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Miami Vice

Gong Li, Jamie Foxx, Colin Farrell, and Ciarán Hinds star in a film written and directed by Michael Mann.

Reviewed by Gerald Carpenter

Despite the fact that this movie stars some of the most beautiful people in the world, and every glowing frame of it is sumptuously and exquisitely photographed, it remains a shallow, squalid fantasy of criminal violence. People shoot huge guns at each other, splattering blood, brains, and bone fragments on white or pastel walls, then hop in their “go-fast” boats and zip off to Havana for a drink and a romantic interlude.

Detective James “Sonny” Crockett (Colin Farrell) and Detective Ricardo Tubbs (Jamie Foxx) are the daydreams of a middle-aged man, with their perfect — and perfectly potent — bodies, their casual elegance, their encyclopedic knowledge of destructive hardware, criminal argot, and contraband distribution logistics, and above all, their complete absence of self-doubt. They are graceful and chivalrous, loyal and deadly — in short, fascist supermen, of a new, multicultural variety. The Force is with them.

It was wicked of Michael Mann to drop Gong Li into this gleaming, steaming heap of macho clichés. She is hypnotically beautiful, of course — like Sonny Crockett, we can’t take our eyes off her. And her character, the business manager and lover of a Colombian drug lord, is a preposterous fabrication, a screenwriter’s stratagem. But unlike all the other people involved with this film, Gong Li clearly has a past and an inner life — and what’s more, we are never going to know more of a tiny fraction of either. She almost makes Miami Vice worth seeing.

No such cops exist, not in Miami nor in any city on earth. No such criminals exist, either, although I am sure that actual drug smugglers and cartel mafiosi enjoy the picture of themselves as ruthless and omniscient. The reason there is so much violence, so much killing, involved with the drug trade is that billions of dollars are at stake. The reason billions are at stake is not just, or even mainly, that drugs like cocaine, heroin, and amphetamine are addictive. It is because they are illegal in the United States (where the vast majority of them are brought and sold). Decriminalize the drugs, and addiction becomes a much smaller, totally domestic problem — a matter for the healthcare system, not the criminal justice system. Sonny and Ricardo could go back to busting hookers.

At nearly two hours, Miami Vice feels too long. Cut out all the scenes of lyrical fake sex and you have a shorter, tighter picture.



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