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
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