Welcome to the JOE-DOWN, a back-and-forth movie review blog by two snarky newspapermen named Joe from Minnesota, Joe Froemming and Joe Brown. We will take turns selecting a movie — any movie we want — and review it here. For this installment, Froemming picked “Miami Vice.”
The Movie: “Miami Vice ”
Starring: Colin Farrell, Jamie Foxx, Li Gong
Director: Michael Mann
Plot Summary: (From IMDB) Based on the 1980s TV action/drama, this update focuses on vice detectives Crockett and Tubbs as their respective personal and professional lives become dangerously intertwined.
Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 45 percent
Froemming: Last week, we watched old Matthew “Speedball” Perry (allegedly) kill Chris Farley with his humorless performance in “Almost Heroes.” This week, I decided the visit the port of entry where real speedballs might be coming into our country: Southern Florida.
I picked “Miami Vice,” a movie based on a hit 1980s crime show of the same name starring Don Johnson that was produced by Michael Mann, who not only directed this film but also two beloved films of the JOE-DOWN: “Manhunter” and “Heat.”
The ‘80s show was known for its style, glitz and gritty look at the drug underworld by two vice officers who oozed charm with the aid of sax-filled ‘80s power pop like this:
The movie, on the other hand, still has the style, glitz and gritty look at the drug underworld by two vice officers, only this time they lack any charm or charisma.
I hate to say this, but I think Michael Mann made a stinker here, Brown.
While I pop on my white sports coat, pink T-shirt and hop in a sports car no police officer could ever afford, Brown what are your first thoughts?
Brown: You thought this movie had style and glitz? I don’t know if I saw one (REDACTED) neon color to make it feel like Miami. All I saw were thunderstorms.
So I was, like, five years old when “Miami Vice” was taken off TV and aside from some of the things that entered the pop-culture lexicon, I don’t know much about the show. In fact, a lot of what I know was taken more from “Grand Theft Auto: Vice City” and that game’s references to the show.
I’ll put it this way: My brain remembers more of one of Don Johnson’s other shows, “Nash Bridges” because it would always be mentioned on WWF’s “Monday Night Raw” in the late ‘90s.
Still, you would think for a movie that is taking from a show ripe with fast cars, fast women and a heaping tablespoon of hedonism that the movie “Miami Vice” could at least be entertaining…
It’s about 12 hours since I watched this movie and I legit remember nothing that happened.
So, while I prepare for the dozen sex scenes in this movie, you lead us off, Froemming.
Froemming: We begin with a crazed nightclub filled with young people, drugs, sex and the music of — well, not Phil Collins, but Jay-Z and (REDACTED) Linkin Park, thus reminding me of the time those two made a godawful album together. So this movie already angered me 30 seconds in.
This movie is confusing. Really confusing, because I had no idea what anyone was doing at any moment. This club scene seemed like a sting operation to nab a pimp, but that falls to the wayside when some schmuck named Alonzo Stevens (played by Alexandira, Minn.’s own John Hawkes) calls Sonny Crockett’s (Colin Farrell) comically large and out of date cellphone telling him it is all over.
What is all over? All the undercover vice cops head to the roof for this one call? A call from a CI whom they have not worked with in months? What about the pimp? They were at this club to bust a sex trafficker or something. Now they throw it all away to find a CI whom is working for other agencies?
I think Michael Mann fried his brain on blow, Brown, because this movie is like talking to a speed junkie outside a gas station who wants a dollar from you. It’s all over the place.
Brown: I think throughout the movie, Crockett is using a satellite phone, just to explain its size.
Speaking of phones, so they have this string operation and they are getting awfully clear video of this prostitution bit on an old Nokia phone. Umm, yeah, any video on those phones are as jumpy as a GIF.
So yeah, this guy calls Crockett all panicked and he’s apparently leaving town, according to Wikipedia. I thought he was about to drive off a bridge and kill himself.
Meanwhile, at the informant’s house, there is a couple white supremacists who end up killing his wife. These were not very fine people.
Froemming: There were very fine people on both sides of this incident, Brown. Plenty of blame to go around.
Like, for his wife:
So our vice squad drops everything and somehow catches up with Alanzo (we also see the nazis shoot a couple of FBI informants, I have no idea how that even played into this) and when he finds out his wife was standing in the wrong place, he walks into an oncoming semi.
WTF is going on in this movie?
Brown: I will admit, I kinda like when the informants got got. It was a pretty brutal shoot-em-up in the car where limbs were flying off. So really, I only liked this scene because it reminded me of a better movie in “RoboCop.”
