In Michael Mann’s cinema, his men are existentially bound to their professions. They long for freedom, but are caught in a paradox, as escaping their work would cause the meaning they’ve imposed into their lives to collapse. Often, his protagonists are shown looking off into a distance, most commonly an ocean, an image of this desired freedom. Women are also established as key to the characters’ lives, acting as ballast to the men, and offering a source of spiritual haven.
In Miami Vice, drug dealer Jose Yero (John Ortiz) looks on as undercover cop Crockett (Colin Farrell) speeds off in a boat with Isabella (Gong Li). Mann’s protagonist is able to escape into the image of freedom, as another character can only watch with envy.
What follows is the most ecstatic image of freedom in the filmmaker’s oeuvre. The ocean + the woman.
Later, as Crockett and Isabella dance, enjoying the freedom they offer each other, Jose again looks on with envy, and begins to cry.
At the end of the film, Crockett succeeds in offering Isabella freedom from their world of work, but for himself, and for the male characters in Mann’s cinema, such freedom remains transient.