Collateral (2004)

‘A guy gets on the MTA in L.A and dies, think anyone will notice?’

This is the line Tom Cruise’s contract killer Vincent delivers to Jamie Foxx’s cab driver Max at the end of a long day, it is quite a line.

The evening starts well for Max after he has a good fare where he ends up winning a bet and getting a girls number, his dream of owning his own business of limo cars is getting closer. But things get bad very quickly when he picks up Vincent. Vincent gives Max an option to take him to five stops for $600 Max reluctantly agrees.

The first stop seems fine, until a body comes crashing down from an apartment onto Max’s cab. It becomes clear that it was Vincent who killed the man. Then follows a cat and mouse ride when Vincent has to complete his job with Max in toe.

The screenplay is exquisite, the back and forth banter between Vincent and Max is brilliant, see examples:

(I)

Vincent: Okay, look, here’s the deal. Man, you were gonna drive me around tonight, never be the wiser, but El Gordo got in front of a window, did his high dive, we’re into Plan B. Still breathing? Now we gotta make the best of it, improvise, adapt to the environment, Darwin, shit happens, I Ching, whatever man, we gotta roll with it.

Max: I Ching? What are you talking about, man? You threw a man out of a window.

Vincent: I didn’t throw him. He *fell*

Max: Well what did he do to you?

Vincent: What?

Max: What did he do to *you*?

Vincent: Nothing. I only met him tonight.

Max: You just met him once and you killed him like that?

Vincent: What? I should only kill people after I get to know them?

(II)
Vincent: Max, six billion people on the planet, you’re getting bent out of shape cause of one fat guy.

Max: Well, who was he?
Vincent: What do you care? Have you ever heard of Rwanda?

Max: Yes, I know Rwanda.

Vincent: Well, tens of thousands killed before sundown. Nobody’s killed people that fast since Nagasaki and Hiroshima. Did you bat an eye, Max?

Max: What?

Vincent: Did you join Amnesty International, Oxfam, Save the Whales, Greenpeace, or something? No. I off one fat Angelino and you throw a hissy fit.

Max: Man, I don’t know any Rwandans.

Vincent: You don’t know the guy in the trunk, either.

Strangely Vincent brings Max out of his shell on this night, Max does not know what he is capable of until he meets Vincent, which begs the question who really is Max. There is a interesting point Vincent makes to Max:

Vincent: Look in the mirror. Paper towels, clean cab. Limo company some day. How much you got saved?

Max: That ain’t any of your business.

Vincent: Someday? Someday my dream will come? One night you will wake up and discover it never happened. It’s all turned around on you. It never will. Suddenly you are old. Didn’t happen, and it never will, because you were never going to do it anyway. You’ll push it into memory and then zone out in your barco lounger, being hypnotized by daytime TV for the rest of your life. Don’t you talk to me about murder. All it ever took was a down payment on a Lincoln town car. That girl, you can’t even call that girl. What the fuck are you still doing driving a cab?

There is a great scene when Max has to pretend to be Vincent to Javier Bardem’s Felix. This scene has excellent wide shots and close ups of both actors at their very best. Another brilliant scene in what can be described as an interlude happens when Max and Vincent are stop at the lights and a coyote crosses their path, both of them stare at it and it stares back at them dead in the eye and then runs away. The song Shadow of the Sun plays in the background, and you can get the sense that this night is not going to end well, and both of them know it – brilliant scene.

Tom Cruise is excellent as the cold blooded sociopath killer, he delivers a amazing performance – probably one of his best (to note he also runs in this film – perhaps part of his contract) he has a good counterpart in Foxx who gives a rounded performance.
There are elements of the last act of the film that felt a bit of a copout, I understand the film needed a conclusion but it sort of felt rushed.

The film is shot similar to director Michael Mann’s Heat and has very strong elements of his show Miami Vice, the handheld shots are good and lead you to be more involved in the moment, I also liked the sound editing and hearing what real bullets sound like – frightening. The supporting cast are also very good – watch out for the Jazz club scene. The tension in he film is also top notch.

Overall a good film – which plays to our own struggle between good and evil and who really matters in this world. Catch it for Cruise not saving the world.

Rating 4/5

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