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Miami Vice

August 4, 2010 Leave a comment

Being a film written & directed by Michael Mann (Public Enemies, The Insider, Ali) makes it an automatic watch for me with him being behind the camera of two of my favorite films (The Last of The Mohicans & Heat). His style of direction changed with his previous film Collateral which worked but my initial viewing of this 4 years ago when it was released did not work for me too much. He reused it again on last year’s film Public Enemies starring Christian Bale (Reign of Fire, The Machinist, The Prestige) & Johnny Depp (Benny & Joon, The Astronaut’s Wife, The Ninth Gate) and I liked how he handled it with that film and thought I’d give Miami Vice another chance. One thing I also remembered from my first viewing was that I thought the chemistry between the two leading actors was horrible and non-existent. Nonpoint’s cover of ‘In The Air Tonight’ was a plus though.

The opening scene gives us a small taste of the Miami nightlife but turns out to be rather pointless to the story other than showing us our main characters; Sonny Crockett, originally portrayed by Don Johnson on the 80s television series and now being played by Colin Farrell (American Outlaws, The New World, In Bruges). Ricardo Tubbs, originally portrayed by Philip Michael Thomas and now being played Jamie Foxx (Bait, Any Given Sunday, The Soloist) in his second film with director Michael Mann after starring in 2004’s Collateral with Tom Cruise (Tropic Thunder) & Jada Pinkett-Smith (Reign Over Me). We also get introduced to their team; Naomie Harris (28 Days Later…, Pirates of The Caribbean: At World’s End, Ninja Assassin) as Trudy Joplin, love interest to Rico as well as being on the team. Justin Theroux (Zoolander, Mulholland Dr., American Pyscho) who recently turned into screenwriting and has two films under his belt (Tropic Thunder & Iron Man 2) as Larry Zito. Elizabeth Rodriguez (Blow, Dead Presidents) as Gina Calabrese who has possibly the best line in the movie when face to face with a hostage taker. The team is closed up by Domenick Lombardozzi (Find Me Guilty, Phone BoothS.W.A.T.) as Stan Switek who would later star in another Michael Mann film, Public Enemies.

But then the scene is interrupted by the actual story of the film when he receives a frantic phone call from a former informant, Alonzo Stevens, played by John Hawkes (American Gangster, Identity, The Perfect Storm). Tubbs joins Sonny outside and they begin their case first calling the FBI and getting in contact with Agent Fujima, played by Ciaran Hinds (The Phantom of The Opera (2004), Margot at The Wedding, Munich) and fear that his men’s cover, currently in the process of making a deal, have been blown. Tubbs tries calling Lucianna, Alonzo’s wife, with no luck and we get a scene of a tattoo-covered man looking through the fridge.

We are then given our first action scene with the undercover agents completing the process of the deal but come to the realization that their cover is blown when dealer in charge asks “How long have you been working for the FBI?”. Their escape is stopped quickly as two hidden snipers obliterate them and their SUV in a rather sweet looking visual.

Sonny & Tubbs meet with their superior, played by Barry Shabaka (Four Brothers, Rush Hour) in his third Michael Mann film, & Agent Fujima where they become tasked with the undercover operation to infiltrate and bring down the Aryan Brotherhood, led by Jesus Montaya (Luis Tosar). The FBI can no longer trust any agency currently involved on the case and therefore they enlist Miami Vice and Sonny & Tubbs are temporarily deputized as FBI agents. They quickly begin by getting in contact with an old informant to set up a meeting with the cartel and they get their new identities created. This is when we also come to find the romantic relationship between Tubbs & Trudy.

We get a pretty intense change of words when Sonny & Tubbs meet with Yero (John Ortiz; American Gangster, Fast & Furious, Pride and Glory) who ends up, unknowingly to Sonny & Tubbs at first, not being the head of the cartel but the leader’s counter intelligence here to make sure of the two “drug dealers”. The banker for the cartel is present as well, Isabella (Gong Li; Hannibal Rising). After hours of waiting they finally are taken to meet Jesus Montaya and come to find they are very hi-tech as their cell phones are being jammed at the place of meet. Montaya agrees to use them as transporters but expects results and makes an indirect threat to their respectful families. Upon the cartel’s departure, Tubbs desperately tries to get a hold of Trudy and finally the jamming signal on his phone goes away. Quickly they find out that they are already being watched as flowers were successfully delivered to her, first assuming that Tubbs had sent her the flowers.

