some of the shots even have grainy quality, but this distortion seems to add to the realism of those images somehow.

Late in the movie we get to see some of those familiar blue under bridges and elsewhere perhaps paying homage to what was so common to the Miami Vice TV show.

Michael Mann does violence the way no one else seems able to capture, all in your face. It's rather unappealing much like real violence, just rather awful and final.

Once one of their own gets injured Crockett takes it personal and we get to see the danger inherent in his personality. Much like the original show, Tubbs doesn't have a lot of lines, but Jamie doesn't seem to need them to make his presence felt. He's always there to back up his partners, no-frills or hype or funny lines, just business.

As the music is queued up at the culmination of almost every dramatic scene we are again given shots of hands, gripping the edge of a doorway, removing an explosive device, holding the phone, tapping a keyboard, limp on the ground after an explosion. It's a subtle and effective dramatic device throughout the movie.

We see the aftermath of violence as the cops wait in the hospital to see if one of their friends is going to make it. The last shot in the ICU is Tubbs's hand holding on to Trudy.

I'm not sure if this is an art film masquerading as entertainment or an action flick masquerading as an art film, but I am sure that Michael Mann has woven something together which is a work of art, and more entertaining than most movies that try much harder to entertain. Like good writers and storytellers always do, Mann gives just what is needed to tell the story, and discards the rest. This movie is all meat, no side dishes

In the final showdown, Mann proves once again that he is the undisputed master of the firefight. The audio recording of the gunfire is nothing less than a masterwork. The actors were obviously using full loads or better judging by the sound and muzzle flashes. When experts go to work with automatic weapons people get perforated by gunfire, it isn't pretty or glorious just deadly. When Jamie Foxx opens up with his shotgun, just like the old Tubbs once did, the 12 gauge does the talking and the people who hear it don't hear anything else again. Lots of cheers and clapping from the crowd in the movie theater when the bad guys go down in this scene, very satisfying.

There's also something of a sniper shoot out which emphasizes the importance of getting the first shot in, as opposed to the size or effectiveness of your weapon.

All in all a stupendous flick which proves that a great action flick can also be a well told story. It's the kind of movie I'll watch again and again soaking up all the visual imagery with delight.

I like it so much I think I'm going to have to write a real review, wait a minute I think I just did that.

If you appreciate real movies, quality entertainment and superior artistry in cinematography, do yourself a favor and go see it. You won't be disappointed.

I predict many awards for this film, and Oscar nominations for best picture, best director and cinematography.

Posted by: Aaron | Aug 1, 2006 7:57:24 AM

yo, i agree with aaron. the writing was utterly bad at times, but in this rare case, the cinematography redeemed the film entirely. every scene transports the viewer immediately to the moment: you felt the spray of the jets on your face, the sticky balmy air, the hurricane electricity of the evenings. it was superbly shot and that is enough to make it one of this year's best.

Posted by: katherine | Aug 9, 2006 3:33:06 PM

Sorry, did you say that her spanish sounds great???. I asume you can't speak spanish then. Her spanish was lame... and by the way, not a drop of cuban accent. She definetly can't speak spanish and she learnt the lines by heart. I guess she's doing the directors to get their parts... first as Japanese and now as Cuban.
This movie has some good stuff, as Aaron managed to resume in 5000 words (thanks, Aaron), but also some crappy stuff:
- That woman can't speak spanish (I know you don't care if you can't understand her 3 lines in spanish), but I do... Damm, she even translates to the big narco dude what "plomo" means
- About half of the movie has a piano background music totally out of place.
- Aaron, how can you say that the shower scene with Li was good? on a shot you can see her shoulder (or her armpit?) in first plane convering the whole screen for like 5 seconds... if you want porn, buy a Hustler movie.

Posted by: spanish-speaking guy | Aug 20, 2006 4:47:07 AM

Every fucking asian knows that the only roles asian actresses gets are whores, mistresses, sluts etc.
Dont post shit if u dont know shit.

By the way has anyone checked what comments people put on www.bastardly.com regarding gong li in miami vice?

Posted by: tom | Aug 20, 2006 6:41:03 AM

I love the sex scene ...

Posted by: Gong Li | Aug 22, 2006 8:05:29 AM

Her boobs are really juicy ...

Posted by: Bruce Lee | Aug 22, 2006 8:08:29 AM

i like to introduce a fan site of gong li with a lot of Pictures,Galleries,Movies,Videos,Wallpapers.


Posted by: kabuer | Jan 16, 2007 11:19:43 AM

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