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Miami Vice (2006): Unrated Director's Cut

Michael Mann's 2006 film version of the popular 1980s TV series Miami Vice ruthlessly sheds all of the source material's cheesier, fashion-oriented trappings in favor of the brooding, intense style Mann used in the films Thief (1981), Manhunter (1986) and the epic Heat (1995). While the series' fans may feel cheated by Mann's revision of the central characters, the resulting movie is, in many respects, a tour-de-force crime drama. Colin Ferrell and Jamie Foxx star as undercover Miami P.D. vice cops Sonny Crockett and Rico Tubbs, who are recruited by the FBI to dig out the source of an internal leak that lead to the deaths of two federal agents and an informant at the hands of drug-muleing neo-Nazis. Posing as experts in the transportation of contraband, Crockett and Tubbs quickly infiltrate beyond the FBI's mid-level target and take aim at a ring of globalization-savvy uber-smugglers operating out of South America, led by the inscrutable mastermind Arcángel de Jesús Montoya (Luis Tosar) and his shrewd operations manager Isabella (Gong Li). As Crockett and Tubbs speed from Miami to Haiti to Paraguay to Havana and back in pursuit of their prey, Crockett's emergent relationship with Isabelle challenges his approach to his work. Written by Mann, Miami Vice is, plot-wise, indistinguishable from thousands of straight-to-video thrillers. What Mann brings, however, is an exquisitely cultured taste for the nuts and bolts of the criminal practice coupled with a relentlessly probing interest in the psychology of police work. He's also adept at capturing the energy of high performance vehicles, and the film features several entrancingly fetishistic montages of Ferraris, race boats, and cutting edge performance jets. The Tom Clancy-like level of detail in the movie's depiction of smuggling and other illicit activities is bracingly presented without condescension, giving the audience a fly-on-the-wall perspective that never dumbs down, and when the movie breaks into spasms of action, Mann proves his expertise in executing violence with maximum impact while maintaining an uncynical moral perspective. While too many movies based on nostalgically recalled TV series default to ironic self-mockery, Mann possibly goes too far in the opposite direction, and makes substantive changes to his main characters that will send Miami Vice purists scrambling to reconcile the internal continuity. In substituting the dour (but ridiculously mulleted) Farrell for the glib smarminess of Don Johnson's Crockett, and with former comedian Foxx holding his new rep as a dramatic actor in a death grip, Mann's pensive movie simply aches for a little levity.

Universal's "Unrated Director's Cut" release of Miami Vice not only features additional material not seen on the big screen, but it also removes and rearranges a little bit here and there. While none of the changes are substantial, the addition of a four-minute boat race to open the film helps ease the viewer into the story, which began too abruptly in the earlier version. As well as some shifted music cues, there is also a bit more character development in this re-edit, and as one of Mann's strong suits, it's welcome but hardly transformative in an already strong film. The feature is presented in a solid anamorphic transfer (2.40:1) with Dolby Digital 5.1 audio. Extras include a commentary by Mann, plus the featurettes "Miami Vice Undercover," "Miami & Beyond: Shooting on Location," "Visualizing Miami Vice," and 10 minutes of behind-the-scenes coverage. Trailer, keep-case.
—Gregory P. Dorr

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