Welcome To Miami: Films Set in Moonlight's Locale
This year, three of the front runners for the Academy Awards and the TFS Awards are movies whose locations are as important to the movie as the story, cinematography, directors and production artists. As we get to the finish line of awards seasons, we wanted to highlight some other great movies from Miami (Moonlight), Boston (Manchester By The Sea) and Los Angeles (La La Land). Today, we head down to South Beach to look at a few of our other favorite stories set in Miami.
Pain & Gain (Michael Bay, 2013)
Michael Bay’s Pain & Gain does something that most Michael Bay films don’t: it looks ugly. Our time is spent in neighborhoods that are working class, industrial, or adorned with architecture still dressed in the gaudy accents of a previous era. When Bay allows his characters to ascend to the luxury they demand, he doesn’t provide them the high class covering of their new life; they are muscle bound new money who would cut their wine with cranberry juice if ever offered the hospitality. Bay’s homage to the American Dream by hook or by crook, and what happens when sunbaked and heat riddled minds try to take it, is a perfect Miami story - and a great precursor to the ‘Florida Man’ we’ve grown to love.
- Nick Isaac
Miami Vice (Michael Mann, 2006)
Michael Mann took the reins on directing the feature adaptation of his period-defining 1980s series in 2006, and upgraded it for the contemporary age with a crisp, digitally-shot sense of realism. While it polarized critics upon release for its confusing plot and near unintelligible dialogue, it has found a new audience in recent years, one that has championed the theatrical edition as the preferred version over the director’s cut. Stars Colin Farrell and Jamie Foxx play Crockett and Tubbs, undercover police detectives who become engaged in a prostitution/drug trafficking ring, with Crockett becoming too complicit after falling into a steamy affair with a kingpin’s lover (Gong Li). Certainly an atypical action-thriller for many reasons, and at times it feels like Mann is leaning hard on the elements that made his previous feature Collateral a hit, but it's hard to deny the astounding sensation that comes from watching the film, and the locales which adorn the film’s various set-pieces are a wonder to behold. If you don’t already own the film on Blu-ray, it's definitely worth blind-buying (especially if you can get your hands on a copy of the region-free UK copy which preserves the theatrical edition in all its HD glory).
- Rob Trench
Out of Sight (Steven Soderbergh, 1998)
Soderbergh’s crime thriller begins in Miami, where we see Jack Foley (George Clooney) escaping from a Florida prison, with Karen Sisco (Jennifer Lopez) hot on his heels. Sure, the locale moves from the sunny panhandle to the snow-covered streets of Detroit, but Soderbergh manages to carry the ‘heat’ through the film’s entire runtime thanks to the two leads. There’s no denying the chemistry between Clooney and Lopez, and the sex scene between the two, where they slowly strip away pieces of clothing, is without a doubt an all-timer. Lopez herself feels at ease in the Florida climate, where Karen Sisco resides as a U.S. Marshal. In what is assuredly her best role, Lopez was made to kick-ass with the beach and palm trees behind her. Even when she finds Foley’s gang of crooks in Boston, her coats and hats do little to hide the fact that Lopez is brimming with unbridled energy. It’s no wonder Lopez and Clooney feel the need to undress in front of one another — Sisco carries the heat of Miami wherever she goes.
- Marcelo Pico
2 Fast 2 Furious (John Singleton, 2003)
Fast cars, big explosions, hot babes, cold Corona, and family. That's the simple formula that the Fast and Furious movies has used to become a bonafide multi-billion dollar franchise. The second entry added series regulars Tyrese Gibson, Eva Mendes, and Ludacris to the family part of that formula and took the gang to Miami to make the action even louder and explosive-ier than it had been before. The film puts the warm sunny exteriors of Southern Florida to great use, making perhaps the most scenic film in the series to date (even with the caveat that it's the only one to not feature Vin Diesel's beautifully bullish mug). The beige sandy beaches and bright blue waters make a pretty colorful backdrop for the film's big dumb action scenes. It even uses the swampy wetlands well for the climactic scene where we get both a car chase AND a boat chase in one. 2 Fast 2 Furious is arguably the lowest point in the series, but when you get to see a car ramp onto a yacht with bullets flying everywhere, how can you complain?
- Marcus Irving
There’s Something About Mary (The Farrelly Brothers, 1998)
Directors drawn to Miami seem to be drawn to the seedier elements of crime and excess that the tropical climate cultivated in the 70’s and 80’s. The Farrelly Brother’s There’s Something About Mary, on the other hand, focuses on more ‘soft crime’; a group of suitors ranging from those over exaggerating their bonafides (Ben Stiller) to legally dubious private eyes (Matt Dillon) and a slew of other characters. The breezy Miami vibe allows the easy going and trusting attitude of Mary (Cameron Diaz) to take hold, and the cities mecha as a retirement destination makes one of the wilder and weirdest best friend characters in a romantic comedy ever (Lin Shay’s Magda). There’s Something About Mary treats Miami as an everyday place, for those who make the city what it is when it’s not turned up to 11 on South Beach. The humor feels less extreme now than it did 20 years ago, but the jokes are made for the breezy comforts of a place that Summer never really ends.