Blu Ray Title: Miami Vice – Unrated Director’s Edition
Disk Release Date: August 26, 2008
Screen format: 1080P, 2.40:1 High Definition
First theatrical release: July 28, 2006
Previous releases on disk: DVD and HD DVD on December 5, 2006
Director: Michael Mann
Starring: Jamie Foxx, Colin Farrell, Gong Li, Naomie Harris, Ciaran Hinds, Justin Theroux, Barry Shabaka Henry, Luis Tosar
Sound Formats: English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1, French DTS 5.1
Length: 2 Hours 20 Minutes
Subtitles: English, Spanish, French
Note: Some content from this review is repurposed from my review of the previous HD DVD.
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 love interest. 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.
Sound Quality: 5/5
Moving from HD DVD to BluRay nets a significantly improved audio track, swapping to uncompressed DTS Master Audio from Dolby Digital Plus. In the brief time I have had to A/B the two I note that the difference is dramatic, especially in the low end frequencies, the bass has a much more solid punch. There is a bit of a switch in the dialogue positioning, resulting in some conversations that require concentration to follow, but this is not a major issue.
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 then 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 great throughout now, and the opening scene where listeners creep up on the go fast boats from below the ocean is a memorable LFE event that stands out, as does the trailer explosion about ¾ through the film, the rumble in that scene is among the best I’ve ever experienced in my theater. Mann is known for his epic gun battles and the final battle scene here does not disappoint. Gun fire rages with directional content whizzing in and out of all corners. There are also a few 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. One disappointment those who buy the soundtrack to the film note is that there are two awesome Audioslave tracks from the album, "Revelations" that do not make the cut on that disk. “The Shape of Things to Come" and "Wide Awake" sound amazing on the BluRay and are standouts within the film.
Visual Quality: 4/5
Miami Vice overall is not a pretty movie, but I found this BD transfer more pleasing than I remember the theatrical release being and a few A/B looks with the HD DVD show it to be identical, tho for some reason it looks better this time around than I gave it credit for in my previous review.
The film has 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 and often better than the theatrical experience. As noted above this style 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 fantastic, however the dark nature of the film itself makes this hard to pick up on. Edge Enhancement was never notable in my viewing, tho I did see some ringing on faces in a few scenes (check out Tubbs in his apartment around track 5-6) that I believe is a lighting carryover and not a digital issue, and this is identical to what is seen on the HD DVD.
Extra Features: 3.5/5
MV was one of the first movies to really exploit the U-Control concept on HD DVD and few disks ever used it as well. That experience is lifted wholesale and incorporated nearly identically on this BD. 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. As just about each chapter has every U-Control feature available, using that method to get to that content is not really viable, and one has no idea what the individual sequences within each chapter will deal with from the menu. Those wanting the ‘full’ experience are thus required to watch the movie multiple times to soak it all in. If that’s your bag, go nuts, but it really doesn’t hit the mark for me, no matter how slick the interface is.
On the HD DVD’s DVD flip side were two decent making of segments, and these have been included on this BD along with even more content than that disk had. ‘Miami Vice Undercover’ 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. ‘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. New features include looks at the gun training, the ‘Mojo’ racing sequence, and a look at how the Haitian set was blocked out.
There is also a full commentary track available, tho it seems I failed to mention that on my HDDVD review.
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 (although the Audioslave choices are excellent), and absolutely nailing the gritty feel that Mann has made his signature. The soundtrack gets a huge upgrade in the move to Blu and video quality is identical to the well done HD DVD. The pack of extras gets a full carryover, including the U-Control content and a few new tidbits as well. Overall it’s right there in the just above average range, but for fans of the film this is a worthy double dip upgrade.