Michael Mann, for myself, has always been an entertaining director. His commercial successes like Last of the Mohicans, Heat and Collateral are some of my favorite guilty-pleasure films that I can always enjoy. When Mann decided to make a feature film on the classic TV series Miami Vice, I immediately piqued interest in the film. I figured with Colin Farrell, Jamie Foxx acting and Michael Mann directing that Miami Vice would be a home run. In the end, Vice is more of a double that has a few faults which keep it from hitting a home run.
Some may instantly criticize me for this next sentence. Colin Farrell is a great actor. There I said it. I loved his performances in Phone Booth, Daredevil, Tigerland and yes, Alexander. He brought his own unique style to each performance adding a bit of quality to each of the said films. In Miami Vice though, Farrell as Detective James ï¿½Sonnyï¿½ Crockett failed on nearly all cylinders never convincing me of his performance. Even in scenes of action, Farrell and his partner Jamie Foxx as Detective Ricardo ï¿½Ricoï¿½ Tubbs tended to almost bore me causing myself to continuously look at the clock.
I will say that some of the action sequences, particularly the thrilling boat sequence, were great certainly causing this disc to be a fine disc for audiophiles out there. It was just that we had a great action sequence, then the next immediate sequence seemed out of place causing me to simply not care. Thatï¿½s probably the biggest reason Miami Vice fails in the manner it does. Mann never creates sequences that, ultimately after we turn off the film, we want to see again and again. Unlike his last film in Collateral (which was excellent throughout), Vice, despite carrying a hefty budget of $100 Million+, didnï¿½t seem to want to ever engage the audience.
Another problem, one even Director Mann mentions in the commentary track, is that the character of Isabella (Gong Li), instead of creating chemistry between her and Crockett, created a big bowl of nothing. One shouldnï¿½t be faulted for believing that as Crockett and Tubbs dwell deeper into the world of these drug dealers, that the accompanying film would become darker right? Such isnï¿½t the case here. Maybe I wasnï¿½t prepared for any sense of danger because none of the characters seemed like they would ever involve themselves in danger period.
Itï¿½s a sad truth when one of your favorite directors makes a bad film. Michael Mann kept hitting continuous home runs with films about subjects we love and characters we care about. Not to mention with action sequences (read the bank robbery in Heat) thatï¿½ll blow your socks off. The film version of Vice was so badly placed in fact that I told my friend I had received Miami Vice this week and he (knowing I had an HD DVD player) said ï¿½I didnï¿½t know they released TV shows on HD already.ï¿½. If only Mann and company had created a film we would have cared about because honestly the subject, on paper at least, sounds interesting enough. A true disappointment.
Presented in a 1080p, VC-1 Encoded, 2.40:1 widescreen aspect ratio, Miami Vice is the type of HD DVD title that will get mixed reviews, as some will disapprove with how the film was shot by Mann. I wasnï¿½t completely wowed by this, but I did find the transfer to be just fine.
Benefiting from a brand new print (the film was released less than 5 months ago), Miami Vice never showed any real instance of dirt, grain or pixilation; mainly due to Director Michael Mann choosing to shoot the film using HD cameras. This gives the film a shinier, cleaner look. However, a quick sampling of Mannï¿½s film catalogue will easily show the viewer that Mannï¿½s transfers usually tend to contain a lot of buzzing on the screen from video noise. Such is the case here. I noticed, particularly in the darker sequences, that some of the colors (mostly the blacks) seemed like they were bleeding creating a washed out look on the screen. Other colors didnï¿½t suffer a similar fate as the vibrant greens on the trees looked fine.
Some will easily criticize this transfer as it contains the aforementioned video noise. I canï¿½t really fault Mann as this is the way the man chooses to film. Not knowing what exact HD cameras Mann used, we all know that HD shot video can look amazing (take evidence from the current Star Wars Trilogy on Cinemax HD right now). Sure Miami Vice doesnï¿½t boast an eye-popping transfer that some recent newer films have, but I reckon that Miami Vice may never look better unless a newer video format is introduced. As it stands now, Miami Vice looks just fine.
Arriving with the standard Dolby Digital Plus 5.1 audio track available in either English, French or Spanish and encoded at a nice 1.5mbps, Miami Vice sounds good for the most part, but the exclusive of the Dolby TrueHD track and a few problems here and there, prevent this one from being an all-star track.
Surround usage was the best part of this track as we get tons of response from the rear speakers. Numerous guns fires, blare, and blast continuously creating a sense of excellent clarity and overall response. Dynamic Range was great as well with sequences of low, deep and powerful bass, which sounded perfect in the boating sequence.
A major issue with this discs audio track is that some of the film’s dialogue felt very muddled. This created a few sequences that were hard to hear, forcing more reaching for the remote control than one would want. Another issue here, not actually present, is that this release marks another Universal release that was suppose to have a Dolby TrueHD audio track which was scrapped at the last second for unknown reasons. While a TrueHD track wouldnï¿½t have completely fixed the dialogue error, I would have loved to hear a few key sequences with the benefit of TrueHD. Besides this, Universal has given us a fine audio track, one that action fans will love.
- Audio Commentary with Director Michael Mann: Mann sits down for a feature length commentary and the end result is great. Mann speaks to us on the various cuts he had to make to the film, most of which found there way onto this disc. Mann dwells into the acting bit of the film including what it was like to work with Colin Farrell, Jamie Foxx and the difficulty actress Gong Li had with the English language. Definitely worth a listen if you’re a fan of the film or of Mann.
- Miami Vice: Undercover: This brief featurette shows us how Foxx and Farrell learned to become detectives. I liked how both actors had to learn from real-life detectives, but it would have been nice if we got to hear some experience stories from either actor.
- Miami and Beyond: This featurette focuses on Director Mann’s use of various Miami locales in order to create a connection between the film and the show.
- Visualizing ‘Miami Vice’: This featurette deals with how Mann continues to use handheld HD cameras in all of his films. I really like that Mann uses HD cameras as it gives a more realistic feel to the film.
- Behind the Scenes: Here we get three different featurettes that cover a particular sequence of the film. The three scenes are Gun Training, Haitian Hotel Camera Blocking and Mojo Race. The scenes were interesting enough, but there wasn’t enough information on them to make these worthwhile.
- HD DVD Exclusives
- U-Control: This is the latest Universal title to include the famed U-Control interactivity feature. Miami Vice comes equipped with tons of goodies. Most of them were kind of promotional fluff, but I feel inclined to give these features higher marks as Universal continues to push the envelope. Tech Specs on Your Favorite Machines is similar to the Specs on Tokyo Drift in that it gives us information on the cost of various vehicles including damage costs. GPS Tracking focuses on the big boating sequence. Production Photos and Cast Bios contained a lot of various still photos from Production. The Cast Bios are basic bios are each of the film’s big actors. Picture-in-Picture was saved for last and is easily the best part of this U-Control feature. I did notice, similar to other Picture-in-Picture features, a bit of overlapping between the standard-def extra’s and this. Not the biggest deal as I love that Universal continues to give more of these little goodies.
What went wrong here? Fast cars, big explosions and fine actors usually make for a solid film. Despite Vice containing all of these aforementioned typical positives, the film just falls flat never fully engaging the viewer. Even though the entire package, minus the film, is decent throughout, Miami Vice is just such a disappointment that I can only say if you have interest in this one, please rent it first before shelling out the cash for the disc.
Special Features List
- Audio Commentary with Director Michael Mann
- Miami Vice: Undercover
- Miami and Beyond
- Visualizing ‘Miami Vice’
- Behind the Scenes