By Natasha Hollins (Las Vegas, NV)
Collateral, a spectacular chest thumping thriller from director Michael Mann. It’s one of my favorite films of the new millennium! The film takes place in the city of Los Angeles where Vincent (Tom Cruise), a sociopathic hitman is hell bent on “doing his job”. He hires taxi driver Max Durocher (Jamie Foxx) to drive him from each destination to kill anyone deemed a threat to testify against Felix (a crime boss who hires Vincent). After Max discovers what Vincent’s true motives are; he spends the rest of the night plotting his escape.
Max sits idle waiting for his next fare when a woman, Annie (Jada Pinkett-Smith) enters his cab. She informs him on where she’s going and how to get there. Max knows a better way and backs it up with a bet. If she’s right the ride is free. She acknowledges that he wins the bet and this breaks the monotony. Groove Armada’s “Hands of Time” plays throughout the ride. I couldn’t imagine a more perfect song for this scene; the music helps the dialog feel more authentic. By the ride’s end, she learns that he wants to start a business, Island Limo. He learns that she’s a U.S. Justice Department prosecutor and has deep fears of losing before starting a new case. The length of the scene could have hurt the film but, Mann knew it was imperative to establish the connection they made. After paying her fare she exits the cab; moments later she returns to give Max her business card. This proved to be vital later in the film.
A major plot twist happens when Vincent (Cruise) enters the cab. Donning business attire portraying a man in town for a night handling business seems normal enough. There’s nothing about him that screamed trouble. After giving Max the address he offers up some casual conversation. When they arrive at the address and he offers Max $600 (almost twice his salary) to drive the rest of the evening. Needless to say he accepts. He tells Max to wait in the alley and minutes later a body lands on the hood.
This is where Cruise and Foxx really start to earn their pay check. Foxx had to convince me that he was truly terrified when a dead body hit the hood of the cab. Falling out of the taxi, stammering over his words, unstable breathing and body expressions gave me no choice but to believe him. Cruise had the task of selling Vincent as the modern day Richard Kluklinski; cold, calculating, devoid of emotion, and unapologetic are the adjectives that best describe Cruise’s portrayal of Vincent. Max soon realizes that Vincent is responsible for the dead body on the taxi. With his gun drawn on Max, Vincent gives Max a stern warning. If he cooperates he may come out $600 ahead. If not consequences will occur. With the new protocol set both head to the next destination.
Detective Fanning (Mark Ruffalo) checks on a state witness at his apartment. But he’s not there. He checked out of the window when Vincent shot him. With the window shattered and what appears to be blood on the ground below Fanning phones in the crime scene. Now the LAPD and the Feds (a wiretap and surveillance are planted in Felix club) are in the mix but it doesn’t slow down a hitman intent on finishing the job. Law enforcement is necessary in any good crime drama but they may as well be obsolete in this film. They always get close but no cigars.
As the movie thrust forward more hits are carried out and Max is completely frustrated and fed-up with the bad ass sociopath in his backseat. After Vincent kills Fanning he realizes that no one is going to save him. With a barrage of insults they dish out to each other Max decides to put an end to the hired hitman by crashing his cab. Both survive and Vincent books it when he hears sirens nearby. After climbing out of the totaled cab, Max glances at Vincent laptop and sees he has one more hit to finish. Annie is the last job for the night. Long story short, Max saves Annie and kills Vincent.
In my opinion for a movie to be great it needs to achieve five things. The direction has to be solid. Meaning every scene should have a clear purpose in telling the story. The writing has to come from a unique place. The acting has to be believed. Editing has to be used to shorten the film and not cover-up mistakes. Lastly, the soundtrack is as important as any of the elements previously mention. Collateral absolutely hits every mark. This is one of Michael Mann’s finest pieces of work.