Old MCN Blogs
David Poland

By David Poland poland@moviecitynews.com

Miami Vice's Sharpshooter Threat: True or Not?

I will put a round precisely through your medulla oblongata, which is located at the base of your brain, straight through a point mid-distance between your upper lip and the bottom of your nose. And you will be dead from the neck down. Your finger won’t even twitch. Do you believe that?”
Well, do you, punk? Film Fatale asks an expert — a forensic pathologist with the city of New York — to go see the movie and drop some science on us.
While many major film critics got horny for Miami Vice’s sensual (if sometimes non-sensical) pleasures, audiences went wild for the most memorably badass line of dialogue — which was, interestingly enough, not spoken by either of the film’s lead actors. It’s such a hero/trailer line you’d think a star would demand to say it.
And the fact that a star doesn’t say this line is doubly odd because one of them — the Tubbs character (Jamie Foxx) — is standing right there during the tense standoff in which Det. Trudy Joplin (Naomie Harris) is held at gunpoint by some meth-dealing Aryan nation types. One of them dares the cops to kill him — saying he’ll die pulling the trigger on his gun and the switch on an explosive around her neck. But it’s Det. Gina Calabrese (Elizabeth Rodriguez), not Tubbs, who calls his bluff:
“This is what’s going to happen,” she says. “This is what’s going to happen. I will put a round precisely through your medulla oblongata, which is located at the base of your brain, straight through a point mid-distance between your upper lip and the bottom of your nose and you will be dead from the neck down. Your finger won’t even twitch. Do you believe that?”
So, what is the medulla oblongata and does she locate it correctly?
Pretty much, I’d say. I’m used to looking at the medulla oblongata when the brain has been removed. So a sharpshooter is taking a different perspective.
Would a person, getting shot there, be dead from the neck down?
Oh, yes. You’d be dead from the neck up, too.
What about that promise that his finger wouldn’t twitch?
I wouldn’t — I couldn’t — guarantee anything like that. Someone who understands what sort of gun and trigger he was holding could address the risk the police were taking.

So, if she were to ask you again: do you believe that?

I would believe anything that woman said. It’s a great line.
More appreciation of MIAMI VICE:
Boston Globe’s Wesley Morris
New York Magazine’s David Edelstein
New York Times’ A.O. Scott

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2 Responses to “Miami Vice's Sharpshooter Threat: True or Not?”

  1. Me says:

    Why do people keep misquoting this line?
    Please post some sort of reference for this “expert”. You say it’s a forensic pathologist in NY and I say you’re full of s***.

  2. 1. The forensic pathologist is a friend. Because I didn’t call up his office and request an interview through the ME’s press representative, he asked that I not use his name.
    You ask: “Why do people keep misquoting this line?”
    The shame! I went by my notes, scribbled in the dark (I’m not one of those critics who writes with an annoying-as-fuck illuminated pen.) And I don’t know shorthand. That’s as close as I can get it.
    Here’s the imdb link for MIAMI VICE quotes http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0430357/quotes
    Did they get it right?

Quote Unquotesee all »

It shows how out of it I was in trying to be in it, acknowledging that I was out of it to myself, and then thinking, “Okay, how do I stop being out of it? Well, I get some legitimate illogical narrative ideas” — some novel, you know?

So I decided on three writers that I might be able to option their material and get some producer, or myself as producer, and then get some writer to do a screenplay on it, and maybe make a movie.

And so the three projects were “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep,” “Naked Lunch” and a collection of Bukowski. Which, in 1975, forget it — I mean, that was nuts. Hollywood would not touch any of that, but I was looking for something commercial, and I thought that all of these things were coming.

There would be no Blade Runner if there was no Ray Bradbury. I couldn’t find Philip K. Dick. His agent didn’t even know where he was. And so I gave up.

I was walking down the street and I ran into Bradbury — he directed a play that I was going to do as an actor, so we know each other, but he yelled “hi” — and I’d forgot who he was.

So at my girlfriend Barbara Hershey’s urging — I was with her at that moment — she said, “Talk to him! That guy really wants to talk to you,” and I said “No, fuck him,” and keep walking.

But then I did, and then I realized who it was, and I thought, “Wait, he’s in that realm, maybe he knows Philip K. Dick.” I said, “You know a guy named—” “Yeah, sure — you want his phone number?”

My friend paid my rent for a year while I wrote, because it turned out we couldn’t get a writer. My friends kept on me about, well, if you can’t get a writer, then you write.”
~ Hampton Fancher

“That was the most disappointing thing to me in how this thing was played. Is that I’m on the phone with you now, after all that’s been said, and the fundamental distinction between what James is dealing with in these other cases is not actually brought to the fore. The fundamental difference is that James Franco didn’t seek to use his position to have sex with anyone. There’s not a case of that. He wasn’t using his position or status to try to solicit a sexual favor from anyone. If he had — if that were what the accusation involved — the show would not have gone on. We would have folded up shop and we would have not completed the show. Because then it would have been the same as Harvey Weinstein, or Les Moonves, or any of these cases that are fundamental to this new paradigm. Did you not notice that? Why did you not notice that? Is that not something notable to say, journalistically? Because nobody could find the voice to say it. I’m not just being rhetorical. Why is it that you and the other critics, none of you could find the voice to say, “You know, it’s not this, it’s that”? Because — let me go on and speak further to this. If you go back to the L.A. Times piece, that’s what it lacked. That’s what they were not able to deliver. The one example in the five that involved an issue of a sexual act was between James and a woman he was dating, who he was not working with. There was no professional dynamic in any capacity.

~ David Simon