By Scott Brown
Updated July 28, 2006 at 08:00 PM EDT
Credit: Miami Vice: Frank Connor

Michael Mann’s big-screen remix of Miami Vice, wherein he revises his pastel TV past for the Vice City present, seems to be splitting critics right down the middle. No one (except A.O. Scott) is ready to say it’s a great movie, but the gulf between Good and Awful is unbridgeable. Many wanted to be whisked back to a simpler time, when a slim, bestubbled Don Johnson roamed the earth, drug lords were our biggest problem, and Phil Collins was shorthand for bad-ass attitude. This time around, “In the Air Tonight” is revisited in a Nonpoint cover, and there’s nary a sockless loafer to be found. The mood is described as almost comically grim, as Colin Farrell and Jamie Foxx make Johnson and Philip Michael Thomas look like Laurel and Hardy by comparison.

‘Miami Vice’: Operatic Passions, Yet Cool in the Heat
The New York Times is all over Vice like a cheap linen suit. A.O. Scott climbed down from his critic cross to deliver the following sermon on the Mann: The film “transcends mere workaholism and becomes an all-consuming, almost operatic passion. Mr. Mann transforms what is essentially a long, fairly predictable cop-show episode into a dazzling (and sometimes daft) Wagnerian spectacle.”

‘Miami Vice’: So dark you might get lost
<a href=”
“>The Atlanta Journal-Constitution‘s Bob Longino takes up an opposing position: “Miami Vice is a dark, grainy and heavy drama and so super-serious and smoky thick it could be called Miasma Vice.” [Awwwwww, snap! When I come up with a zinger like that, I take an early lunch and a foot rub.] “Miami Vice on the big screen is not about sun, surf, fashion or Jan Hammer’s echoing drum sounds. And, no, as one of the waning summer’s last big movies, Vice isn’t the action film its marketing plan might suggest.”

Kit Bowen of concurs: “Gone are the pastels, the pet alligator — even Phil Collins — from this dark, gritty modern-day version of the ’80s TV show. Unfortunately, gone too is some of that fresh style that made the show unique, leaving us with just another dark, gritty crime drama.”

But Scott Foundas in The Village Voice begs to differ in his review, Undercover of the Night :Violent shoot-outs and dangerous love in Mann’s visceral cop series update. Foundas likens the adaptation of the TV show to “a car that’s been stripped of everything but its two bucket seats and rebuilt from the ground up.” But he digs the result, especially noting that “Mann has done something transformative with Farrell: The Irish actor has never had this much charisma and natural authority in a role, and as he navigates that gray area between Crockett’s real identity and his fabricated one, revealing subtle fissures in the character’s cocksure facade, he’s fascinating to watch.”

So chalk that one up for Mann. But if regional expertise is to be trusted, this pan from The South-Florida Sun-Sentinel‘s Phoebe Flowers (whose name deserves a separate blog item) is a crushing blow:

More vice, less Miami (and fun)
“When you consider all the things the Miami Vice movie might be — a pastel-saturated wasteland, a frenetic exercise in excess, even something akin to a new Bad Boys installment — it’s surprising to discover a film that is so deeply uncool.”

She goes on to call the film “about as hip as a marathon session of Uno.” That’s damning on so many levels, including a personal one: In certain neighborhoods of my home borough, Brooklyn, that would be considered hip.

addCredit(“Miami Vice: Frank Connor”)