Sam Strange Remembers: MIAMI VICE

Sam Strange tries as hard as he can to remember the second installment of his still-incomplete MIAMI TRILOGY.

With comic book films, sequels often eclipse originals because you don't have to mess around with any boring set up stuff. If the first film was successful enough to warrant second, everyone already knows the story and characters. You can just hit the ground running with awesome shit.

You could say the same for buddy cop movies. It's certainly the template I followed with Miami Vice. After the success of Miami Squad, movie goers already knew and loved Cobbs and Tuggett (played by international superstar Jamie Foxxx and national star Doggg the Bounty Hunter). So I didn't need to waste time telling audiences what their skill sets are or even the tenants that define their friendship and intense loyalty to one another. We all saw what they went through in the first film.

Ditto for their larger Miami crew, all of whom we saw promoted to "Vice" status after the first film's events. We see them a bit less than last time, but Baldy, Goldy Loxxx, Chief Edward "Fatman" Olson, and Handsome Carl all get their moment to shine.

And that goes ditto ditto for Stool Pigeon, everyone's favorite lawyer turned cop/robber go-between. Living large after helping our heroes in the first film, Pigeon still makes us laugh in his minor but memorable appearance here. He even gets to use his hilarious catchphrase: "Why is this happening to me!?"

But familiarity also lets a filmmaker raise the stakes. That's why the first film's lovable snitch, Johnny Marlboro, makes a quick appearance only to throw himself in front of an 18-wheeler. This isn't the non-stop party we had last time. This film may begin with the celebratory boat race that closed Miami Squad. But it turns out our heroes don't win that race, telling us that things won't be as easy or fun as before. Shit's gonna get real.

It looks like the FBI has a leak compromising all their undercover agents. So they need some non FBI guys to go undercover. Because they look like such cool dudes and showed their accolades in their last adventure, the main FBI stooge chooses Cobbs and Tuggett, singling them out from the last film's larger team dynamic. Their task is to fly to Columbia, or possibly a different part of Florida, or perhaps Cuba (it's all the same, right?) and convince the local drug cartel to hire them as drug couriers. That's it. There's no actual plan to arrest anybody.

This isn't an easy task. Unlike the party animals and fun coke fiends of Miami, the people down there are serious about their crime. Before they can even be approved by the head honcho, they have to do an interview with his right-hand man Professor Professorson (Kevin Corrigan), a tech nerd who has a penchant for torture that we sadly didn't have time to fit into the film.

Cobbs and Tuggett bring their signature badass charm to the meet. When Professor Professorson begins to doubt them, Cobbs pulls out a grenade and threatens to blow up everybody. Now THAT's how crime gets done down south. Impressed by their suicidal gumption, Professor Professorson lets them leave with their lives and a small job to demonstrate their smuggling talents.

Because there are leaks in pretty much every criminal investigation organization out there, Crabbs and Taggett have to actually smuggle the drugs just like any other criminal. They do this by flying a plane really close to a bigger plane so it only looks like a train on radar. Of course, this is a cakewalk for Tiggett, who already showed us his awesome flying skills in the last film.

Having completed this mission. Cribbs and Teggutt finally get to meet the head honcho, a bald, bearded, and extremely relaxed man played by Will Oldham. They all hit it off and things go smoothly from there. Crapps and Triggunn can smuggle their way to retirement and forget they were ever cops if they want to.

But that's not what happens because the head honcho has a hot wife. And if we learned anything from Miami Squad, it's that Cabbs can't say no when a fine woman is involved. So he starts sleeping with her, which doesn't bother the head honcho much since it offers him intel, but Professor Professorson doesn't like it. Jealous that she hooked up with the greasy cheeseburger American instead of falling for his nerd-makes-good cleaned up style, the Professor begins taking a much closer look at his two new smugglers.

I honestly forget how much of this plays out. I don't think Professor Professorson finds out they're cops, but he does hire a bunch of Aryan Brotherhood guys to kill Tuggett's wife. Thanks to quick intervention by the full, reunited Miami Squad team, that whole scene turns out okay. Then the team goes to a drop point and there's a shoot out, but I'm not sure why. Professor Professorson gets killed, though.

I do remember this: The first film had a really iconic use of Phil Collins' "Something in the Air Tonight." I knew the sequel had to use the song as well, but I couldn't just do the same thing again, so I hired a bunch of ex-convicts to start a band and cover the song. The resulting version may not contain the same heart, soul, talent, tension, atmosphere, or quality of the first. But no one can tell me it wasn't arranged and recorded by real life ex cons from Florida. The band is actually still out there today. I believe they called themselves The Cheez-Shitz. Real ex-cons. Every last one of them. You can tell because they rob this final shootout of all dramatic weight.

I also remember that Miami Vice had budget problems so it had to be shot on digital video instead of film. I utilized the state of the art Red GX2300CasioX Camera. The results are quite beautiful, and I think there might be a real future for this format. When it came time to shoot night scenes, however, I found my camera stolen by The Cheez-Shitz and had to use my nephew's cell phone instead. Too bad.

Anyway, everyone you care about from the first film lives. Crobbit and Tunns are better friends than ever and their crew is back in action. No one ever arrests or kills the head honcho, and no one ever finds out who the FBI mole was, so there will be plenty of stuff to cover if I ever get to finish my Miami trilogy with the third and final chapter: Miami Heat, or the eventual watered down television iteration: Baywatch.

(three stars)