The movie runs rather slowly throughout and I still don’t feel the chemistry between our two leading characters and it kinda feels like they are in their own movies but on-screen at the same time. We get some scenes of distrust between the cartel and the stars of the movie to add tension and build-up to the final showdown. Along with a romantic development that spawns from a staring contest between Sonny & Isabella which of course will eventually bring us a scene in which her lover finds out. In this case it’s the leader of the Aryan Brotherhood and Yero shows him a video feed of the two together in a non-casual manner.

A rescue scene involving the Miami Vice team tracking down and retrieving Trudy sets us up for the final scene. This is when the best line in the movie comes to be and is spoken by Elizabeth Rodriguez’s character, Gina Calabrese.

“That’s not what happens. What will happen is… what will happen is I will put a round at twenty-seven hundred feet per second into the medulla at the base of your brain. And you will be dead from the neck down before your body knows it. Your finger won’t even twitch. Only you get dead. So tell me, sport, do you believe that?”

Queue Nonpoint’s cover of ‘In The Air Tonight’. The song, originally performed by Phil Collins, was featured prominently in the TV series. I really enjoy the sound during this final shootout since it’s realistic and doesn’t have the added booming sound effects you typically get in action movies. You actually feel like the other shooter is at a distance rather than next to your face. Which I’m not saying is a bad thing and I do enjoy it but I just liked that fact in this situation and it keeps along with how the rest of the movie is directed.

I enjoyed the film better with this second viewing and Michael Mann’s current style of directing looks pretty good on Blu-Ray. This style is one that I don’t think can be appreciated rightfully on a standard DVD viewing and probably hurt its appeal. Rating: 5/10

Colin Farrell & John Ortiz also appeared in the film Pride and Glory with Edward Norton (The Incredible Hulk) & Jon Voight (Anaconda)
John Ortiz & John Hawkes appeared in Ridley Scott’s (Kingdom of Heaven) American Gangster starring Denzel Washington (Glory) & Russell Crowe (Cinderella Man)

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Phone Booth

February 28, 2010 Leave a comment

A thriller starring Colin Farrell (Minority Report, Miami Vice) as Stu who answers a phone call from a phone booth, apparently the only working phone booth left in New York. The man on the other side who has taken control of Stu’s life is played by the actor I’ve renamed The Actor Formerly Known as Kiefer Sutherland (The Lost Boys, Dark City) after falling in love with his portrayal on the tv show ’24’ as Jack Bauer. Now I just call him Jack Bauer. Stu has two love interests in this movie played by Katie Holmes (Batman Begins, The Gift) & Radha Mitchell (Pitch Black, Man on Fire), the latter being his wife. The cop in charge is played by Forest Whitaker (Vantage Point, Panic Room) who always gives us a good performance, his role in this film is Captain Ed Ramey.

My roommate actually just walked by and said “Would you like to have Jack Bauer hold you hostage in a phone booth?”

The movie plays off the saying “a ringing phone has to be answered”. The movie starts off with a montage of people on their phones and a narrator telling us some facts and the importance of communication in our everyday lives. The movie itself  takes place in one location, a phone booth and its surroundings. Being in a phone booth for basically the entirety of the film gives us that claustrophobic feel and the fear of imprisonment with the tension building from an unseen enemy who has shown you what he is capable of and what he could possibly do to you.

The film is directed well by Joel Schumacher (8MM, A Time to Kill) who has an up & down resume. This movie is done in real-time from beginning to end and it does not last longer than needed. Schumacher does a good job of building the suspense scene after scene and it keeps you focused on how Stu handles each situation “the caller” gives him and what he’s going to do next. The only thing I didn’t care for or could have done without was the split screen showing us different angles of the current situation. Cool idea, but done wrong in this case.

Colin Farrell does a good job in this role which was originally intended for Jim Carrey. This movie made me like him as an actor after first seeing him in American Outlaws portraying Jesse James which was strictly just a fun guilty pleasure western. It’s worth a watch if you’re looking for a quick and short thriller that will keep you entertained in under an hour and a half. To me it didn’t even feel like it was an hour-long. Rating 7/10