Never having been a fan of the TV series (but I confess to never having seen an entire episode), I had no expectations going in, except to be entertained with Mann's customary flair for terse dialogue and stunning visuals. And on that level, I wasn't disappointed. I'd also read that the film wastes no time establishing any back story for the uninitiated, and so it proves. In Zen-like fashion Crockett and Tubbs simply ARE, which allows the film to kick off in the thick of the action.
The best way to watch this film is as a police procedural, with a side order of oddly yearning romanticism. No concessions are made to the audience in terms of explaining the cops terminology and the limited exposition is justified as one group of criminals explaining how their operation works to their new collaborators. Once you realize that you don't have to register every nuance and detail to appreciate the plot, you can sit back and enjoy some eerily beautiful Hi-Def cinematography. Petrol-heads and fans of unfeasibly fast motorboats will also find much to enjoy. The "mojitos in Havana" romantic interlude was a pleasant surprise, with Farrell having to flex more than just his eyebrows to convince us that this probably is the ultimate first date.
The jury's still out for me on Mann's use of music. The blaring MOR rock fits stylistically but can cheapen some scenes. And it would be nice to more scenes sound tracked by near-silence, as is achieved very effectively in a stake-out/rescue scenario later in the film. Farrell and Foxx do work well together, indeed its refreshing to have a cop pairing without all the cutesy buddy stuff. Nevertheless, when one tells the other "I will never doubt you" it's almost a statement of love, coming as it does out of a void of professionalism.
The parallel-plotting is a little overdone, with not one but two "lover in jeopardy" scenes and the dialogue could have been better layered/mixed for clarity, given the obscure nature of some of the procedural references. However, much of the dialogue was laugh-aloud funny in its Mamet-like moments and Mann's action direction is of course superb. "Miami Vice" is enjoyable but not as emotionally involving as Heat or as kinetic as Collateral.