Wednesday, August 4, 2010

In Defense of Miami Vice

Head on over to Wonders in the Dark where they've been kind of enough to let me ramble on about why I think Miami Vice is one of the best film's of the decade (in their recent poll on the subject I placed it number two). Here's a sample:

There’s nothing more cliché than an action film about two cops who go undercover and infiltrate a drug cartel; and that, while undercover, one of the cops will no doubt get in too deep while the other cop can only question his partner’s commitment to the case. Such clichés are evident in almost all of Michael Mann’s films; however, he always sidesteps the banal inevitability of said clichés by taking a fresh look at the men who lead such lives through an introspective and microscopic lens. 2006 brought Miami Vice, a film popping with beautifully filmed colors, meticulously framed skylines, and, most importantly, the type of scrupulous itemization Mann loves to display for his audiences (just watch the way his characters create sing-songy dialogue with insider jargon). For Mann, it isn’t so much about the action, but about the duty, the inner turmoil (which is always aided by beautifully shot and framed visual correlatives); they’re about why these people are driven by what they’re driven by, and how they function in the world they live in. A lot of people find Mann’s brand of “action” film boring – too much ethereal wandering that result in long, lingering takes on unnecessary close-ups or establishing shots – with not enough shoot ‘em up; I find them misunderstood, refreshing takes on tired genre tropes; existential tone poems of the crime genre that are narratively akin to the French master Jean-Pierre Melville in how the filmmaker is more concerned with the inner dilemma than the external action. If Mann’s crime films are narratively akin to Melville then surely they are visually akin to his American contemporary visual poet Terence Malick in how the film has an ease about its tone; it’s almost as if it wafts from scene to scene as if in a dream.   Miami Vice is a masterpiece of the crime genre that isn’t just the most misunderstood film of Mann’s oeuvre, but also the most misunderstood masterpiece of the last decade.


  1. 102 comments and counting Kevin!! This is utterly fantastic and a testament to the scholarly thesis you have penned! Awesome.