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The Ending Of The Miami Vice Movie Explained

In the mid-1980s, the series Miami Vice was a sizzling hit for NBC. Detectives James "Sonny" Crockett and Ricardo Tubbs didn't look like regular TV detectives. They were sexy, stylish, and carried the swagger of high-class print models. Crockett and Tubbs weren't munching on donuts, waiting for the next bust. They were tapped into the inner workings of the Miami scene and pursued criminals with ease.

Director Michael Mann served as executive producer for the show's five-season run and crafted the vision for the 2006 feature film of the same name. The movie version of the series ventured down a darker, more dangerous road than the show. Crockett and Tubbs were still sexy and stylish, but the undercover world of a transnational drug cartel presented challenges the television series never had to face.

Known for the vast epic The Last of the Mohicans and the crime drama Heat, Mann is known as a formidable director who can handle a big budget and solve problems on the fly. His movies seamlessly weave intense action into a bittersweet love story. Love is often the last thing the main character is focused on — or even expects to enter his life. The love stories in Mann's films are also in direct opposition to the main character's plans. It's often said that life gets in the way when you're making plans, and love conquers all. Well, in Mann's films, that's not quite the case.

In the dazzling reimagining of the hit series, the aforementioned themes are front and center as Crockett and Tubbs struggle through a complicated investigation. The final act of the movie does a great job of heightening the tension around these themes, as explained below.

Tubbs can't hold onto his plans

Jamie Foxx brought an incredible amount of brute strength to the role of Ricardo Tubbs, referred to as "Rico" in the movie. Anyone in his way got a searing stare that he didn't need to follow up with words. Rico is romantically linked to a member of his team, Trudy Joplin (Naomie Harris). As hard as they work in the streets of Miami, they work just as hard at love. A provocative sex scene plays out after the two have come home from a long day. Rico is light-hearted, sensual, and earnest.

As the big investigation takes Rico and Sonny to perilous parts of the Caribbean, Trudy stays in Miami. Rico checks in with her often, growing worried about her safety as he goes deeper undercover. It's assumed that Rico planned to have Trudy less involved in the investigation, based on her somewhat snarky tone. By the end of the movie, those plans crumble as Trudy is kidnapped and held hostage with a bomb around her neck. Not only did the threatening nature of the investigation get in the way of Rico's plans, but the unexpected hiccups of undercover life contributed to their decay.

Rico's plans to maintain a simple partnership with Sonny also go awry when Sonny's rogue approach to manipulating a witness sends the investigation spiraling.

Crockett plays a risky game of love

Colin Farrell's portrayal of Sonny Crockett is very different from that of Don Johnson, who played a tanned, blond heartthrob. Sonny sports a thick, unkempt mustache, shoulder-length hair, and possesses a deep sensitivity that makes him an alluring enigma.

Early in the movie, he locks eyes with the right hand of the cartel boss, a sultry, bold woman named Isabella (Li Gong). She stares Sonny down as well, setting the tone for the magnetic dynamic between these two. After a contentious meeting, Sonny asks Isabella out for a drink. He loves mojitos and she knows a place in Havana where they can go. They hop in a speed boat and race 90 miles across the ocean.

The heat between Sonny and Isabella jumps off the screen, but there's also a bittersweet understanding between them. Falling for each other is all well and good, but they acknowledge that a true, long-lasting relationship could never be. Sonny and Isabella think their love exists in a bubble, conquering the notion that they can't focus on business and pleasure. But everyone is paying close attention to this romance, and Isabella's subordinate, Jose Yero (John Ortiz), is plotting to destroy them. The FBI agent in charge of Sonny's case questions how he can "lie down with dogs," sending Sonny into a rage and even closer to Isabella.

By the end of the movie, Sonny has to reconcile his position as a detective and take the hit when Isabella realizes who he really is. The love they thought would somewhat conquer the underworld of the cartel won't be able to withstand what's been exposed. Sonny has to let Isabella go, and get back to his first love — the law. This is a relationship that provides him with conquering stability he never has to question.

Mann's love letter to Miami Vice ended with a major decision

As a deadly hurricane swept over the filming of Miami Vice, Michael Mann forged ahead. His expectations were extremely high for the ending of the film, which faced a last-minute location change. "Michael was able to regroup in a week and restage the entire finale," a studio insider told Slate. With an alternate ending already in his back pocket, Mann staged the final shoot out on a dark, gravelly plot in Miami. 

"The Miami ending worked out to be the better ending," the director recalled. "It brought all the conflicting characters together in one arena." And that arena saw each of the main characters right a wrong in the name of love.

With Trudy's wounded body laid up in a hospital, Rico focuses his weapon on the man who put her there, Jose Yero. At this point in the ending, Rico doesn't know if Trudy will recover from the unexpected explosion that damaged her tiny frame, so vengeance is foremost on his mind when he goes after Jose.

Throughout the movie, Jose has grappled with his own loyalties in love — both toward the leader of the cartel and Isabella. Her romance with Sonny consumes him. He's disappointed in himself for not being more on top of her potential involvement in the crumbling of the cartel, the world he holds so dear. In the final act of the movie, Jose takes matters into his own hands, captures Isabella, and uses her as a pawn in his deal with Sonny. Sonny is enraged but holds onto the notion that his and Isabella's love will conquer this situation. He shields her from whizzing bullets, and even when these notions crumble before his eyes, Sonny hangs on to the bitter end.

Isabella has a volatile reaction when she sees Sonny's badge. He's caught between regret and acceptance but doesn't act hastily. He makes a decision that's specifically right for him and Isabella. Sonny takes her to a safe house in the Florida Keys and sets her off on a boat back to Havana. It's a goodbye neither of them wanted to face, but it was a poetic summation of the movie's major themes.