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Micheal Mann delivers softer version of vice

Los Angeles (Reuters): Get real, Mann. Director Michael Mann ushers Miami Vice into theatres tomorrow promising a reality-based movie with the sort of raw grit and steamy sex that never would have played in the hit 1980s television show of the same name he helped create. Yes, Miami Vice is back and so are its police detectives Ricardo Tubbs and Sonny Crockett, but gone are the easy-going manners of their former actors Philip Michael Thomas (Tubbs) and Don Johnson (Crockett). In their place come tight-lipped, undercover tough guys Jamie Foxx (Tubbs) and Colin Farrell (Crockett). These two new partners rarely make wisecracks because they are too focused on catching bad guys and bedding good girls.

''I had zero interest in doing a Xerox or a nostalgia trip on the first one,'' Mann told Reuters. ''By design, I had to decide as a film director: 'Do I want audiences tripping into associations that are nostalgic, or do I want them feeling they are right now in the contemporary world?' And the answer was the latter,'' he added. While obviously hoping to attract viewers who remember the TV series, Mann said the only elements shared by movie and TV show are a rapidly moving story and a world of allure filled with drug runners and corrupt cops - a world called Miami.

In a career spanning more than three decades in Hollywood, writer/producer/director Mann has made a specialty of lending his movies a sense of realism few other filmmakers can match. Mann, 63, got his start in the 1970s, writing for cop shows like ''Police Story'' and ''Starsky and Hutch.'' In 1984, he executive-produced mega-hit Miami Vice, which became a pop culture phenomenon influencing TV, movies, music and fashion. He rose up to the ranks of TV writers, but Mann said his goal always was to make movies, and by the 1990s he was churning out suspense-filled dramas such as ''Heat,'' starring Robert De Niro and Al Pacino, and ''The Insider'' with Russell Crowe.

Mann said he always pictured the script for the original Miami Vice as a movie, but by the time he read it, the TV networks already had stepped in. It was about four years ago that Foxx approached Mann about the idea of a new movie, and the writer/director finally saw the opportunity to create the film he'd always wanted. The 'Miami Vice I want to see is undercover, right now, and life in those dangerous places, for real,'' he said. ''(That) means there are relationships, real human relationships. People sleep together ... And if you engage in this kind of work, it takes you into dangerous situations and very dangerous places and bad things happen.'' This new Miami Vice doesn't so much bring audiences on a journey to an explosive climax as it parachutes them into a fast-paced tale of murderous thugs and ruthless drug runners.

Tubbs and Crockett see one of their key informants being killed after an FBI sting operation goes bad. They take on identities as drug runners to ferret out the murderers and are plunged into a drug-making ring led by Montoya (Luis Tosar) and his key lieutenant, Isabella (Gong Li). Crockett falls in love with Isabella, while back home Tubbs' new ''U.C.'' identity puts the life of his lover, fellow Miami cop, Trudy (Naomie Harris), in peril. The two are conflicted by their lives and loves, but resolute in their goal to nail Montoya. Throughout it all as anyone would expect from a movie about Miami there are cool cars, fast boats, faster airplanes and svelte bodies. ''This is just a hot concept and a hot movie,'' said Foxx. While reviews are still coming in, critics at show business newspapers, Daily Variety and The Hollywood Reporter, agree that much of Miami Vice is style over substance.

To heighten the movie's air of reality, the actors trained with weapons and worked with undercover cops. They acted out scenarios for drug buys, and Farrell even tagged along on a mishandled drug bust he thought was real. While there have been news reports of problems on the set, Mann labelled them nonsense, and Farrell noted one report had he and Foxx at odds when, ''I hadn't even seen him yet.'' As he did with 2004's ''Collateral,'' Mann used new digital cameras to shoot Miami Vice because doing so allowed him to change elements like lighting on the set during the shoot, which, he said, added to the film's sense of reality. Moreover, digital gives the visual look of a movie, a ''tremendous depth of field, and sometimes allows you to feel you are that person standing next to a character,'' Mann said. He means right in the midst of the action, and that is real, Mann.

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