Film scores

Soundtrack review: Miami Vice (John Murphy – 2006)

Miami_vice_(2006)

There was a time when Michael Mann was my favorite film maker. His cinematography, his deep and complex characters, the alluring darkness of his movies were all ingredients of my favorite past time. I had developed a cult admiration for everything Michael Mann. Sure in the past few years he’s lost his touch a bit, but the legacy lives on and I can count five of his movies in my top 20 list. That’s a lot… One of the most special to me is the often talked about and polarizing “Miami Vice”. His take on the famous TV show angered many but pleased enough, and I was one of those who got out mesmerized from the theater. Colin Farrell and Jamie Foxx’s magnetic performances… the complex character relationships… again, the special darkness and the entire plot made this one of the movies I always re watch with passion.

There was another thing that left a permanent echo inside me the first time I saw “Miami Vice”. It was John Murphy’s score. Now Michael Mann, despite his recent troubles with Harry Gregson Williams, always knew how to choose the music for his films. He’s second only to Quentin Tarantino in this matter but he adds something extra: the score. He always goes for the dual approach soundtrack and score. For this one he went with John Murphy (who has another few iconic scores for me, “Sunshine” and “28 days later” among them) and the composer added an extra layer to every scene where his music was featured. How would the final shootout scene be without his powerful, haunting and show stopping “Who are you?”… That heartbreaking moment when she discovers that Colin Farrell had betrayed her and was in fact an agent would have seen its emotional impact reduced by half without the music.

A lot of “Miami Vice” centers on the inner tribulations of the main protagonists and Colin Farrell especially has some intense scenes of self-doubt and discovery. His musings always have as faithful companion a few dark and magnificent notes by John Murphy which help me see inside the character and understand him better. I always see that blueish hue when I listen to this score. Fans of the movies will know what I am talking about.

The action parts are alert and mimic the motors of the fast boats which appear all over the movie. Tracks like “Donzi race” or “A 500” (written by Klaus Badelt in fact) make me feel the salty water drops on my face. But still, the emotional cues are what made “Miami Vice” sit proudly among my all-time favorites and on my list of Holy Grails I’d love to hear expanded or complete. “Rose moon”, “Freighter”, “Meth lab” are silent cries of desperation, moments we’ve all experienced and I marvel at how well and efficiently John Murphy wrote them into music. There’s nothing epic or overly dramatic in them. They are simply… human. They sound natural, I can relate to them and that’s what makes them so powerful. These minimalistic gems have the weight of led and the vastness and intimacy of an empty shore where you can be alone with your thoughts and the sound of the ocean or sea can drown them when it gets too much.

The atmosphere of the score is defined by “Fuckeduplove”, the love theme for Colin Farrell and the drug dealer’s right hand. Moody, melancholic, quiet and smoldering in the same time, the theme mirrors what we saw on screen and once again makes me relate even better to the story. And how about the little surprises the composer throws in some of his cues… As if they were real characters who react and think on the spot. The music is alive… Just listen to “Romanzia” and it’s romantic guitar start before the shadow of a thought comes between 00:50 and 01:05 and the imaginary character makes a decision. He repeats his thought after a few seconds just to be sure. Pure musical magic… Or the wordless confession of “Piano hum”. Gem after gem…

So La La Land Records or anyone else, please, make plans to release this one in the form it deserves.

Cue rating: 95 / 100

Total minutes of excellence: 31 / 42

Album excellence: 74%

Highlights:

Donzi Race

Meth Lab

Who Are You?

Mercado Nuevo

Vox

A500

Rose Moon

Freighter

Kemence

Fujima

Empty Mansion

Fuckeduplove

Tick Tock

Romanzia

Death Theme #3

Piano Hum

Boat Race

Death Theme #2

 

About the author

Mihnea Manduteanu

I have been listening to film music for 25 years and writing about it since 2014. I've written over 1000 reviews and I can't imagine myself doing anything else. I am also a member of IFMCA (International Film Music Critics Association).

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