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Trigger Happy

Notwithstanding that the most ballistic thing in Michael Mann’s film “Miami Vice” is Gong Li in a split skirt, the movie revolves around guns: the gearing up, the racking and re-racking of automatics, the vaguely self-pleasuring

pistol polishing, the slapping of magazines into automatic weapons and then--at the end--the very noisy unloading in an awesome nighttime firefight. Cigarette, my dear?

You might be inclined to think the movie is about Adam A500 planes, or Ferrari F430 Spiders, or Donzi speedboats, or IWC watches, so covetously portrayed are these high-end toys. Much of the time, the movie plays like the Robb Report with bad dialogue.

But once you burn away the incidental product placement--and Colin Farrell’s astonishing attempt at a Southern accent--what you’re left with is guns, guns, guns.

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I like guns. I come from a gun family. I am a 2nd Amendment, pro-gun liberal--which makes me a very lonely creature when the subject comes up in casual conversation around the office. And part of the pleasure of any Michael Mann movie is identifying what the fashionable young man is killing people with this season. Sometimes it’s easy. In “Collateral,” Tom Cruise’s primary weapon is a .45-caliber Heckler & Koch USP fed with 12-round clips. This is a terrific lightweight automatic, and Cruise--as a testament to what must have been weeks of trigger time--handles it like a pro. The HK USP is versatile. Winter, summer, whenever. You can dress it down with a pair of loafers, or dress it up with a jacket and tie for a rampage out on the town.

In “Miami Vice,” the gun cast includes some relative unknowns. It took me a while to track down Farrell’s primary sidearm, which is--all you gun nuts take note--a titanium SVI Infinity re-barreled as a .45 (bigger barrels look cool). Strictly speaking, this is more of a match pistol than a combat handgun, but it will still make a very picturesque hole in someone’s head. Later, Farrell’s Sonny Crockett goes tactical with a Sig Sauer 552 Commando assault rifle. Meanwhile, Jamie Foxx’s Tubbs wields a Sig Sauer automatic, a snub-nosed Smith & Wesson, a get-'er-done Benelli M4 combat shotgun and an HK 69 grenade launcher, which he uses to open some warehouse doors. Remember the old days, when cops jimmied locks?

At times, the movie feels as if it were brought to you by the National Rifle Assn. In one tense standoff--a bad guy holds a detonator, threatening to blow up his hostage and everybody else--the character Gina, leveling an HK G36C, informs him that she can “put a 55-grain slug at 2,700 feet per second into your medulla oblongata.” The bad guy protests. She proceeds. His head geysers blood and brains against the wall. Wow. Ballistics charts and Gray’s anatomy too.

The drug cartel guys deploy a variety of very fun assault rifles. Their big gun--and the most overtly political weapon in the film--appears to be a Barrett .50-caliber M107 semiautomatic rifle, a 32-pound, 5-foot-long military sniper rifle that was banned in California starting last year, for the altogether sensible reason that it can bring down airliners. In the film, two .50 calibers open up on a car and--quite accurately, I imagine--rip it and the occupants to shreds. Look, I get it. Choice of weaponry is a window to a character’s soul. When Clint Eastwood leveled that .44 Magnum, Dirty Harry became the avenging white urban archangel from Smith & Wesson. Farrell’s SVI is the gun of a stone-cold killer and connoisseur, what a Breitling is to a chronophile.

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And yet I’m struck by the irony of the alliance. Is Hollywood a bastion of liberal lefty gun-grabbers or home to the most ardently pro-gun advocates west of Waco, Texas? Plainly, the answer is the latter. It’s true, Michael Moore’s anti-gun documentary “Bowling for Columbine” won an Academy Award. But that was the industry’s crowning moment of hypocrisy. In the main, American entertainment absolutely revels in firepower, the more extreme the better, and the gun industry continues to profit from the cross-promotion.

As I said, I’m pretty pro-gun, but I would never belong to the NRA because, well, those guys are lunatics. One of their more far-fetched paranoid fantasies (here comes the e-mail!) is that the United Nations is conspiring to take away America’s guns. Right! Let me know how that project goes, Secretary Annan!

You can pry Americans’ guns from their cold, dead hands. Maybe. And then you’ll have to figure out what to do with all those TVs and cineplexes. I mean, come on, they’re making “Rambo IV,” for God’s sake. And it seems the more we become entangled in history, the more we seem bewitched by gun entertainment, by the lure of the gun’s quick-fix, curative powers. If only we could put ourselves out of our misery.


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