|Genre(s): Crime / Drama / Thriller|
|DreamWorks || R - 120 minutes || August 6, 2004|
|Reviewer: Brian Oliver || Posted On: 2004-08-07|
Writer(s): Stuart Bettie (written by)
Cast: Tom Cruise, Jamie Foxx, Jada Pinkett Smith, Mark Ruffalo, Peter Berg, Bruce McGill
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It started like any other night.
All L.A. cab driver Max wanted was to gather some money and open up a limo business. Although his 12-year cab career is only “temporary”, he takes great pride in his services and keeps a clean cab, perhaps the cleanest in the world. Max prefers the night shift to the day one because the people are calmer and the tips are better.
It all started like any other night. His first fare was Annie (Pinkett Smith), a U.S. Federal Prosecutor working on a big case. The two of them, Max and Annie, hit it off. He tells her about his dreams and she confides in him about her fears the night before the opening day of trials. After dropping her off (and her giving him her business card), he picks up his second fare. Vincent is the pessimistic type who sees the dark or bad side of life. Vincent offers Max $600 to take him on his rounds through the night. Max, after some hesitation, takes the offer and takes him to Vincent’s first destination. While waiting, and smacking on a midnight lunch, a body falls from above, slamming on top of his cab. Of course, Max finds out that Vincent is a hired assassin who wants Max to take him to the remainder hits on his list.
Now, at this same location, Detective Fanning (Ruffalo) discovers that his source is missing and mostly likely dead. So the detective goes on the case to find out what happened and gets entangled in a case about a man named Felix, whose about to stand trial and who is also still under the surveillance of the FBI, led by Agent Pedrosa (McGill).
Ever since the 1994 underrated crime saga, Heat, Michael Mann has been one of my favorite directors, joining the ranks of Alfred Hitchcock, David Fincher and M. Night Shyamalan (Village withstanding), to name a few. However, upon seeing the trailers for his latest, Collateral, I was a bit concerned. Not about the story, no, that sounded perfect and original. It was instead the direction itself. I noticed certain graininess in the film and later found that Mann was using both regular Panavision cameras as well as digital cameras (thus explaining the different look). Though to my surprise, it worked quite well and flowed evenly through the two-hour runtime.
Over the past couple of years, I think Tom Cruise has grown as an actor and has chosen some juicier and more character-oriented roles (rather than action-centric). Last year, I thought he did a great job in [I]The Last Samurai[/I] but was (rightfully) overshadowed by Ken Watanabe. This time, however, he gets an even better role as a villain -- and an assassin to boot. Whenever A-list stars get to be the villain, wonderful (more often than not) things happen that propel a story that could be dull or unoriginal and make it into something else entirely. Here, Cruise’s Vincent was quiet, yet had a grasp and control of the situation. He was cold-blooded, but knew how to play his assets and make (in this case) Max hear what he wanted him to hear in order to get the job done. Before Collateral, I was merely just a fan of Tom Cruise. I thought he was good in most of his roles such as Mission: Impossible, Minority Report and The Firm. Although I’m not in the Cruise-hater crowd, I never really bought into him as an outstanding actor. But he has proven me wrong. This is truly deserving of an Oscar nod, at the very least.
Not to be outdone, Jamie Foxx also has some surprises in store for the movie-going public. Foxx first started out on the popular (even to this day) “In Living Color” back in ’91. Since, he’s taken different movie roles including quite a few dumb and low-brow comedies but then busted outside of the comedy genre with the disappointing Oliver Stone football drama, Any Given Sunday starring Al Pacino. He then tried his hand at the thriller genre with 2000’s Bait, a movie I thought was average but I couldn’t really blame it on him. But, like Cruise, Foxx also steps up his career and puts into a new and different realm in this critic’s mind. As Max, he reacts to the situation at hand, like I assume any normal human being would but as the film progresses and as the two characters continually spar, his confidence with the dealing with the circumstances rises.
Collateral also features supporting roles from two well-known actors who are left out of the trailers. Mark Ruffalo as a Los Angeles detective whose the only person who suspects what’s going on and Jada Pinkett Smith as the federal attorney falling for Max. Since Cruise and Foxx dominate the film, Ruffalo and Smith don’t have much to do other than further the story along and take us to the next scene with our two main characters. But, I think there’s something -- I don’t know -- comforting about having two capable actors, rather than two unknowns, in these roles. While the characters are not well-developed, they do serve a purpose in the plot.
Overall, the story is not perfect -- in fact, there’s one scene that was pretty cliché in this genre of film (I was going to dock it a quarter of a star, but decided against) -- it is excellent. Along with Mann’s direction and Cruise and Foxx’s acting, Collateral mounts up to be one of the best films so far this year. I enjoyed just about every moment of this movie!
By the way, look out for a cameo from Jason Statham (The Italian Job, The Transporter) at the very beginning.