There is not that much to say about Miami Vice as a movie except that I found it pretty disappointing. I’m confused by the critical acclaim it got but then again, it seems like a movie that is more or less forgotten by now and that I understand. It’s a bit of a mess, a plot that’s hard to understand but in which also nothing really happens most of the time. The movie on the one hand appears so gritty and realistic but then on the other hand relies on big romantic love and sex scenes that totally feel out of place. I didn’t feel a lot for the characters either. I like both Colin Farrell and Jamie Foxx but they were so damn serious all the time that I found it hard to care about them. And why is Justin Theroux in this movie? He has about two lines of dialogue and his face is obscured most of the time. He could have been an extra and it wouldn’t have made a difference. The whole opening sequence was great, though, it felt like the movie was trying something different, there was an interesting mood going on and John Hawkes is just brilliant. But after his death (so after about 15 minutes) the movie quickly deteriorated into long talks between people who didn’t trust each other, dance scenes, racing boat scenes, container boat scenes, plane scenes and a confusing shoot-out finale. And one of the most pointless final shots I can remember. It’s hard not to compare this to Michael Mann’s Heat and not feel sad. (This article seems to explain why the movie is such a mess.)
What I do want to talk about is the portrayal of women in this movie, especially Naomie Harris’ character Trudy Joplin who is somehow involved romantically with Jamie Foxx’s character Tubbs. I feel that her role in this movie fits well to the so-called “Women in Refrigerators”-trope. This trope (= a convention in storytelling that is used repeatedly) was created by comics writer Gail Simone after the girlfriend of Kyle Rayner, the then new Green Lantern, was killed and stuffed into a refrigerator. Simone stated that this trope was used to show women being injured, tortured, raped or killed only as a plot point in the male protagonist’s character development. Although the idea was created for comics (where the role of women is extremely controversial but has also been changing significantly in the last two years), it can be found in other media as well, especially movies.
Now, let’s look at Trudy in that movie. In her first real scene, she gets really angry at a drug dealer (I think, most things in this movie are really unclear), signalling a powerful woman. The scene then cuts directly to her coming naked into the shower to Jamie Foxx leading to the aforementioned long sex scene. There are two more scenes with her and Jamie Foxx, talking and kissing. The next time we see her is almost an hour later where she is kidnapped at her house by a Nazi crime gang for reasons that also remain unclear. Her demise begins now. Next we see her in the Nazis’ trailer, bound to a chair and blindfolded, a ring of explosives put around her neck. Jamie Foxx learns about it and is somewhat angry. He and his colleagues go to the trailer park to rescue her. She is used as a hostage but he and another (female) colleague kill all the Nazi guys and get the explosives off of her. They have to leave but she needs a moment to recover and stays back in the trailer where she watches her dead kidnappers with tormented looks. She also looks totally beaten up, even if we never see anything actually done to her. Just as she is about to leave the trailer, it explodes, hurling her through the air in a cheap effect shot. Then there is a close-up shot of the back of her head with smoke rising from her hair, which looks terrible. They bring her to a hospital, she is operated on and the doctors say that it doesn’t look great for her because of intensive burns. Jamie Foxx is sad and angry and reflects upon things. He looks at her in her bandages again and they go and fight their final fights against the bad guys, including the Nazi drug lords. In one of the last shots we see her wake up in pain.
Her character is not necessary for the movie but her kidnapping and near-death are important for Jamie Foxx’s motivation. She has to go through hell so that he can be the hero. What is so weird is how she disappears from the movie for such a long time that you are not sure at first who is being kidnapped. This disappearance underlines her lack of relevance as a character and contradicts the way she is introduced in that earlier scene as a tough woman. Again, the extended sex scene (in which she changes positions quickly from on top to lying under Jamie Foxx... just saying). It’s just one of many missteps of this flawed movie but it stands out as particularly annoying.