Miami Vice – Unrated Director’s Cut (Combo)
HD DVD Title: Miami Vice – Unrated Director’s Cut
Screen format: 1080P 2.40:1
First theatrical release: July 28, 2006
Previously released on DVD/BluRay: Widescreen and Unrated Director’s Cut day 7 date with HD DVD
Director: Michael Mann
Starring: Jamie Foxx, Colin Farrell, Gong Li, Naomie Harris, Ciaran Hinds, Justin Theroux, Barry Shabaka Henry, Luis Tosar
Sound Formats: English Dolby Digital Plus 5.1
Length: 2 hours 20 minutes (DVD side is strangely listed as 2 Hours 13 minutes, which I assume means is not the director’s cut but I have not been able to confirm)
Subtitles: English, Spanish, French
Updating a TV show as a major motion picture is never easy, but fans of both the Miami Vice series and of Michael Mann’s gritty movies (particularly Heat) were hopeful that the two would be combined into something even more extraordinary than the sum of its parts. In this 2006 version, main characters Crockett and Tubbs (Colin Farrell and Jamie Foxx) have morphed from slick wisecracking vice detectives into serious, hardcore undercover operatives with James Bond-like skill sets. The glitz of Miami remains, as do the fast cars, boats and women, but the look and feel has gone considerably darker, more urban, and less vibrant. It’s an interesting combination, obviously one that was hard to get the balance right on, but the sacrifice of the fun, cheeky and overly bright and saturated vibe is notable.
By parlaying their abilities as ‘Go fast boat’ pilots into being hired as drug smugglers, Crocket and Tubbs attract the attention of major distributor Montoya (Luis Tosar) and his henchmen Yero (John Ortiz) and Isabella (Gong Li) who is also Montoya’s wife. Diving deep undercover to help the FBI bring justice for the murder of two agents, they must gain the confidence of the syndicate to help bring it down.
Crockett and Isabella charm each other, initiating an affair that is dangerous to both sides. Both groups test each others limits and loyalties through a complex series of cat and mouse set ups, double crosses, and confrontations. In the end the covers must be blown and the truth will come out.
While Mann deftly intertwined the grit of his movies with the excess of Miami, it’s what he has left out that leaves me with a feeling that Miami Vice never meets the greatness of either alone, let alone making a killer combination of the two. The film just never feels as fun as the series or as complex and dangerous as his other films. This isn’t to say that it’s a bad or a disappointment, it’s just that it is different from both, and that it might be helpful to judge it without so much comparison to the past.
I should also note that while this is listed as the director's cut, I had a hard time identifying any specific sequences which were different from the theatrical release I saw during the movie's first run. I also find it odd that the DVD side of this combo is listed as 7 minutes shorter. If the DVD side is a different cut that would be a first as far as I know and something we viewers should absolutely tell the studios we oppose. Either way, the director's cut didn't change my opinion on the film itself either way, which is also a first for me.
Sound Quality: 4/5
The sound stage is wide and enveloping both on the musical and effects fronts. In an early scene in a Miami disco the music surrounds the listener nicely but is dialed down to bring the viewer into the sharp focus Crockett is in. The final gun battle confrontation in particular rages across all channels, with satisfying bursts and ricochets surrounding the listener. Bass is consistently decent throughout, but there are very few memorable LFE events that stand out, even in the battle sequences. There are also long stretches between when interesting surround effects occur, however the strong soundtrack helps keep the viewer from being too bored.
The TV show Miami Vice is remembered as having great music and the movie continues that tradition, albeit on a darker more electronica inspired angle. The Phil Collins penned song ‘In The Air Tonight’ is remade by nu-metal band nonpoint, and Moby contributes a number of tracks. Perhaps the find of the album is ‘Auto Rock’ by Mogwai. Strangely the iconic Jan Hammer ‘Miami Vice theme’ is nowhere to be found. All sound fantastic and help the movie rise above its complex but somewhat uninspired plot.
Visual Quality: 4/5
Miami Vice overall is not a pretty movie. It features many nighttime and dark interior sequences, the theatrical prints showed much grain, and even the outdoor segments such as the opening boat race aren’t overly colorful or saturated. Viewers who have seen Heat or Collateral will be familiar with the style Mann is known for, and this HD DVD transfer captures much of the feel of this look, based on how I remember viewing it theatrically. Sharpness, grain and color are all consistent with the theatrical experience. Edge Enhancement was never notable in my viewing. As noted above this is in sharp contrast to the vibrant look of the TV series. Surely this will disappoint some fans but it is central to the feel that Mann was going for. Detail level on this transfer is great, however the dark nature of the film itself makes this hard to pick up on.
Extra Features: 3/5
MV is one of the first movies to really exploit the U-Control concept. Starting with the opening menu sequence viewers can now more readily take advantage of the interactive nature of HD DVD. U-Control allows viewers to view behind the scenes making of sequences overlaid on top of a scaled down version of the film which is running in the background. The effect is really slick, but it is a pain that these sequences still are not available from any menu choices and viewers have to watch the film multiple times to get through all of the content. Additional U-Control choices allow for static displays to come up showing info about the cast and crew, the locations of the action taking place on a GPS display, as well as tech specs about the boats, cars and planes. On the DVD side are two decent making of segments, ‘Miami Vice Undercover’ which features interviews with the consultants who worked on the film helping the cast learn about real undercover techniques, although their lame ‘punking’ of Colin Farrell takes up too much of it however. ‘Miami and Beyond’ looks at the location shooting, and in particular features how director Mann tries to integrate the locals into his shooting, even going so far as to film in live traffic unrelated to the movie itself. That’s it on the features however.
Overall: 3.5/5 (not an average)
In the end, for me Miami Vice just didn’t hit the high mark it was going for. Those longing for the vibe of the original series will not get it here and those looking for the intensity that Heat and Collateral brought will likewise feel that they didn’t completely get that either. On its own merits, Miami Vice is an average film that focuses too much on one half of what is supposed to be a team partnership, never really gripped me emotionally, and had a surprisingly flat ending. Where it did go right was in the exploring the dynamics of being deep undercover, having an impressive soundtrack featuring a genre of music I don’t have much exposure to, and absolutely nailing the gritty feel that Mann has made his signature. The soundtrack and video quality are in the good but not exceptional category, and the pack of extras leave a bit to be desired as well. Overall it’s right there in the 'just average' range.