Thoughts on: Michael Mann’s ‘Miami Vice’ (2006)

Jamie Foxx, Colin Farrell, and John Ortiz in Miami Vice

I’ve spent the past half hour trying to work myself down into a mood in which i feel I can write this. Miami Vice might just be too Mann for me. The emptiness and nihilism that crept around the edges of his previous work completely overwhelms his vision of a city locked in a permanent and intractable drug war.

The furthest I could managed to dig under its skin was this pervasive idea that we fight over money and drugs because, as a society, we tell ourselves that we are too civilised to fight over women. Because as far as everything they do, the crux of every relationship runs through a woman who the major players all wish to control.

And it’s women who all end up getting hurt. Easiest way to get to someone is through their property and emotional investment is just as real as the financial kind. It’s interesting how the tools of the trade are so easily turned towards romance, those go-fast boats represent freedom and we see what end they are put to.

It’s obvious that these guys need something to anchor the black hole that is their lives. They’re brought in to fix an almost irrevocable fuck up on an FBI job, but the film is more interested in their methods than the results. We watch them muddle their way deeper and deeper into enemy territory only on the assumption that going further will lead to greater rewards.

We’re told they’re good, or at least they’re police so we kinda have to assume they are — it’s how movies generally work. We might be worried about them losing themselves if at any point there seemed to be something inside at stake. Maybe it’s fitting for a movie where one lead was drunk outta his mind and the other disappeared from set without warning. These people are long vacant, the threat is the things they might find in themselves.

I don’t know, am I misreading it? The pair are terrifying, their outlook, actions, their complete refusal to check in with each other. They assume they must be operating on the same wavelength, but only because both are afraid to find themselves out on their own.

It’s a chain of events (an, honestly I prefer that description to ‘plot’ because this film drifts between characters and situations with all the intent of a dream) set off when a character commits suicide on screen in a way that is so immediately viscerally terrifying that everything else seems to drift in its wake.

Maybe I’m thinking more highly of it now. Maybe I’m scared of everyone else’s opinions. Watching it felt confusing and troubling and I don’t think I was quite ready for something that so aggressively screams at the audience about the dull pointlessness of everything.

So it’s that for two and a bit hours and it shrugs, saying ‘you think this means something, go figure it out for yourself.’ Maybe that’s why people keep returning to it, its frayed ends are going to spark in my brain for a while.

Jamie Foxx, Colin Farrell, and John Ortiz in Miami Vice
Image courtesy of Universal

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