It’s been 22 years since the first Miami Vice season on the tube in ’84-’85, and I never rented the February ’05 Vice DVD that had that entire season on it. But reader Dewey Yeatts of Whitehall, PA, is saying that Michael Mann‘s just released Miami Vice features is based on a February ’85 Vice episode called “Smuggler’s Blues,” in much the same way that Mann’s Heat (’95) was a big-star feature version of the 1989 TV movie he wrote and directed called “L.A. Takedown.”
Is there anyone who’s seen the big-screen Vice who also remembers “Smuggler’s Blues” in detail? And if so, does Yeatts have it right?
Here are Dewey’s similarites: (1) The movie and the episode “both open with the death of a drug runner/informant and his family”; (2) “What follows is a federal officer pulling Crockett and Tubbs into a secret meeting also attended by Lt. Castillo. In both versions, the Fed knows about a leak in the system, and pleads with Crockett and Tubbs to go undercover and make contact with a drug lord”; (3) “In both versions, they hit the underworld to obtain transportation (in the TV show, they wind up in a plane piloted by Glenn Frey — in the movie, they go to work on the competition’s ‘go fast boats’ and then fly their own plane to Latin America)”; (4) “They then make contact with a drug lord, and the meetings in both versions are weird (though for different reasons”; (5) “After the meeting they go back to their seedy hotel room and check the doors and windows. (To my eye, the room in the movie seemed to be the exact same one from the episode — the movements of the detectives seem very similar during the sequence.)”
“The movie at this point sets up more twists and plot points, which is normal, since the film has nearly three times the running time of the episode,” Yeatts writes. “But Crockett’s seduction of Gong Li’s Isabella is right out of the TV show’s playbook. How many episodes involved around romantic entanglements that dovetailed with the “case”? And how many episodes revolved around one of the girl detectives being put in danger? (See next item…)
“In the TV episode, on the partners’ return to America, Trudy is taken hostage by the bad guys and wired for explosives. In the movie, upon the partners’ return to America, Trudy is taken hostage by the bad guys and wired for explosives. (It should be noted the radical difference in the way these scenes are handled in each version.)
“To my mind, the film may have lacked the show’s pastel fashions, had hipper music (in 20 years will the movie soundtrack seem dated? Of course it will) and almost zero humor (though I felt there were a few dry lines that crackled.) But overall, the movie to me played like a larger-scale episode. The story beats from “Smuggler’s Blues.” The romantic issues. The lady-detective-in-peril. Scenes of cars and boats going very very fast. (Mann did resist the urge to go Phil Collins on us however.) The end, where they are to meet at a point along the river, reminded me of a similar sequence in the pilot episode.
“In the end, Mann did not make an homage — he just made a better version of what was already pretty cool and cutting edge. The fact that all the major cop characters had exactly the same names (Switek, Zito, etc.) says that Mann was not turning his back on his creation — just enhancing it.”
“One last thing: although the Cro-Magnon audience I saw the film with was restless at times (you don’t want to know about Friday night screenings in my neck of the woods`– mouth breathers, the lot of them), the crackerjack third act (the siege in the trailer, the firework-laden finale) sent them out of the theater crackling. So the word of mouth may be better than you think. Let’s hope so. This is the movie that should get a sequel.”