July 26, 2006

Michael Mann brings reality to new “Miami Vice”

By Bob Tourtellotte

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Get real, Mann.

Director Michael Mann ushers "Miami Vice" into theaters on
Friday promising a reality-based movie with the sort of raw
grit and steamy sex that never would have played on the hit
1980s television show of the same name he helped create.

Yes, "Miami Vice" is back and so are its police detectives
Ricardo Tubbs and Sonny Crockett, but gone are the easygoing
manners of their former actors Philip Michael Thomas (Tubbs)
and Don Johnson (Crockett).

In their place come tight-lipped, undercover tough guys
Jamie Foxx (Tubbs) and Colin Farrell (Crockett). These two new
partners rarely crack wise because they are too focused on
catching bad guys and bedding good girls.

"I had zero interest in doing a Xerox or a nostalgia trip
on the first one," Mann told Reuters.

"By design, I had to decide as a film director: 'Do I want
audiences tripping into associations that are nostalgic, or do
I want them feeling they are right now in the contemporary
world?' And the answer was the latter," he added.

While obviously hoping to attract viewers who remember the
TV series, Mann said the only elements shared by movie and TV
show are a rapidly moving story and a world of allure filled
with drug runners and corrupt cops -- a world called Miami.

In a career spanning more than three decades in Hollywood,
writer/producer/director Mann has made a specialty of lending
his movies a sense of realism few other filmmakers can match.

Mann, 63, got his start in the 1970s writing for cop shows
like "Police Story" and "Starsky and Hutch." In 1984, he
executive-produced mega-hit "Miami Vice," which became a pop
culture phenomenon influencing TV, movies, music and fashion.

He rose up the ranks of TV writers, but Mann said his goal
always was to make movies, and by the 1990s he was turning out
suspense-filled dramas such as "Heat," starring Robert De Niro
and Al Pacino, and "The Insider" with Russell Crowe.


Mann said he always pictured the script for the original
"Miami Vice" as a movie, but by the time he read it, the TV
networks already had stepped in.

It was about four years ago that Foxx approached Mann about
the idea of a new movie, and the writer/director finally saw
the opportunity to create the film he'd always wanted.

"The 'Miami Vice' I want to see is undercover, right now,
and life in those dangerous places, for real," he said. "(That)
means there are relationships, real human relationships. People
sleep together....And if you engage in this kind of work, it
takes you into dangerous situations and very dangerous places
and bad things happen."

This new "Miami Vice" doesn't so much bring audiences on a
journey to an explosive climax as it parachutes them into a
fast-paced tale of murderous thugs and ruthless drug runners.

Tubbs and Crockett see one of their key informants killed
after an FBI sting operation goes bad. They take on identities
as drug runners to ferret out the murderers and are plunged
into a drug-making ring led by Montoya (Luis Tosar) and his key
lieutenant, Isabella (Gong Li).

Crockett falls in love with Isabella, while back home
Tubbs' new "U.C." identity puts the life of his lover, fellow
Miami cop, Trudy (Naomie Harris), in peril.

The two are conflicted by their lives and loves, but
resolute in their goal to nail Montoya. Throughout it all -- as
anyone would expect from a movie about Miami -- there are cool
cars, fast boats, faster airplanes and svelte bodies.

"This is just a hot concept and a hot movie," said Foxx.

While reviews are still coming in, critics at show business
newspapers, Daily Variety and The Hollywood Reporter, agree
that much of "Miami Vice" is style over substance.


To heighten the movie's air of reality, the actors trained
with weapons and worked with undercover cops. They acted out
scenarios for drug buys, and Farrell even tagged along on a
mishandled drug bust he thought was real.

While there have been news reports of problems on the set,
Mann labeled them nonsense, and Farrell noted one report had he
and Foxx at odds when, "I hadn't even seen him yet."

As he did with 2004's "Collateral," Mann used new digital
cameras to shoot "Miami Vice" because doing so allowed him to
change elements like lighting on the set during the shoot,
which, he said, added to the film's sense of reality.

Moreover, digital gives the visual look of a movie, a
"tremendous depth of field, and sometimes allows you to feel
you are that person standing next to a character," Mann said.

He means right in the midst of the action, and that is
real, Mann.