A cab driver and an assassin cross paths in Mann’s nocturnal crime escapade—it may stray into incredulity in its final act, but it accrues just enough stylistic points and storytelling rhythm to power all the way through.
Dir. Michael Mann
2004 | USA | Crime/Drama/Action | 120 mins | 2.39:1 | English, Spanish, French & Korean
NC16 (passed clean) for violence and language
Cast: Tom Cruise, Jamie Foxx, Jada Pinkett Smith, Mark Ruffalo, Javier Bardem
Plot: A cab driver finds himself the hostage of an engaging contract killer as he makes his rounds from hit to hit during one night in Los Angeles.
Awards: Nom. for 2 Oscars – Best Supporting Actor, Best Film Editing; Won Future Film Festival Digital Award (Venice)
Subject Matter: Moderate – Contract Killing; Cat-and-Mouse
Narrative Style: Slightly Complex
Audience Type: Slightly Mainstream
Made in between Michael Mann’s Ali (2001) and Miami Vice (2006), both also starring Jamie Foxx, Collateral sees him play opposite Tom Cruise, the latter in a rare role as a villain. Cruise plays Vincent, a cold-blooded assassin who is tasked to make five hits before the sun rises.
He crosses paths with Max (Foxx), a cab driver on the night shift with failed dreams of owning a limo company. Using him almost like a chauffeur, Vincent ‘persuades’ the reluctant Max to partake in his nocturnal crime escapade.
Collateral is also Mann’s nocturnal odyssey into the streets of L.A., making use of digital cameras like never before—no one in American cinema captures night cityscapes more poetically than Mann, who worked with DPs Dion Beebe and Paul Cameron here.
“Take comfort in knowing you never had a choice.”
Foxx and Cruise play off each other well, with dark humour offering some levity in a somewhat serious unorthodox ‘buddy/duo’ movie; in particular, Max’s character arc is fascinating—you wouldn’t expect a conflicted cab driver to start thinking like a veteran hitman.
Overall, it is a tense, race against time-type film, with some Zen-like moments of calmness—Mann’s ‘Le(s) Samourai(s)’ if you will, though without the deep philosophy that underpinned Melville’s influential masterwork.
Collateral does stray into incredulity in its final act of cat-and-mouse, which is a problem for some critics. I prefer to overlook and be immersed in the experience of it—after all, the film has already accrued enough stylistic points and storytelling rhythm to convince audiences that what Mann is doing is worth the emotional investment.
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