A review of “Collateral” by Jeanne Aufmuth

 

Stars: *** 1/2

Rating: R for extreme violence and language

Run Time: 1 hour, 59 minutes

 

 

Hooray for Michael Mann (The Insider), who once again brings his singular vision and stylish chic to the big screen.

Tom Cruise and Jamie Foxx headline this provocative anti-buddy picture, converting ordinary into the extraordinary with their self-possessed chemistry and easy repartee.  Foxx is Max, a laid-back L.A. cabbie who dreams of owning his own limo business but can’t jump start his life. 

Max picks up a seemingly standard fare and the world as he knows it goes kaboom.  Vincent (Cruise) is a disenfranchised killer, out on the town for a spectacular string of hits on five witnesses involved in the federal prosecution of a drug cartel.  Vincent bullies the reluctant driver into chauffeuring him through the jobs, but Max wants none of it (Vincent: “I off one fat Angeleno and you throw a hissy fit!”). 

Vincent’s take-no-prisoners attitude sets the tone for a ruthless evening of cold-blooded killing.  This menacing bloodbath attracts the attention of a Detective Fanning (Mark Ruffalo), who dances dangerously close to his man as the fur begins to fly.

Cruise is all sharp angles as an insolent hit-man sans conscience, born to be bad and more than happy to prove it. He’s slick and grey and unrecognizable as his megawatt self.  Foxx performs wonders with a badass sociopath in his backseat, smoothly transitioning from mild-mannered yes-man to serious player.  Jada Pinkett Smith eats up the screen in a small but pivotal role as the wrong place, wrong time girl.

Collateral is vintage Mann, shot in tight close-up with smart tone to spare. His is a gritty valentine to the mean streets of L.A.; moody and malignant.  Narrative flags a bit at the three-quarter mark when the action gets a little trite around the edges.  But Mann’s gusty climax pulls it back in the saddle, rendering the entire experience a roller-coaster ride of transient pleasures.