Movie Review: MIAMI VICE:B. Gong Li As The Femme Fatale In A TV Action Remake?
Miami Vice is an interesting movie in some ways and other ways it is a typical remake not of a popular movie but a popular television show in the eighties. I guess the old adage that there is a new audience every twenty years and if the show was popular to a certain group twenty years ago it will be to the members of that group in the new generation, if updated and starred properly. The stars of this movie are Jaime Fox, as Ricardo Tubbs, Colin Farrell as Sonny Crockett and Gong Li in a supporting role as Isabella the Cuban- Chinese half of a husband and wife drug distribution empire.
Gong Li is considered by many as the best dramatic Chinese actress working today. She is held in similar esteem in China as Meryl Streep is in our country. So why does she want to take a supporting role as a drug dealer requiring little dramatic range in a remake of an action television show? The show it self was and the movie is a hackneyed, action, cops and drug dealer’s shootem up in boats, planes and helicopters with out any great dramatic range required. Indeed she plays her role pretty woodenly. Actually the script is pretty run of the mill and doesn’t give her much to work with and Michael Mann doesn’t bring out her range either. Why she would pick this picture after the much stronger role of Hatsuhana in Memoirs Of A Geisha is strange.
Zhang Yimou, The famous Chinese director of Farewell My Concubine and Shanghai Triad (I suspect these are awkward translations of the titles) and many other acclaimed films discovered her at the Beijing Central College of Drama and cast her in an award winning Chinese film named Red Sorghum, a story about a young girl whose family puts her into an arranged marriage with a rich leper who owns a vineyard. The girl goes to meet her future husband with scissors in her blouse to ward off any marital advances. The plot gets thicker if you can believe it. Thus Gong Li made her name by playing roles like this.
Gong Li’s parents were college economics professors who were sent along with the rest of their children to work as farm laborers during the Cultural Revolution. She was excepted from farm work since she was too young. Later she failed her college admissions test twice before being admitted to the Beijing Central College of Drama. Her role in Red Sorghum led to a long relationship with director Zhang both artistically and romantically. Indeed he called her his muse. Together they made many classic Chinese period movies so for her to play the narrow part of Isabella is like Bette Davis playing Gumby.
She was born in 1965 and she is at a point in her career where actresses in the U. S. tend to be supplanted by younger actresses although she is in demand in Chinese language films.
Why she wants to establish herself as an action star in films that are mostly viewed by sixteen to twenty four year old U. S. males is strange. If she needed the money it would be one thing but she is allegedly married to a Shanghai tobacco tycoon.
Tycoon could mean anything from a street seller of cigarettes to a manufacturer of tobacco products but most likely the latter. Ostensibly one would think money is not a motive.
THE ASIAN MARKET
Maybe it is that the dialogue in action films is short, monosyllabic and lets the action carry the story. That is the why Chinese actors with limited English are first cast in American films for their action skills like Jet Li and Jackie Chanand not their acting abilities.
However Gong Li is not an action star in China but a dramatic actor whose limited English makes the crossover difficult. Michael Mann must be a silver-tongued devil to talk China’s most acclaimed dramatic actress into takeing a role in his T.V. remake.
Then again Maggie Q an American-Vietnamese actress who started her career in Hong Kong was cast in Mission Impossible 3. However she is mainly an action movie actress and has not tackled the serious dramatic roles Gong Li has.
MI3 is a film that requires little if any dialogue. Both actresses look alike so maybe Michael Mann was trying to duplicate the worldwide gross of MI3 of about 400 million and counting. However he didn’t have Tom Cruise so it is unlikely Miami Vice will come anywhere near MI3 in income. To be fair it must be remembered some of MI3 took place in Shanghai so this will also affect its Asian gross. But has Gong Li started a new trend; well known dramatic Asian actors instead of kung fu specialists for the Asian market? It will be if it is supported at the box office in Asia. Maybe Michael Mann was trying to add a little class to his thin action remake and failed to make it work.