- The Washington Times - Thursday, July 27, 2006

There are no pastel shirts, pink flamingos or girls in bikinis in the movie version of “Miami Vice” — but there are plenty of fast cars, expensive suits and brooding looks.

The movie is darker — and deeper — than the NBC television show that ran from 1984 to 1989. Michael Mann was the show’s executive producer. As writer and director of the film, he has replaced the sun and pastels with dark nightclubs and shades of gray — in both color and morals.

Colin Farrell is Detective Sonny Crockett (Don Johnson in the TV series), and Jamie Foxx is his partner, Detective Ricardo Tubbs (Philip Michael Thomas’ role). They’re undercover cops in Miami-Dade’s vice squad. After one of the department’s cases goes terribly wrong, they step in, confident they can clean it up. It involves white supremacists and Miami dealers (such as a menacing John Ortiz as drug middleman Jose Yero), but at its core is Colombian drug lord Arcangel de Jesus Montoya (a suitably rich and powerful-looking Luis Tosar).

Crockett and Tubbs go deep, traveling to Haiti and Colombia as high-level transporters, daredevils who move drugs. It’s a dangerous game, of course, but it becomes even more risky when Crockett gets involved with Montoya’s business partner — and mistress — Isabella.

Complicated plot twists and turns combined with a stylized underworld lingo make the film a bit confusing at times.

But we’re not really there for the narrative, are we?

The original series was, above all, a visual feast about pleasure-seeking people. The movie might be a bit more serious, but it has plenty of flash of the type for which “Heat” and “Collateral” director Mann is known.

The second scene of the film, for example, is a high-speed car chase between an informant’s Bentley and Crockett and Tubbs’ Ferrari 430 Spider — with a helicopter thrown in for good measure.

Mr. Mann doesn’t overdo it, however. There are some cheesy shots of the two cool cops walking together, as in the very ‘80s show, but these are few and far between. Even the violence is kept to a surprising minimum. When it does erupt, it’s intense. (Mr. Mann loves the sound of gunfire, which he makes sound almost sensual.)

So are the few sex scenes. They’re not explicit, but intimate. Mr. Mann wants to show us everything of these men’s lives. They work and play with the same fervor.

Much of this is shown in close-ups. Mr. Farrell, Mr. Foxx and the rest of the international cast reveal much just in their looks. (This is achieved despite the shaky cam of which Mr. Mann is a little too fond.)

Yet it is the female cast members who make the film something better than your typical big-budget action movie. They are not mere love interests. Naomie Harris (“Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest”) is Tubbs’ girl Trudy and a smart intel analyst. Elizabeth Rodriguez plays Detective Gina Callabrese, a tough cookie who gets one of the best lines in the film.

Gong Li (“Memoirs of a Geisha”) as Isabella holds the film together. She’s independent but is caught up in a world especially dangerous for women. Crockett assumes she’s married to Montoya. She gruffly retorts, “I am a businesswoman. I do not need a husband to have a house to live in.”

Things no longer look as sunny as they did in the 1980s, even in Miami. Who better to remind us of that than Michael Mann?

**1/2

TITLE: “Miami Vice”

RATING: R (Strong violence, language and some sexual content)

CREDITS: Written and directed by Michael Mann.

RUNNING TIME: 130 minutes

WEB SITE: www.miamivice.com

MAXIMUM RATING: FOUR STARS

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