My 6.11 paraphrasings based on my having run into critic, author, screenwriter and Cinevegas juror F.X. Feeney last weekend in Las Vegas weren’t good enough, or so Feeney has told me. I’m not saying he’s wrong, and I’m very glad that he’s written in to correct what I wrote and elaborate about what he meant. The topics are Michael Mann and Miami Vice (Universal, 7.28), which Feeney knows something about as he’s seen a cut of the film and has written an exploratory essay for an upcoming Taschen coffee-table book about Mann. Anyway, here’s a Feeney quote that sums up his thoughts a little more fully:
“In some ways it’s too bad Mann’s movie has to be called Miami Vice because in terms of theme and plot, the story moves far beyond the confines of the old TV series. If anything, it more forcefully advances the artistic path that Mann began with Collateral. Where the TV show dealt with the Columbian drug cartels which were the crime web of the 1980s, now the economic epicenter has moved to the ‘triborder area,’ the nexus where Argentina, Uraguay and Brazil intersect. The traffic is no longer just drugs, but ‘whatever you want, from anywhere to anywhere.’ Weapons, pirated software, even human beings. Think of the hit-man Tom Cruise played in Collateral’ — this is the world he served. Mann is very plugged in to the way the world works. To my mind, that’s his great theme — whether you’re a Mohican, a career criminal, a cop, or a world-famous boxer trying to find your way to becoming a responsibly moral being without conforming to a society you don’t respect. Hawkeye, McCauley — DeNiro’s guy in Heat — and Ali are all men who study how the world works, act independently, and know themselves thoroughly from that study and interaction. This is, I feel, an insight into Mann himself. He might dispute this — part of what makes him great, I think, is that he’s allergic to categories.
Anyway, you’ve confided to me a worry, based on what you saw of an early draft, that the Miami Vice film will be all about the toys and gadgets. I can assure you that it isn’t — that it draws on wellsprings of romantic passion that haven’t surfaced this vividly in Mann’s films since Last of the Mohicans . Two kinds of passion are represented — you have a stable relationship between Jamie Foxx (as Tubbs) and Naomie Harris as the fellow undercover cop, who are trying to make love work in the dangerous arena of undercover work, and then you have Colin Farrell as Sonny Crockett pursuing a dangerous liason with Gong Li , the wife of a stateless plutocrat who rules in the triborder, and closer to Miami, the Carribean. When Mann was first thinking the film through, he asked himself what had attracted him to executive produce the TV series Anthony Yerkovich created back in the ’80s, and concluded that it was the psychological cost of working undercover, of leading a life in a mask for months on end, of behaving in terms of ‘impulse without inhibition.’ So Crockett must answer to a spontaneous passion while Tubbs must secure a more traditional, if endangered, one. This balances the Tubbs/Crockett partnership in fresh, unpredictable ways I don’t recall from the series, and my sense was that the subtle fractals of push-me pull-you in their friendship and partnership is what Mann is now taking his customary round-the-clock pains to refine.”