Miami Vice Michael Mann

In the age of studios milking classic and not-so-classic television shows for all their motion picture remake worth, the idea is nearing satire status. So far, comedies have been the only targets, likely because you can parody anything these days and get away with it.

Like Starsky & Hutch (which nobody seems to remember was actually a cop drama with an ounce of humour back in the ’70s), Miami Vice had oodles of potential to be a remade into a spoof. Let’s face it, the fashion (linen suits, pastels, no socks), the music (Jan Hammer synth-stravaganza) and the sexy co-leads with their cool last names were prime targets.

However, the executive producer of the television series, Michael Mann, has made a wise move in taking complete control (in accordance with creator Anthony Yerkovich) of this project and adding his distinct filmmaking flair to it. Meaning, this is as far from pastiche as it gets.

Set in modern day Miami, Sonny Crockett (Colin Farrell) and Ricardo Tubbs (Jamie Foxx) find themselves in deep with a drug trafficking ring when an informant of theirs is killed. Soon, they’re dealing with drug lord Jesus (Luis Tosar) and Isabella (Gong Li), whom, surprise, surprise, Crockett begins romancing (though as I remember, it was Tubbs who always flirted with Miss Danger on the TV). Over the course of the film, the duo fall deeper and deeper into the façade of smuggling and in the end, orchestrate one hell of a bloody shoot out.

While it’s immensely enjoyable and avoids falling into Heat’s trap of overstaying its welcome, Miami Vice isn’t without its problems. Somehow the movie works well but does so without using its superstar detectives. Sure, they’re front and centre for all the action but it feels like Mann was more interested in using his grainy and intricate camera work as the main attraction instead of two of the biggest names in buddy cop history.

Both Farrell and Foxx’s portrayals pale in comparison to Don Johnson and Phillip Michael Thomas’, largely because they aren’t given enough time to bond and demonstrate a strong relationship, but neither also have the obligatory casual cool or the right onscreen chemistry with the camera — a surprising thing to see from Foxx, who is usually electric. Also, the infrequent action is a little disappointing, and really, for someone who directed Heat and Collateral, this should have been upped.

But in all fairness, anyone who watched the original series will understand why the film tends to drag a little with its romantic subplot, plenty of undercover preparation and sometimes overwhelmingly intense drama, which eclipse the normal room for battle.

Essentially, Miami Vice needed to work more than any remake in the past because of its determination to be so straight, and overall it does the job well. While the thought of Crockett and Tubbs driving around in their ’80s vogue cracking jokes has some comical appeal, it’s nice to see someone actually putting effort into a project that strives to better the television program — which it actually does — instead of having a laugh for nostalgia’s sake. (Universal)