Plot Details: This opinion reveals major details about the movie's plot.
Wow, & I thought Tom Cruise was bad to the bone in Interview with the Vampire. Then along comes Collateral. With a career that's been next to absent of "bad guy" roles, Cruise gives us another high caliber performance in director Michael Mann's cutting edge Collateral.
After 2 back-to-back biopics (The Insider & Ali), director Michael Mann gets back to what he does best: the crime thriller genre. In the tradition of Thief & Heat (possibly the apex of his career), Oscar nominated director Mann gets back to his roots with his latest crime caper Collateral, starring Tom Cruise & Jamie Foxx.
The crisis of Collateral's antagonist is almost identical to that of Bruce Willis' in the Die Hard series: wrong guy in the wrong place at the wrong time (or John McClane Syndrome as I like to call it).
Jamie Foxx (co-star of Mann's biopic Ali) puts the pedal to the metal as L.A. cabbie Max. With a cab that he keeps spic-&-span & high hopes for a future he can't seem to make happen, a postcard of a tropical island on his visor is Max's sole reminder of his lingering aspirations (an island limo company of his own) & a mental vent from the stressful, buzzing drawl of city life. But the phrase "backseat driver" takes on a whole new meaning when Max picks up a fare by the name of Vincent (Tom Cruise).
Sporting a 5 o'clock shadow & hair as gray as his suit, Vincent comes off as a classy & free spirited individual, as indicated by his sleek appearance & sociable attitude. Max finds himself with a slightly conflicted conscience though when Vincent coolly offers him $700.00 if he agrees to chauffeur him around to 5 stops he must make while in L.A. Going against regulations, Max takes Vincent up on his offer so it's off for a boys night out on the town.
Most deals in life usually have strings attached, and Vincent's is no exception. Max learns this the hard way when from out of the blue, a body crash lands on his cab after plummeting from a 4th floor window at Vincent's first stop. Turns out cool cat Vincent has a serious character flaw: he's a contract killer.
Max: "You, you killed him?"
Vincent: "No, I shot him. The bullets & the fall
Hired to assassinate five incriminating witnesses in a grand jury that could put his employer behind bars, Vincent coerces Max into being his designated nocturnal driver to his targets. But as Max makes Vincent's rounds, the duo draw attention from an L.A.P.D. detective named Fanning (Mark Ruffalo) & an F.B.I. task force led by a federal agent named Pedrosa (Bruce McGill). With authorities closing in on them, Max gets caught up in a battle of wills as he desperately attempts to thwart the execution of Vincent's final target.
Mann truly goes all out with Collateral. Blending up a cocktail of powerhouse performances, dreamy atmospheres & photography, go-for-broke action (watching Vincent go top gunning on one of his heavily guarded marks in a Korean nightclub was a pure adrenaline rush) & an eclectic soundtrack (The Roots, Audioslave, Groove Armada, etc.) all keep Collateral revved up in high gear.
Mann is but one of many gifted directors who is able to seduce us with the photography of his films. L.A. goes through a stunning metamorphosis right before our eyes. Instead of emphasizing a coarse, urban jungle view of L.A., Mann utilizes his talent (with the aid of digital cameras) to camouflage the city's terrain in a blanket of tranquility, turning it into an endless sea of glowing lights & sublime hotspots. A landscape spotted by misty jazz clubs & posh nightclubs add to the alluring foregrounds in which our characters consistently seem to occupy or pass through.
Jamie Foxx deserves a pat on the back for proving he can swing both drama & comedy. The film allots sufficient time for cabbie-turned-hero Max to evolve into a solid character (not some minimalist cut-out hero) & in doing so we're given a man whom the audience can relate to & be concerned for. Foxx's recent migration into dramatic roles is certainly paying off (i.e. his Golden Globe & Oscar winning turn for Ray) & his future is looking brighter by the minute.
And another fine break from form, as Cruise morphs from Hollywood nice guy to unadulterated evil. Cold, calculating & completely disconnected from reality, Cruise chews up scenery as full-blooded sociopath Vincent. Whether filling Max's head with his alienation of mankind or going ballistic on an enemy, Cruise keeps you locked on his every action & syllable of speech. Pay careful attention to a jazz man's speech to Max & Vincent of a past run-in with Miles Davis: his description of Davis' character is analogous to Vincent's character. The scene gets my vote as the most brilliantly written segment in the film's illustrious script.
The most conspicuous con to be seen in Collateral is that it sets itself up for a generic ending, in part to some foreshadowing in the first 15 minutes of the film. It's one of those "saw it coming from a mile away" type of twists, but it's still incredibly entertaining & keeps you clenched with the same tension Mann gave us in the closing moments of Heat.
Can ya dig it?: Mann fans will most likely be very pleased with Collateral. Not even a predictable ending can defile Collateral and scar it as a trite crime thriller, as the abundant pro's more than outweigh this con. Another highly recommended film brought to you by the Mann.
Overall rating: * * * * 1/2 stars
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Viewing Format: DVD
Video Occasion: Fit for Friday Evening
Suitability For Children: Not suitable for Children of any age