In July 2006, the month director Michael Mann's Miami Vice slipped into theatres like a hard-ass undercover cop moving silently through a crowded nightclub, I had never sipped any combination of white rum, simple syrup, lime juice, club soda, and mint leaves in my life. Only 17, I could barely get into an R-rated movie, much less order a popular Cuban cocktail. Excited to see peak-dirtbag Colin Farrell and Ray-era Jamie Foxx bathe in the digital-wolf afterglow of post-Collateral Mann, I sat down at the local movie theater unaware that my life was about to change.
I walked into that multiplex as a teen. I left a fiend. A fiend for mojitos.
It's likely you have no idea what I'm talking about. A critical misfire upon release and a box-office disappointment, Miami Vice isn't as fondly remembered as the pastel-heavy, Don Johnson-starring '80s police procedural that inspired it. Nor is it as universally acclaimed as Heat, Mann's other moody crime epic. It's dark and loud. The dialogue is filled with jargon. It has (multiple!) shitty Audioslave songs. But do you know what else it has? A scene where Colin Farrell, playing Det. James "Sonny" Crockett, says, "I'm a fiend for mojitos."
Seriously, just watch it.
Did you really watch it? Don't just pretend you watched it -- really watch it.
Observe the way Farrell takes a breath, glances off towards the ocean, redirects his gaze at Gong Li's mysterious crimelord Isabella, archly raises his eyebrows, and delivers his iconic line. This moment is pure cocaine. It's group sex on a jet ski. It's what True Detective Season 2 wanted to be. You don't even have to have seen the rest of the movie for the scene to work its hypnotic mojito power.
And really, this sexually-charged exchange is less about the "mojito" and more about the other word that makes this sun-spotted poetry sing. I'm talking about "fiend." This article wouldn't exist if Farrell had turned to Li and said, "Gee, neighbor, I happen to enjoy a mojito from time to time," or "I'm a psycho for mojitos." The word "fiend" has a mischievous quality, an alluring danger that harkens back to the word's Old English etymology: devil, Satan, the enemy of mankind. That's the energy Farrell was able to channel in this movie.
Seriously, just look at Colin Farrell as Crockett? Look at that face! And the necklaces!
It says, "I'm sleazy but you can trust me." It says, "I grew this facial hair for fun." It says, "Fuck you -- I was in Oliver Stone's Alexander." In other words, it's the face of a fiend. Pop culture has given us many fiends: the dope fiend, the microphone fiend, and that fiend drinking a Heineken on Nas' "One Mic," to name just a few. But over the course of Miami Vice, you become enamored with a new type of fiend: the mojito fiend. He travels to Cuba. He dances. He listens to Moby.
It's important to remember that "I'm a fiend for mojitos" isn't simply a catchphrase or a meme. It's a way of looking at the world. Sure, you can order a T-shirt online with the words on it, and Mann-lovers quote the line to each other with a mix of irony and awe, but within the context of the movie, this tough-guy idiom is not a knowing wink to the audience or fan service, like Samuel L. Jackson's one-liner from Snakes on a Plane or "I'm the Juggernaut, bitch" from X-Men: The Last Stand (both released the same summer as Miami Vice). Unlike those pandering, forgettable novelties, "I'm a fiend for mojitos" is a cheesy line delivered with absolute conviction.
Pseudo-literary man-babies like to talk about how much their favorite writer Ernest Hemingway loved mojitos, but it turns out Hemingway wasn't even really about that life. The quote often attributed him to him was a hoax. But you know what's not a hoax? Colin Farrell saying "I'm a fiend for mojitos." There's nothing fake about it, and for that I raise my cold mojito glass to you, Mr. Farrell, wherever you are -- ideally on a beach somewhere talking to models about what The Lobster really meant. Unlike Hemingway, you created an iconic mojito quote. It will live forever.
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