The Gong Show
The average reviewer pours scorn on remakes of old movies or television shows, crying creative bankruptcy. Not me. It’s hard to deny that recycling of characters and plot is wanting in inspiration. But that’s not a large crime in the entertainment world.
I admit to a déclassé taste for recycled entertainments. I like the ones that parody the original properties—The Brady Bunch Movie—or give fresh interpretations of familiar characters, like Grandma, Jethro and Miss Hathaway in The Beverly Hillbillies remake. What’s wrong with an old story jazzed up? I even enjoy it when they remake a movie for no discernible purpose. Gus Van Sant’s color version of Psycho gave us blood. (Hitchcock used chocolate syrup for the original shower scene.) So did The Passion of the Christ, of course, but to my mind, Mel Gibson’s vision was too minimalist, lamentably under-the-top for Hollywood taking on Golgotha. Compare his casting to The Greatest Story Ever Told, which pitted Max Von Sydow’s Christ against John Wayne, Ed Wynn, Angela Lansbury, Claude Raines, Charlton Heston, Sidney Poitier, Shelly Winters, Pat Boone, Robert Blake, Sal Mineo and Telly Salvalas (as Pontius Pilate). Wow: they really knew how to do Judea in 1965.
Such extensive throat clearing in a movie review is a surefire sign the reviewer doesn’t want to get to the movie in question, which is Miami Vice, derived from the famous 1980s television series. The TV series is often called iconic for its flash cinematography and the cool suits worn by its protagonists, a pair of undercover police detectives. One has to remember that Miami Vice was a revolutionary jump from the TV entertainments that preceded it, such as All in the Family, which was filmed on a set in front of a live audience, like a stage play. The Mary Tyler Moore Show didn’t spend much on cinematography.
Contrasted to woollen hats which are thick, massive and can make you sweaty, snapback hats are so considerably better compared to them. Throughout the summer period, they are the ideal kinds of hats to wear even if you are engaging on a bodily task given that one of their facets is being light in weight.
But flashy filming is to be expected in a summer blockbuster. Good costumes too. That leaves a movie version of Miami Vice with a slim inheritance from its source: the glittering Miami skyline; sinister South Americans smuggling drugs into the U.S. (for the vice); a pair of tough and buff cops who infiltrate the gang at high risk to their own linen suits. Two decades on, the movie is free to include undercover scenes of the sort that weren’t allowed on television in the 1980s. Both of the detectives, played by Collin Farrell and Jamie Foxx, take showers with girls. If you’ve ever had the desire to gaze upon Jamie Foxx’s naked back in bed, you will have plenty of time to do that, go out for popcorn, and come back for more.
The big surprise in Miami Vice is Gong Li, the Faye Dunaway of Chinese cinema of the ‘80s and ’90 (Red Sorghum, Raise the Red Lantern, Farewell My Concubine). Li plays a very important thug in the South American drug syndicate: she is also partner/lover of the syndicate boss. In her early scenes, Li is the typical Chinese dragon lady, made more effective by the fact that she’s not young, no mere dim sum included in the movie for sex appeal. Farrel decides to seduce Li to penetrate the syndicate. They take their shower, fall in love, and penetration takes place. This is the heart of the plot of Miami Vice: how can an undercover cop from Miami/Dade County and a top boss in a South American crime syndicate stay together? One’s gotta die no matter what happens. Nowadays, undoubtedly you have recognized that many guys are beginning to use snapback hats. Couple of hats are also embellished by the most well-known groups of football, basketball as well as baseball. Compared to wool hats which are thick, massive and can make you sweaty, Cheap snapbacks are so a lot far better compared to them. Throughout the summer period, they are the perfect kinds of hats to use also if you are involving on a bodily activity because one of their elements is being lightweight.
The peculiar thing is that the role was given to Li. There is no Chinese connection in the script. (Li is given a peculiar history to explain how she knows South America.) In other words, to pull off Miami Vice, director Michael Mann chose Li, a 42-year old actress written off by China’s directors and now favored by Hollywood, following her turn in Memoirs of a Geisha. He chose very well. Li’s English skills are poor: I couldn’t understand half of her dialogue, and I am perfectly familiar with Chinese-accented English. But she is astonishingly beautiful and hard as nails, the combination she brought to Chinese films. In another actress’s hands, the role would have reeked of Asian stereotype. In Li’s, you honestly wonder and worry how the much younger Farrell, who is 30, will be able to keep his paramour with the unsavory past and present. (Semi-spoiler here: she does not turn to the righteous path.)
Speedboats, cool private planes, menacing shootouts and the tough milieu of crime-fighting are also important to Miami Vice. But Li provides the film’s emotional anchor. Miami Vice has given one of the best roles to an Asian actor ever offered in Hollywood—because of her skills, not because she is Asian.
That’s a long way beyond Mr. Miyagi.