‘Miami’ splice & dice

Michael Mann once set the trends; now he just follows them. His new “Miami Vice” feature film, based on the TV show he executive produced (1984-89), is a compendium of cool stuff not only cribbed from other movies, but cribbed from movies at least 10 years old.

Think of any undercover cop/drug lord movie (“Deep Cover,” “Hard-Boiled,” “Reservoir Dogs,” etc.), and “Miami Vice” has copied from it. The only thing it doesn’t copy is a sense of craftsmanship or storytelling.

But Mann is actually known for his style, and indeed, “Miami Vice” is a gorgeous movie. It has a dramatic sense of air, light and weather — and especially clouds. Some of the dazzling cloud displays — like summer storms brewing — must have taken longer to set up than it took Mann to write the script.

Replacing Don Johnson and Philip Michael Thomas, Colin Farrell (wearing a weird mullet-like hairdo) and Jamie Foxx now portray Sonny Crockett and Rico Tubbs, respectively.

Thankfully, the movie

doesn’t bother with an “origin” story. It just jumps right in: When a drug bust goes bad because of an unknown leak somewhere in the department, it’s up to Crockett and Tubbs to go undercover to find and stop the drug lord. Somewhere along the line, Mann forgets about the leak, however. Come to think of it, he also forgets about the drug lord.

The whole thing climaxes in a shootout, and an awkward romance between Crockett and the drug lord’s partner/lover (Gong Li).

In-between, characters gather in really cool places (million-dollar apartments, speedboats, South American warehouses, etc.), look really serious and read expository dialogue in a low

murmur.

That leaves only the movie’s style to make up for its complete lack of substance. Shooting on digital video, as in his overrated “Collateral” (2004), Mann goes with a grainy look and a deep-focused field. Sometimes a giant face will anchor one side of the frame (not unlike Orson Welles’ off-kilter visuals in “Touch of Evil”), and other times, the film resembles Spielberg’s close-to-the-bone battle footage from “Saving Private Ryan.” Still other times, Mann goes with the trendy hand-held action stuff, used in regular sludge like this year’s “Running Scared.”

There’s a difference between real art and what Mann does; a real artist finds a look or a touch and sticks with it, refining it over the course of a career. Mann drops his good ideas in favor of the newest, latest fad. He has no personal style — just style. If only he had mustered the courage to go with the cheesy, pastel thing once again.

artsentertainmentOther Arts

If you find our journalism valuable and relevant, please consider joining our Examiner membership program.
Find out more at www.sfexaminer.com/join/

Just Posted

Planning Commission greenlights 1,100 unit Balboa Reservoir project

Development near CCSF expected to include 50 percent below-market rate units

Breed announces timeline for when SF’s businesses can reopen after COVID-19 shutdown

Restaurant advocacy group wants The City to allow indoor dining sooner

Trump signs order targeting social media companies

By Chris Megerian Los Angeles Times President Donald Trump signed an executive… Continue reading

CCSF puts Fort Mason campus on the chopping block

Faced with severe budget cuts, community college preparing to end decades-long lease

Neighbors sue city over safe camping site planned for Stanyan Street

A group of Haight residents filed a lawsuit Tuesday asking a federal… Continue reading

Most Read