COLLATERAL (Michael Mann, 2004)

Michael Mann has never made a really good movie, but well nigh his worst is a piece of heart-pounding entertainment called Collateral, which was written—barely—by Stuart Beattie. Mann’s interest, plainly, lies in whipping up excitement; there is nothing more to this vicious, violent film than that.
     The plot is ridiculous: Vincent, a sociopath visiting Los Angeles, having been paid to complete five hits, holds hostage a cab driver, who drives him around from murder to murder. Max, the driver, eventually confronts Vincent, keeping him from committing the last hit—if you ask me, an instance of doing too little too late. Straining credibility, marginal Max ends up with the girl, a prosecutor.
     In what is a supporting role, top-billed Tom Cruise plays Vincent, a cold-blooded bastard. Cruise is pretty much playing himself here, but even the familiarity of the part doesn’t rescue him from ignominious defeat. There isn’t a credible accent to this wooden performance. Still the perpetual pretty boy with all the depth of a pistachio shell, Cruise has gone gray in a leap at Olivier-type glamor and grandeur. The spectacle of his shortfall is embarrassing to watch.
     The real protagonist is Max, whom Jamie Foxx efficiently plays. This is a better performance than his Ray Charles later the same year (Ray, Taylor Hackford). On the other hand, Jada Pinkett Smith is excrutiatingly unpleasant as Annie, the attorney who is Vincent’s last mark.
     Collateral is cold and manipulative. And, at two hours, it’s a very long ride.


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