Miami Vice [1984]

Bearing absolutely no resemblance to the 1980s TV series that helped to propel Michael Mann into big-time filmmaking, Miami Vice is the kind of serious, and seriously stylish, crime drama that Mann does better than anyone else. As written by Mann himself, this undercover sting thriller doesn't reach the peak intensity of Mann's 1995 classic Heat, and it lacks the tight, nail-biting suspense of Collateral, but that doesn't mean it doesn't occasionally pack a wallop. As Miami detectives Sonny Crockett and Ricardo Tubbs (respectively), Colin Farrell and Jamie Foxx don't have to do much but mumble their plot-thickening dialogue and look ultra-cool in the casual cop attire, and their partnership is rather lifeless on screen (perhaps owing to the fact that this was a troubled production, with an actual shooting that occurred during filming, and Foxx's refusal to risk his life on dangerous locations in South America). But once Mann shifts into high gear with a plot to foil a powerful drug kingpin (Luis Tosar) and his ruthless middle-man (John Ortiz), Vice pays off with the kind of smart, realistic action that Mann's fans have come to expect. With Chinese superstar Gong Li as Crockett's love interest on the wrong side of the law, Miami Vice covers territory that's a little too familiar, and one suspects Mann's screenplay might've been punched up with a polish or two. Still, this is an above-average crime thriller that demands and rewards close attention, with a climactic shoot-out that's pure Mann, worthy of the brooding drama that precedes it. --Jeff Shannon

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