Saturday, 1 April 2017

Miami Vice: Or How I Learnt to Stop Judging Things by Their Covers

I watched filmed starring Gene Hackman and Nick Nolte called Under Fire the other day. Its about the Nicaraguan revolt against Somoza in 1979. It was made in 1983 back when the Reagan Administration was doing its best to vilify the Sandinistas and return the brutal right wing dictatorship to power. So I was impressed with how explicitly pro Sandinista the film. Unfortunately it wasn't very good, the action scenes were kinda dull and a couple looked like they were cut from a comedic farce and pasted into this film instead.

But it did remind me of another slice of 80's Americana about the US attacks on Central America, Miami Vice. To date it is the only episode I have ever seen, but that was because of a lack of opportunity to watch others. The episode, which the Miami Vice Wiki informs me was called Stone's War, aired in 1986, I caught it in the mid 2000's on a free view channel and its stuck with me ever since.

The reason the episode struck such a chord with me is simple, despite not having seen the show its fame and popculture footprint gave me a mental image of 80's excess at its very worst. I knew the protagonist drove around in flash cars (in Stone's War he drives a Testarossa) high speed chases in the Miami sunshine, beautiful women in bikini's, and refusal to play by the chiefs rules. The problem here wasn't with any of this in itself, it was that I've seen all before so never really cared to see another example of cool cop single handedly winning the war on drugs.

So unless Stones War was the rare exception I owe the series an apology. Stones War was smart, emotional and earnest. There was fast paced action and gun fights but they were tense and exhilarating and the show took its subject matter incredibly seriously and Crockett (the main character) instead of being the ultimate icon of 80's action hero, was sorta flawed.Though the opening credits much like how I thought the show would be, so I wasn't completely off base.

The wiki has a full synopsis and plenty of trivia, and the plot is kinda convoluted so I won't attempt to recreate it here. I'll just briefly summarise, the CIA, backed by big business is using American mercenaries to aide the Contra's in their civil war in Nicaragua. During which the commit many crimes, including the murder of an American priest while pretending to be Sandinistas. A journalist and an old acquaintance of Crockett have video evidence of the CIAs dirty tricks, and the CIA is now trying to murder the pair of them and recover the footage. Crockett winds up entangled in the scheme and grudgingly tries to help. And in the biggest shock for me watching, despite killing a few bad guys, (including one guy who wears a necklace made of Sandinista ears)he ultimately fails completely, both his acquaintances are killed and the tape is partly wiped and broadcast in an edited manner to make it look like Sandinistas were carrying out war crimes. For an extra kick in the teeth it ends with him staring off into the distance while listening to a radio report blaming the murder of the priest on the Sandinista regime. His failure is total.

Ears.... Sandinista Ears
So yeah a pretty big departure from sunshine and car chases. I was genuinely impressed, the American right is depicted as scum. Halfway through the leader of the mercs calls a meeting of supporters and assembles a group of industrialists, including one from the United Grain Company. And they're all for the plan to send Americans into Nicaragua, the only concern they have is if they'll get a return on investment. And the Mercs, ex-CIA are sadistic killers, who are quite willing to murder American citizens on US soil if they can keep it quiet. Politically speaking its right up my street.

But more importantly it was an entertaining watch, the action scenes were tense and the emotional bits were appropriately emotional. I felt frustrated when that plane full of soldiers took off and escaped from Crockett too. I think that's the main failing of the film Under Fire, it had a lot of knowledge about Somoza and Nicaragua packed into it, even the trivia about the Mussolini statues, but it was a bit of a slog. Nothing really connected it was like watching Nolte stumble from one scene to another. Which was a pity because some of the street fighting scenes were inventive it just didn't gel with anything.

So in conclusion, Stones War is pretty good, and I hope the rest of show lives up to its standards because I plan to catch up with the rest.

Oh and this isn't an April Fools joke by the way, I thought about making a joke post but couldn't think of anything intentionally funny so I thought a post about light entertainment (light entertainment which opens on a massacre of villagers, has a necklace of human ears and has a woman punched so hard her neck snaps) would do instead.

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