Film Reviews

COLLATERAL

By • Aug 6th, 2004 •

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DreamWorks Pictures and Paramount Pictures present a Parkes/MacDonald and Edge City production
R-Rated / 120 minutes

QUOTE: Cruise thrills in his first killer role and has found a worthy collaborator in director Michael Mann.

Hit man Vincent (Tom Cruise) is on a mission in Los Angeles: kill 5 people and then make a 6:00 A.M. flight out of LAX. He gets in Max’s (Jamie Foxx) taxi and offers him $600 to drive him around all night. Unfortunately, the first hit goes slightly array and a dead man lands on the hood of Max’s car. He now knows what Vincent does for a living. One down, four to go.

Nothing and nobody will stop Vincent. He’s under contract and will finish the job.

There are clever solutions to the obvious problem of why Max doesn’t just drive off once Vincent leaves to handle the next victim? When Vincent’s following two victims, federal witnesses in a high profile case, turn up at the city morgue the police get involved. Hard on Vincent and Max’s heels is narcotics detective Fanning (Mark Ruffalo – finally in a role that showcases his sexual appeal) who senses these deaths are no unlucky happenstance.

Cruise’s performance is skillful, mesmerizing, and does not condescend to the audience’s perception of him. Vincent is unwavering in his objective. He has discipline. He has mapped out why he kills and does not sentimentalize his career path. He actually makes a good point to Max: did the wholesale massacre of thousands in Rwanda mean anything to him? Did he join a protest? Send money to Greenpeace? Why does he care about the dead guy they put in the trunk? Maybe he deserved what he got.

Vincent doesn’t know the victims or what they did. He chats with Max like any other passenger who “kills time” in the back seat of a cab. In this way, he’s another fare going off to work. Yet, Vincent is proud of what he does. He takes Max along to witness his craft.

Max does not sit idly by listening to the radio while Vincent works. He tries a series of imaginative ruses to bravely foil Vincent’s killing. But Vincent works best while improvising.

Cruise’s performance is electrifying: He casts a menacing shadow while his absolute resolve is captivating. We want our heroes and villains to be single-minded. We don’t want killers with consciences. I noticed in seeing TROY again, and now COLLATERAL, that major movie star dialogue is meticulously crafted. Vincent has no throwaway lines. All his dialogue is cinematic architecture.

Jamie Foxx has the difficult role of a man who is a hard working underdog driving a cab for 12 years and dreaming of opening up a luxury limousine company. Foxx must exhibit a complex emotional range as he navigates through fear, shock and then, when forced by the circumstances, bravery.

Director Michael Mann once again captures an ice-cold L.A. with the same tonal brilliance as he did in HEAT. His ability to handle strong characters is his signature and he, along with screenwriter Stuart Beattie, design a fearless role for Cruise. In fact, with the exception of Cruise’s brilliant supporting role in MAGNOLIA, when has Cruise shown this much tough sex appeal?

The script’s contrivances – Max’s first passenger of the night just happens to be Vincent’s last victim – are not to be dwelled on here since there is an incredibly vibrant scene in a nightclub that makes COLLATERAL a sure-fire thrill.


Cast:
Vincent: Tom Cruise
Max: Jamie Foxx
Annie: Jada Pinkett Smith
Fanning: Mark Ruffalo
Richard Weldner: Peter Berg
Pedrosa: Bruce McGill
Ida: Irma P. Hall
Daniel: Barry Shabaka Henley

Credits:
Director: Michael Mann
Screenwriter: Stuart Beattie
Producers: Michael Mann, Julie Richardson
Executive producers: Frank Darabont, Rob Fried, Chuck Russell, Peter Guiliano
Directors of photography: Don Beebe, Paul Cameron
Production designer: David Wasco
Music: James Newton Howard
Co-producer: Michael Waxman
Costume designer: Jeffrey Kurland
Editors: Jim Miller, Paul Rubell

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