JWR Articles: Film/DVD - Collateral (Director: Michael Mann) - December 19, 2004
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Collateral

4 4
120 min.

Collateral pays off

Cab driver Max (Jamie Foxx) knows LA like the back of his hand, successfully predicting his customer’s arrival times to the minute, but, otherwise, seems to have no apparent skills or motivation to move up in the world. Following a half-hearted pickup attempt of flustered-fare Annie (Jada Pinkett Smith, coolly professional throughout), whose reputation in the District Attorney's office seems to be crumbling, Max's life suddenly shifts into overdrive when contract-killer extraordinaire, Vincent (Tom Cruise sporting a slight beard and devastating aim) flashes some C-notes and converts the yellow taxi into his own private murder mobile.

Soon bodies are flying everywhere: landing on the hood, oozing on the dance floor—even winking in the morgue. Vincent is unstoppable. Max can’t seem to break his spell and “do the right thing.” They even manage a comic-relief hospital visit where the lie that Max actually operates a fleet of limousines is espoused once again to his dying mother (Irma P. Hall, whose wry warmth and charm provide perfect contrast to the evil that’s on either side of her frames), but for once Vincent holds back and doesn't add fantasy-annihilation to his résumé.

Having survived scorn, indignity and the pathetic marksmanship of the enforcers of the law, Max, finally, has had enough, gets beyond his wimp-prop glasses and storms after the assassin whose final target has raised more than just pity in the present-day dreams of the driver of LA’s cleanest (er, ’til the first body fell on it) cab.

Director Michael Mann and his stellar cast have cobbled together a fast-paced flick that entertains, surprises and sizzles. But much of the credit must go to the cinematography expertise of Dion Beebe and Paul Cameron whose many tight-shots and close-ups are spectacularly balanced by the aerial views that add immeasurably to the roller-coaster effect of Stuart Beattie's script.

The sparse dialogue “You're alive—I saved you.; What the fuck are you doing still driving a cab?” makes its points as convincingly as Vincent's two-in-the-torso, one-in-the-skull bullets end lives.

Of the leads, it’s Cruise who seems to have the most fun—if there could be an Academy Award® for best sprinting in a designer suit, he’d win in a flash. Not as subtextually sensual (Interview with the Vampire) or smouldering (Eyes Wide Shut), the versatile actor genuinely savours the moments of ridding the planet of those unfortunate enough to have found themselves on his to-do list.

Foxx’s metamorphosis from dreamer to defender is believable up to a point, but the sequel could easily begin with him nearly ready—but for a few fares more—to take the plunge and leave the security of working for others and start making some entrepreneurial killings of his own. JWR

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