After watching Miami Vice twice in the theater, with varying degrees of dislike and praise, it struck me as an incomplete, epic, fascinating, and incredibly cynical piece of work. Now, watching the director’s cut, it’s clear Miami Vice is great, fleshed out by the great “flowers” scene that establishes the relationship between Tubbs and Trudy more clearly, and in turn creating a stronger parallel between that dynamic and Crocket’s fledgling relationship with Isabella. Miami Vice blurs the clarity of the professional world on display, turning the film into a free-floating specimen of the Mann universe turned upside down. Cops become robbers, justifying violence and murder through a western code/unwritten rule of loyalty. The villains, most notably the skinheads, act brutally and without any sense of ethics.
The ultimate bad guy, Arcangel, gets away in the end, both Crocket and Tubbs’ actions impotent toward stopping international crime. However, the vice squad does succeed in protecting it’s own people, which is really where Mann thrives with his crime films. These police officers filter out modesty, arrogance, and greed for the good of the group. Multiple scenes signify this loyalty between team members, where the death of one would mean the destruction of the whole.
Miami Vice concedes itself to a meandering, animalistic plot-line to show a grander, more meaningful expression of collective angst. There’s an inability to stop the true, often unseen evil of Arcangel, and Crocket and Tubbs understand the gravity of this failure. But instead of trying to solve injustice, Mann’s heroes do the only thing they know how: exact “justice” in order for the group to survive.
Mann’s images, both colorful and dark, primitive and glossy, resonate these themes with the clarity of Dion Beebe’s high definition visuals, wide screen allegories to an outside world collapsing inward. Miami Vice may be a mess at times, but it’s a striking and brilliantly contructed mess that gets more and more captivating with each viewing, consistently revealing different aura’s within it’s character’s failures and successes.