Collateral

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Collateral
Review (9/10)
(By Will Perkins)


In Collateral Jamie Foxx plays Max, a veteran Los Angeles cabbie. Max is very good at what he does. He knows LA like the back of his hand, and will get you where you need to go on time. It's a normal enough day, Max starts his shift and picks up his first customer of the night, Annie (Jada Pinkett Smith). Annie is an attorney working on a huge case. She's obviously in need of a break though, and Max provides some respite with an enjoyable conversation. Intrigued by Max, she leaves him her business card hoping to continue their conversation in the future. No sooner does he drop of Annie when his next customer jumps in the taxi. Vincent (Tom Cruise) is in real estate, just in Los Angeles for the night, closing a big deal... Or so he says. He asks Max if he can hire the cab for the night. Max normally doesn't hire out the taxi, but Vincent only has five stops to make, so the six hundred dollars he gives him is all the convincing Max needs. Soon enough they arrive at their first stop, Vincent goes up to an apartment while Max waits for him in the alley behind the building. Max is minding his own business, eating a sandwich when out of nowhere the body of a man crashes onto the roof of his cab. Vincent returns to find Max in a state of panic, and it's soon revealed that Vincent killed the man that fell on the cab. Apparently Vincent is not in real estate, he is in actuality an ex-special forces, hired assassin. Vincent has four more stops to make and Max is now his hostage. It's going to be a long night.

Collateral is director Michael Mann in top form. I was drawn into this film right from the get-go. The film is intense at times, funny other times, and brutally violent throughout. That's not to say the film is a pure action piece. Far from it. There are many action sequences but some of the film's best moments are just Cruise and Foxx, both of whom are excellent in the film, talking in the cab. For once in a film starring Tom Cruise I didn't look at his character and say "Oh it's Tom Cruise playing a character." I looked and I saw Vincent, a cold-blooded, charismatic hit-man. This is one of the strongest performances I've seen Cruise give. Jamie Foxx is no slouch in the film either. As was the case with Cruise, Foxx's performance convinced me he was the character, Max, the ordinary cab driver put in extraordinary circumstances. Based on his strong performance in Collateral I look forward to seeing Jamie Foxx portray Ray Charles in his next film. Mark Ruffalo who plays the detective tracking the mysterious trail of murders is very good as well. The part was originally intended for Val Kilmer, and I would be curious to see what the film would have been like with him instead, but Ruffalo makes it work. As with all of Mann's films, the criminals and the police are not bumbling amateurs. They are all professional people who are good at what they do, and the actors in Collateral do a great job making you aware of this fact.

Ever present in Collateral is Michael Mann's signature visual flare. Shot on digital video, the picture is crisp and clear even in the darkest scenes. What I really liked about the film was the up close and personal feeling it had. The audience will feel like they're right there riding in the cab with Max and Vincent. The DV cameras, and particularly Mann's shooting style give it that feel. In the tradition of previous Mann ventures like Thief and Miami Vice, Collateral has that dark streets/bright lights mood to it. The ever present glow of lights in LA give the film a really gritty atmosphere. One of the standout scenes in the film takes place in an Asian trance music club. The tension building up to the scene is palpable, and once the action begins you'll be on the edge of your seat. The chaos and confusion caused by this shoot-out in the club make you feel like you are there, not knowing what's going to happen next. My only real qualm with the film are some of the soundtrack choices. The music is great for the most part, as you would expect from the man that brought us Miami Vice, but suddenly in the middle of the film the band Creed breaks in and totally takes you out of the scene. Maybe it was just me, I'm not a big fan of Creed.

If you want a taught, well made action-thriller, Collateral is definitely the movie to see. It's well acted and executed. The two leads in the film give the performances of their careers thus far. That alone makes the film worth seeing. It is a bit on the violent side, and not cartoony, funny violence. It's brutal, no holds barred, bone breaking violence. The violence does make sense in the context of the story though, and is not gratuitous at all. Will Cruise finally get his Oscar for this role? Maybe. He's very likely to be nominated for it. Collateral is a smart, entertaining movie and there should be nothing stopping you from seeing it.

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