On July 4, 2024, film critic Brandon Streuessnig posted a movie clip on X (formerly Twitter) with the caption, “gf asked me to show her my favorite movie tonight. Probably the most important step in the relationship. No goin back now.” The clip in question shows the opening moments of Michael Mann’s 2006 action movie, Miami Vice, based on the ‘80s television series that Mann produced. In it, immediately after the Universal Studios logo disappears, the Jay-Z verse from 2004’s rap/rock masterpiece “Numb/Encore” needle-drops as the silhouette of a woman shimmies against a trippy background.

It’s a pretty wild clip, and when combined with Streuessnig’s glowing words it ignited a firestorm of discourse about whether or not the film, which stars Colin Farrell and Jamie Foxx, was any good. Detractors said it was just another bro movie, dismissing it as fodder for straight men. Supporters, including our very own Carolyn Petit who has been singing Miami Vice’s praises for years, said otherwise. But I had never seen it, so I sat down this weekend to watch it. And guess what? Miami Vice rules.

Watching the opening scene felt like someone broke into my house and stabbed me with a shot of adrenaline before I could even register what was going on. I leaned forward in my seat, absolutely flummoxed that “Numb/Encore” was blasting through the sound bar, confused at the complete lack of a title card or opening credits. When Colin Farrell and his beautiful Balayaged hair swept into view, a small gasp left my lips. When he ordered two mojitos and proceeded to suck them down while hungrily staring at the bartender, I worried the look on my face betrayed my most impure thoughts.

Miami Vice is a hot movie, but it’s so much more than that. Mann is uniquely capable of making a film that feels like it has both a huge dick and a huge heart. The fast cars, the preoccupation with tactile tech, and the long, lingering sex scenes could all push this movie into flatly masculine territory, but Mann’s deft hand steadies it. The plot of Miami Vice follows two almost superhuman cops going undercover in a global drug-smuggling operation, but that’s not what this movie is about.

Gong Li and Colin Farrell look at each other while on a speedboat during sunset.

Photo: Universal Pictures

Miami Vice is about love. It’s about loving the right person at the wrong time, and about how clinging to that love could destroy you. It’s about the illogical nature of love, about falling for someone so immediately and intensely that it intoxicates you, your head swimming like you had too many mojitos, the two of you incapable of keeping your hands to yourselves because touching each other is like taking another shot of liquor.

It happens so fast: Farrell’s Sonny Crockett asks to take Gong Li’s Isabella (the financial advisor for the global drug-smuggling ring) for a drink and before you know it, the two are racing across the open ocean on a speedboat, headed to Havana, where they disappear for a few days, falling into each other and out of everything else. They salsa dance, they fuck in the shower, they trade deeply personal stories, they entwine—all while Sonny is undercover, all while the sting is still ongoing. Periodic shots of darkening clouds, bolts of lightning, and rough ocean waters warn us of how dangerous their dalliance is—but the viewer, like Sonny and Isabella, doesn’t care. You don’t have time to.

Miami Vice moves at breakneck speed (so much so I was often confused about what was happening and almost delirious from it), recreating the feeling of falling hard for someone you’ve just met. It sweeps you up in that love, so you yourself feel just as crazy as Sonny, just as willing to put yourself in danger for something that moves you so intensely. How can a movie that manages that not be considered an all-timer?


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