The very first thing that needs to be said about this British HD-DVD version of 2006's Miami Vice is DO NOT BUY THIS HD-DVD!
We've had ten years of being ripped off by incompetent, lazy British distributors who think that releasing inferior versions of American DVDs, stripped of extra's but sold at double the price is acceptable. This disc shows them doing the same thing with the HD-DVD format. The excuse used to justify this on standard DVDs is that there wasn't room to include the extra languages 'needed' to support Europe and the PAL picture format. Proof that it WAS just a pathetic excuse is now here with the much higher capacity of HD-DVD being issued minus a whole bunch of extra's that are on the US version. Given the region-free nature of HD-DVD there is no reason on earth to give British companies who treat us so cavalierly your money! Excuses that the space was needed for the extremely irritating menu option offering Cantonese, various Arabic dialects and minor European languages just does not wash. The profit margins on HD-DVDs is huge - they are as easy to produce as standard DVDs and sub-standard releases like this to cover hundreds of different territories of no interest to the British purchaser are totally unjustified. Avoid!
The problem with this title of course is that the US has decided to release this disk as a vile, 'combo' disc, with the 'standard' DVD release on one side (Region 1 only, so pointless for most Brits unless they have multi-region players) which helps nobody, not least when it is an excuse to charge more money for the supposed benefit of having to squint at a tiny inner ring to work out which side needs to be played. So you either pay more for a 'combo' import, or put up with a sub-standard British HD-DVD shorn of extra features.
Miami Vice's story is very familiar one: Two cops go undercover with a drugs cartel. One seduces a high-up female of the bad guys to get inside information, ends up falling in love with her, finds out she isn't so bad after all and is being held pretty much against her will, and then has to make sure the bad guys get theirs and that he gets to keep the girl. It's a familiar, some might say 'tired', story and one has to wonder why director Michael Mann felt it needed more than two hours to tell. Some might find the film stylish and cutting edge - I just found it ponderous, overlong, humourless and frankly rather dull.
It's also not very well shot! Too many scenes, particularly those shot 'hand held' documentary style, are not just soft, they're very much out of focus. The noise on the print is unbelievable, so that at times it feels like watching a bad VHS tape not a high definition release. The film was shot on high-definition cameras and there has been much debate on the DVD forums about whether this is a good transfer or not. Those arguing against point out the poor quality of the video in far too many scenes (the opening night club scenes are particularly bad).
Those arguing FOR the release insist this was the director's 'vision' and that it is represented authentically on the HD-DVD, truly representing the original cinematic experience. All I can say is that if all the scenes that are too dark and muddy to be seen, feature frequent multi-coloured noise artefacts, or contain out-of-focus shots with poor framing are the director's 'vision' then he needs to get himself back to film school to learn the basics about using a camera!
The shoot for Miami Vice is rumoured to have been a troubled one, with Jamie Foxx, by all accounts, proving something of a primadonna on set that caused serious friction. That might explain why he has so little to do in the film other than explain minor plot points on the end of a phone. The film is very much Colin Farrell's and he turns in an excellent performance, despite the lack of real narrative he is presented with - no mean achievement given the 80's mullet he is forced to wear throughout.
But Farrell's acting really isn't enough to rescue the piece or levitate it above being a 'poor man's Scorsese'. The story is too familiar, and Mann has nothing new to say or add to what has been done by other film-makers before. Ultimately it proves to be a huge disappointment.
Two featurettes have been rescued from the US release. Miami and Beyond: Shooting on Location and Miami Vice Undercover are really just two episodes from a much longer 'Making of' documentary. They're not badly done, and help show what life was like on set, but they don't really add a lot of value either.
We've had very few British HD-DVD releases and a movie as recent as this should have received much better treatment. If you want something to show off your High Definition set-up this release isn't it. Despite the relatively low asking price online this has to be a rental rather than a purchase, and even then only if you really are a big Michael Mann fan. For this viewer, Miami Vice just didn't live up to the hype.