OK, so something I want to address quick is this movie’s weird relationship with sound. Admittingly, I had my TV down a little low for this movie since being a Michael Mann joint, I didn’t want to wake my neighbors with a big gun fight like in “Heat.” But there’s so many times where this movie is just too quiet. Like the semi hitting Alonzo, I don’t remember any sound. No brakes. Nothing. And throughout the movie, there is a very subdued soundtrack to help keep the action going.
Plus, for “Miami Vice,” I didn’t hear one (REDACTED) ‘80s synth.
Froemming: I barely remember the show because I was so young when it was on. What I do remember was the characters were interesting and charismatic and the tunes were all about that stupid Phil Collins drum sounds.
This movie: None of that. As in, it has none of the aspects that made the show memorable. Michael Mann took the premise of the show for this and none of its charm.
I seriously had no idea what was going on one moment to the next, because I didn’t care about any of these characters. They were as Ann as the nose on plain’s face.
So, with this CI dead, Crockett and Tubbs (Jamie Foxx) just put themselves into a multi-agency drug sting because why the hell not.
Also, what accent was Farrell going for with Sonny? It was so weird, and he mostly grunted to cover up his Irish accent I think.
Brown: It’s like Colin Farrell wanted to make a character that looked like the lovechild of Riggs from “Lethal Weapon” and Thomas Magnum. That child looked like Joe Dirt had found a weight room.
Jamie Foxx, I’ll gladly buy as Tubbs. But this movie is, like, 25 percent Tubbs, 33.3 percent Crockett (who is far less charming, charismatic, etc.) and 64.7 percent sex scenes.
Froemming: I also want to point out Alanzo played Kenny Powers’ brother on “Eastbound and Down” and Don Johnson played their dad.
To speed things along, something this movie refused to do at any point, Tubbs and Crockett are now part of this drug-busting crew and set up a meeting with a drug cartel with the aid of some weirdo in a robe who lives in a very nice home.
They keep saying he is a criminal, and he apparently is, but since he is not in prison, I assume the Miami-Dade PD are bad at their jobs.
Brown: They meet Jose Yero, who does the cliche stare down between Crockett and Tubbs to try and see if they’re cops. Later, when they do join the cartel, Yero is suspicious of the two because they’re TOO good.
I hate this movie.
Having passed this Yero test, Crockett and Tubbs THEN get to meet Isabella and the balls of the operation, Arcangel de Jesus Montoya, which is a name that had to have been made in an antagonist name generator.
Froemming: My name is Arcangel de Jesus Montoya, you killed my father. Prepare to die!
Froemming: I regret nothing!
Yeah, Crockett and Tubbs meet up with this nerd Yero in Columbia to plot a drug deal. They also steal the man’s drugs and blame it on the Colombians, which feels racist, in order to create a goodwill moment later in giving it back.
It’s not that this movie is complicated, it’s that this movie is stupid and feels like it is made up on the fly.
Brown: Also, we never heard this song in the movie and that’s a crime against all cocaine movies:
Froemming: Or this!
Brown: I’d like to point out that it’s way more fun to copy-paste YouTube videos to this review than actually talking about the movie.
Now, I’d give credence to the idea that this movie was done on the fly because there is no chemistry between anyone. They were probably too busy remembering lines that were written in a cocaine flurry than they were trying to build any camaraderie.
Now, I want to delve into how Crockett and Isabella all of a sudden just start humpin’ like rabbits. So details of their drug dropoff get settled, and Crockett runs out and wants to buy this woman a drink. She agrees and they drive a speed boat to Havana to get mojitos because reasons. Nevermind that Crockett’s redneck look would not be into mojitos, what woman in their right mind looks at this understudy from the “Sabotage” music video and decides to boat to Cuba and just bump uglies for an indeterminable amount of time?
Froemming: Crockett is a government agent at this point, and he has clearance to fly his boat at top-speed to Havana to drink mojitos? Also, he says his favorite drink is mojitos, and this angered me because mojitos are kinda gross. There is no oversight on agents in a post-9/11 America?
And then he starts falling in love with this woman, who I will remind people is a criminal involved with narcotics. The stuff Crockett is supposed to be stopping on the vice beat.
I hate this movie. I wish we were reviewing “Heat” again, because Michael Mann at least had a grasp on storytelling then.
Brown: You have no idea how many times in the, what, two-plus years we’ve done the JOE-DOWN I’ve thought to myself that I’d rather be watching “Heat.”
