It's difficult to convey to anyone under 30 just how exotic 'Miami Vice' looked when its first season appeared on Irish television after 'The Late Late Show' on Saturday nights in late 1984 and early 1985. While it's remembered by most for the outfits, the glamour, the cars, speedboats and mullets, the series also raised the bar for police dramas - tougher plotting and tighter pacing, deeply flawed characters, groundbreaking use of music onscreen and downbeat endings where the good guys didn't always win.
Looking back at it now, much of 'Miami Vice' has dated badly – little wonder when in the 17 years since the show ended we've had 'NYPD Blue', 'The Sopranos', 'The Wire', '24' and countless others – but there's still a charm about the series that carries many of the episodes. Which is more than can be said about Michael Mann's film.
On paper, this should be a must see. Mann executive produced the 'Miami Vice' series; he directed 'Violent Streets', 'Heat' and 'Collateral' and has shown he's the master at depicting emotionally distant men who exist by their own code. But 'Miami Vice' the film fails in so many ways that you'll wonder for a long time how Mann go it so wrong.
The plot finds Detectives Sonny Crockett (Farrell) and Ricardo Tubbs (Foxx) going undercover to try and bring down South American drugs kingpin Arcángel de Jesús Montoya (Tosar) and his lieutenant José Yero (Ortiz). While the two detectives get ever deeper in their dealings with Montoya, Crockett falls for his advisor Isabella (Li) and the chances of their cover getting blown increase rapidly.
While 'Miami Vice' is heavy on the style and visuals of Mann's other films, almost everything else which makes his work so watchable is absent. It's a classic case of a minimalist approach adding up to very little. There's no chemistry between the actors; you don't form a bond with any of the characters; the plot fails to grip and, one good shootout and hostage rescue aside, there are no scenes to get really excited about. Compared to Mann's other crime-themed films it's a non-event. And it hurts to say that.
There seems little reason to hold out hope for an extended DVD version to put things right when the problems here can't be solved by adding more minutes. While Mann/'Miami Vice' fans will still go and see this film, they need to be ready for a dull two hours.