Tom Cruise specializes in playing handsome charismatic guys. Probably because he is a handsome charismatic guy. (Although, as a member of the Union of Ordinary Guys, I am required to mention that he’s only about three feet tall, barely topping Redford.) Anyway Cruise’s role in Collateral as a handsome charismatic hitman is probably not the stretch critics are making it. Many of Cruise’s past roles have been morally ambiguous. Think The Color of Money or even Rainman. OK, so this is his first real baddie. If he really wants to stretch, he should play someone not handsome and charismatic. They’d just hand him the Oscar without bothering with all that nomination nonsense.

Here’s the setup. Max, played by Jamie Foxx drives a cab at nights in LA. He dreams of better things but is hesitant to take a risk. He picks up Vincent (Cruise) at the airport. His new fare makes him a proposition: Vincent has five stops to make before catching the redeye in the morning. For $600, Max will wait for him at every stop and drive him back to LAX. The cabbie reluctantly agrees. Unfortunately, it turns out that Vincent is a hitman. The body falling on top of Max’s cab gives the secret away. As the night wears on it appears that Vincent is buying more than Max’s time.

Now there’s a danger here. Think about it. The filmaker has set up a situation that’s inherently repetative. Max drives Vincent to a location. Vincent kills somebody. Max drives him to the next one. Plus, there’s the problem of how does Vincent control Max, once the secret’s out. This could have been a very dull film, indeed.

It wasn’t. Each hit is different. And more impressively, each hit changes the situation. Only towards the end does the plot get formulaic.

This is due to a smart script by Stuart Beattie and stylish direction by Michael Mann. Mann made a misstep last time out with Ali, but he’s redeemed himself here. Collateral isn’t as good as Last of the Mohicans or The Insider, but it’s easily the equal of Heat and better than Manhunter. Jamie Foxx’s Max is underplayed and utterly believable.

And Tom Cruise? This is one of his best performances. He’s handsome and charismatic to be sure, but he’s also menacing and at least at one point, vulnerable.

There are a few flaws-coincedences in the plot and the stock ending-that keep this from being great, but Colleteral is still a very good movie.


2 Responses to “Collateral”

  1. 1 lataine7 August 15, 2004 at 7:56 pm

    I was a die-hard fan of Tom Cruise with all his movies until he dropped Nicole the way he did withou nary a tear!  I believe in subsidizing "good people," but not someone who totes his religion everywhere, yet will live with a mistress for four years in front of his children!  Poor kids!  What an example!

  2. 2 litztombo August 16, 2004 at 4:36 am

    to lataine,shut-up and enjoy the movie-tom

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August 2004
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