So the drop off went well, or something, and Crockett and Tubbs are tasked with another load. However, they’re insistent that their guys handle the drop off and not Yero’s Aryan Brotherhood homies.
Again, Yero’s suspicious because Crockett and Tubbs are too good at this. So after a party that shows Tubbs with his girlfriend Trudy as well as Crockett grinding on Isabella, Yero has his goons kidnap Trudy and hide her in a trailer. The demand: hand the cartel load to the Brotherhood.
Instead, this movie decides to go for blood and have our Vice cops blow their cover by starting a gun fight in a trailer park to rescue Trudy, who also is an agent for the cops.
And because I’d rather post YouTube videos with cocaine songs than talk about this movie, here you go, folks:
At least the trailer park scene was entertaining. They sneak on it like they are Seal Team 6 gunning for bin Laden. And they kill all the nazi hillbillies in the place, which I was all for.
Brown: Sure, but who the (REDACTED) cares about any of this going on?
Since the only thing that has any chemistry in this movie is Crockett and his satellite phone, none of this feels earned. They’re rescuing Trudy because they have to. It doesn’t feel like Tubbs cares too much. When he hears about it, he makes a face that an irritated husband would make if asked to take the recycles out. We never see any real emotion from Trudy and Tubbs’ relationship save for the sex scene they had in the first 10 minutes
Froemming: Ooof, time for another cocaine song!
Anyhoo, with the nazis all shot up and Yero’s ability to point out Crockett and Isabella are an item, but somehow not able to figure out Crockett is a cop, Yero sets Isabella up and he sets up Crockett and Tubbs to get the cartel’s drugs back.
I feel like one needs to be on cocaine to follow any of this plot.
Brown: Don’t forget that Tubbs is out for blood now because Yero set off a bomb that left Trudy in a coma.
Yeah, we almost forgot that shoehorned plot point because, as Charlie Kelly eloquently puts it here:
So yeah, we get a standoff between Yero and a bunch of nazis versus Crockett, Tubbs and a bunch of cops I legitimately did not learn the names or roles of because nothing matters.
Is this a nihilist’s favorite movie? Nothing ever matters in this two-hour exercise in time-wasting.
Froemming: Why are nazis, who in their very nature dislike anyone who is not white, working with the Colombians? Man, this whole movie is an insult to critical thinking and a middle-finger to plot.
Yes, Yero is suddenly this street tough who knows how to shoot a weapon that weighs half of his own body mass. Sorry, nerds are nerds and I am not buying Yero as some sort of badass here.
Tubbs and Crockett’s boss, whose name I don’t remember and don’t care to, is looking for shooters hidden during this so his snipers can take those guys out.
This movie is dumber than a Zack Snyder movie. There, I said it.
And Yero has Isabella as a hostage, which because of the uglies being bumped earlier, means Crockett will have to save her. Yero sends Isabella to check the dope (she is his hostage, why wouldn’t she just lie? (REDACTED) you, movie) and the cops send some dude whom I think was in “The Wire” to check the cash.
And then the boss sees the snipers and we get an old-fashioned shootout. Remember the shootout in “Heat?” Same director, only this one is boring and stupid and I hate everything now.
Brown: Again, there are no stakes in this moment. Yes, they’re in a shootout, but Crockett, Tubbs and co. just handle business. No one important gets wounded or heightens the tension. Yero is taken out rather unceremoniously. The only bit of “drama” is Isabella finding out Crockett is a cop when he’s ordering backup and that’s just them slap-fighting like a pre-teen brother and sister.
And Crockett suddenly decides that bumpin’ uglies is reason enough to aid and abet a fugitive’s escape when he drives away with Isabella to a hideout and gets her on a boat to Cuba. Their relationship ends. He still has his stupid mustache/mullet combo and Trudy is waking up from her coma.
I care about none of this. This is the dumbest action movie I’ve watched since “Lucy.”
Froemming: One note: The hideout Crockett takes Isabella to looks just like the house in “Manhunter” where Will Graham takes out Francis!
Brown: It’s also another movie where Michael Mann clearly doesn’t understand that cops can’t afford houses like this.
This movie wasted enough of my time. Let’s go to recommendations so I never have to talk about it again.
WOULD YOU RECOMMEND?
Froemming: No, this was bad. Boring-bad, which is a sin here at the JOE-DOWN. All the charm of the show is gone, and what is left is pointless plots, pointless characters and a whole bunch of nothing.