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Popular 1980s TV Show 'Miami Vice' Comes to Silver Screen


Yet another popular TV show from the 1980s comes to the big screen; but, more than a remake, this crime drama is updated to the present time and made more realistic as a movie than it ever was on television. Alan Silverman has a look at Miami Vice.

Sonny Crockett and Ricardo Tubbs are undercover police detectives maneuvering through the sordid underworld of Miami, Florida. When they learn that a federal drug trade investigation has been compromised by leaks, the FBI asks for their help.

It's a deadly dangerous assignment: to get into the heart of the cartel, the two gutsy cops pass themselves off as experts in transporting illegal drugs from South America into the U.S.

The film is directed by Michael Mann, who produced the original Miami Vice that ran on TV for five years in the 1980s. The episodes often dealt with serious crime issues, but the show also became a stylistic symbol for the decade and for the steamy, fashionable Florida city where it was set. Jamie Foxx co-stars in the film as Tubbs and remembers that Miami Vice style.

"Oh come on, man. I'd fold my sleeves up over my jacket and take my socks off ...and my grandmother would have a fit," Foxx says. "'Boy, if you don't put on your socks ...what is going on?' So it's amazing to be standing in front of history again. With this movie Michael Mann will make history again, so it's been blessed."

However, Irish-born Colin Farrell, who co-stars as Crockett, says the film is not a campy throwback to the 80's or the way TV series star Don Johnson played the character - such as living aboard a sailboat with his pet alligator named Elvis.

"I didn't really think about good old Don Johnson. If I was to think about the early Crockett I would have been in trouble," Farrell says, "because I would have been arguing with him over the suits that I wanted to wear and no socks with my slip-ons ...all that kind of stuff. The TV show was obviously the original genesis for this piece, but we approach it from a very contemporary standpoint and it is its own entity."

"We never conceived of it as a derivative. It's 2006. It's Miami Vice for real, right now," says Director Michael Mann. He adds that ostalgia was not his reason to bring back Miami Vice.

"The proposition that became exciting for me and for all of us was the idea of really getting into undercover work: what it does to you, what you do to it ...the whole idea of living a fabricated identity that is actually just an extension of yourself and doing it in 2006 for real and right now. That, then, defines a whole bunch of stuff: you're not going to have alligators or sailboats or nostalgia," he says.

Farrell says he appreciates the gritty sense of realism that director Mann brings to the action genre.

"I'd been talking to Michael for a couple of years about finding something to do together and then this came along," he explains. "It was just a perfect opportunity ...and we all know that he can handle an action sequence, whether it's the historical piece that he did with Last of the Mohicans or that famous scene in Heat, he understands the choreography of an action sequence; but unless it's backed up with some human drama and unless you have some kind of emotional investment in the characters ...he understands that the validity of doing big sale things isn't there unless you really care about the characters that you're watching."

The international cast of Miami Vice includes Chinese screen star Gong Li as the alluring cartel queen who becomes emotionally involved with Farrell's Crockett (and vice versa). English actress Naomie Harris plays a police investigator whose romantic link to Tubbs proves dangerous. Spanish actor Luis Tosar is the drug kingpin whose operation is the target of the investigation. Miami Vice was shot on location in Southern Florida and Latin American settings from Uruguay, Brazil and Colombia to Havana, Cuba.