Monday, September 27, 2004

Movie Review (Collateral)...


The latest film from director Michael Mann (‘Heat’, ‘Ali’), ‘Collateral’ is an account of one night in the life of an L.A. cab driver called Max. Through a fantastic performance by Jamie Foxx (‘Any Given Sunday’), Max is portrayed as a part-time cabbie, working nights only so he can save enough money to start up his own limo company. Trouble is, it’s already been twelve years and he’s no closer to his dream. Screenwriter Stuart Beattie has the dramatic sense to have Max’s everyman win over the audience within the first five minutes. Once we are on his side, things begin to get interesting.

Vincent (Tom Cruise) is Max’s third fare of the night, one he almost misses, but by some unfortunate timing, one he accepts. Not unlike Heat’s Neil Mc Cauley (Robert de Niro), Vincent is a professional who takes pride in his work. Offering Max twice his nightly earnings, Vincent persuades him to make five stops around the city, allowing him to visit old friends to close a real estate deal. Of course, unbeknownst to Max, Vincent is actually a hit-man hired by drug lords, to kill several people that night.

As high concept thrillers go, this is up there with the best of them. Michael Mann has crafted an unashamedly crowd pleasing picture. The pacing is perfect, the dialogue snappy and the action scenes, focusing almost entirely on Vincent’s treatment of anyone foolish enough to get in his way, are notably brutal, particularly his penultimate contract killing in a packed nightclub. Tom Cruise has played cold and unscrupulous types before (Frank Mackey in ‘Magnolia’ comes to mind) but he has never been this frighteningly effective. This outstanding performance more than compensates for his embarrassing ‘Oscar-bait’ work in ‘The Last Samurai’. Cruises physical transformation is a huge aid to his performance, with his silver haired, silk suited assassin thankfully not overshadowed by his toothy “Tom Cruise: Megastar” image.

For Michael Mann, the supporting cast seems equally as important as the two principal players. Mark Ruffalo as an LAPD detective on the murder trail, Bruce Mc Gill as an FBI agent and Barry Shabaka Henley as a jazz club owner all lend believability and gravitas to their roles. Javier Bardem also makes the most of his bit part as drug lord Felix. Thanks to impressive cinematography by Dion Beebe (Equilibrium) and Paul Cameron (Man on Fire), the City of Los Angeles exudes a real sense of loneliness and isolation. Filmed almost completely with digital video cameras, this movie will be remembered as a technical milestone.
Collateral is highly recommended viewing.

4 out of 5