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5 Insights into “Miami Vice” from Michael Mann’s Audio Commentary (Originally published on Movie Mezzanine’s THE BALCONY)

Originally published on Movie Mezzanine’s THE BALCONY

First and foremast if you’re a cinephile and particularly a Michael Mann fan, you’re doing yourself a disservice if you haven’t had a chance to listen to his erudite and insightful director’s commentaries. The best of his crop by far is the commentary of the extended cut of Miami Vice (2006). Here are the five coolest insights into the meticulous professional behind the lens and work environment that he fosters.

1. Back to the Vice

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While many assume that Mann began mining his history in television for a new film project, after reading Anthony Yerkovich’s script in 1984, he immediately wanted adapt it into a feature film. Unfortunately by the time he became involved, NBC was also already involved so he had to bide over two decades to revisit it. Mann calls the lush Miami landscape an opiate; and the combination of violence and betrayal provided an allure too tantalising to ignore.

2. Actors Playing Undercover Drug smugglers May Be Required to Smuggle Drugs

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For law enforcement agents that are required to go into these deep undercover situations, their relevant agencies provide an intense gauntlet of training that requires them to simulate a drug run. Both leading actors, Colin Farrell and Jamie Foxx, had to participate in the training that involved running a drug load in from seven miles offshore, in complete darkness, using only coded radio communication. *After the film Stealth Jamie Foxx actually contemplated shifting professions.

3. Fact is More Frightening Than Fiction

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Much in the same vain as Heat man borrowed a true to life story from his research with a former undercover agent to create an integral scene in Miami Vice. The scene that introduces Archangel Montoya (played beautifully by Luis Tosar), had actually occurred to the undercover agent meeting real drug cartel leader Amado Currillo Fuentes. After a fast, polite and business like meeting Fuentes concluded by wishing the agents mother well. The second he was able, the agent contacted his mother and she confirmed that she’s received a bouquet of flowers with a note saying, “Salutations from your friends in the South.” In that one gesture the agent realised the near omnipresent reach of the cartel; it’s like saying “I know where you live,” but with a way more suave menace.

4. Ricardo Tubbs of the Tubbs Family

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Mann and Foxx had worked a family lineage for Tubbs that included a grandfather involved in the Civil Rights Movement and father that was a lawyer; who, once they realised that Ricardo had chosen a life of police work, had been openly disappointed by the decision. Watching Foxx’s performance as many times as I have, you can definitely catch these feelings of self-loathing, amongst the layers of criminal tradecraft and his imposing physique.

5. Why Have One When You Can Have 27?

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Mann reveals that he had a total of 27 current and former undercover personnel crafting every single element of the portrayal of the job for maximum authenticity.

*This asterisk signifies a lie.

Blake Howard – follow Blake on Twitter here: @blakeisbatman and listen to legacy audio reviews on That Movie Show 2UE here or on top-rating film podcast Pod Save Our Screen, available now on iTunes.

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