Collateral (2004)
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Review Date: July 28, 2004
Director: Michael Mann
Writer: Stuart Beattie
Producers: Michael Mann, Julie Richardson
Tom Cruise
Jamie Foxx
Jada Pinkett Smith
A lowly Los Angeles cab driver picks up a man who happens to be a hired killer in town to assassinate five individuals by dawn. The taxi driver is forced to take him around as he eliminates the targets from his list and a local cop gets closer and closer to them. Tom Cruise in gray hair ensues...
Tom Cruise can do no wrong. Consider this film yet another amazing achievement in this man's burgeoning movie resume, which at this point, can likely be considered one of the greatest looking filmographies of all-time. Yeah, I don't usually use hyperboles, but when it comes to Cruise, I think it's time to whip out the clap-o-meter and give this guy a well-deserved round of major applause already. In yet another very cool and memorable performance, Cruise delivers a different type of character, a relentless hitman with very little heart, but as per his usual style, manages to inject into him, the believability, strength and charm required for the audience to run alongside. Kudos, my Scientologist friend! But the film isn't a Cruise vehicle as much as it's yet another superb L.A. crime creation by the man behind such movies as MANHUNTER, THIEF and HEAT, Michael Mann, who once again, manages to slap you right into the vast scummy underground of the City of Angels, with a script that starts slow but delivers at every step, with a number of actors coming in for small roles, and an ending that builds and builds and builds...until it washes over you like a fountain of dirty water. I really loved this film. Yes, from the moment that a body flies out of a 4-story building and onto a cab and barely scratches the thing, the audience is asked to suspend its disbelief for a variety of scenes, but I went with it, I appreciated the film being set at night, when very few people are around and a lot more can be done (I should know, I do my best work from midnight to six in the morning...although I don't kill people, I just run a dinky website), and I really liked Cruise's character, who was a major hard-ass, but also very collected, which gave me more than enough reason to believe most of the stuff that went down.

Jamie Foxx was also very good as Cruise's "victim" for the night, with lots of close-ups really giving you a feel of his early sense of fear and frustration, and leading to a number of other emotional points. The great Mark Ruffalo, looking as sharp as ever, also kicked some ass as the man on the chase, as did the surprising Jada Pinkett-Smith, who I always thought sucked as an actress, but who looked both beautiful and acted very well here (her opening sequence with Foxx was a nice introduction to things). But at the end of the day, it's the story and the city of Los Angeles that take this movie to that other level, with many a great crime being committed, a number of very cool directing choices and memorable sequences (including a few surprisingly funny ones), making this movie one of the best of the year. The film also blends a soulful message about the preciousness of life and the lack of desire and strength of will in some, through its violent tale, with the two lead characters, one seemingly "good", the other "bad", ultimately learning a lot more from one another than you might think (somewhat reminiscent of the DeNiro/Pacino showdown from HEAT). But before you think the film is too "sappy", note the number of shoot-out scenes, the chases (there isn't a man alive that can run cooler than Tom Cruise on film), bloody finishes, Mexican stand-offs and surprise kills. The film even reminded me of THE TERMINATOR at some points. All in all, COLLATERAL is a great summer movie that most anyone looking for action, engaging characters, funny moments, exciting shoot-outs and a fulfilling ending will surely appreciate. Yipes! And I didn't even mention the soundtrack, which was very diverse and ideal for each sequence. And oh yeah, remember to look for the scene with "the wolves"...classic stuff! Nice nod to TAXI DRIVER as well (pay close attention to the "mom scene" in the hospital)
(c) 2018 Berge Garabedian

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