Before seeing John Wick: Chapter 2 I wanted to review Collateral, a movie I mentioned during my review for John Wick. Released in 2004, Collateral is a crime thriller directed by Michael Mann. In the movie, cab driver Max (Jamie Fox) picks up Vincent (Tom Cruise) who turns out to be a very dangerous person.
The first thing that comes to mind for when thinking about Collateral is Tom Cruise’s excellent performance as Vincent. Love him or hate him, it’s hard to deny Tom Cruise’s dedication. Like many Michael Mann movies, actors went through rigorous training to become proficient in the use of firearms. Tom Cruise spent three months training with a former SAS soldier. He also had to make FedEx deliveries in a crowded LA market without being recognized, certainly not an easy task for a prolific actor. The result? See for yourself:
Jamie Foxx also does a great job as Max. The character is always relatable, without coming across as too weak. He’s an average joe in a terrible situation. As seen in the clip above, his character despises killing, even against someone who wronged him.
Writer Stuart Beattie brings forth a fantastic script. The story itself is relentless and despite the two-hour runtime never feels bloated. The dialog that both Max and Vincent is another thing that helps this movie rise above being just another crime thriller. Vincent is written to be a straight sociopath. He’s not overly brutal or cruel, but at the same time, he has no issue killing anyone who gets in his way. He’s not over the top or silly and feels like someone who actually could be stalking the streets right now. He’s also not a reckless killer, but someone who plans out every attack with near flawless execution. Max on the other hand perfectly rides the line between being a hero who rises to the occasion and a useless pussy. Despite being an everyman, he’s still got plenty of character and feels like a real human being. He gives a reason for the viewer to actually care about what’s happening in the movie.
The sound is another standout. Music always appropriate, from Max’s day to day work to a jazz bar to a nightclub. Like most Michael Mann movies the gunfire sounds punchy and authoritative. Overall this is another element that gives this movie a realistic edge.
The cinematography is well executed. LA nightlife looks raw and muted where nobody is really connected, just like Vincent sees it. It’s not flashy, but at the same time, it’s never low energy or drab. The occasional use of handheld camera effectively puts the viewer in the action and it’s never overly shaky.
My one problem with this film is the shootout at the nightclub. I respect that this is supposed to be a somewhat confusing scene, but at the same time, it’s hard to follow where certain characters are and where they went. It’s not too jarring and for me, it still works well enough even if it’s confusing where certain characters end up in the scene. I’m also 50/50 on the ending. All I’ll say that I have a feeling the crew knew it’d make some people angry and it’s not all that much of a cop-out.
Still, Collateral is an excellent thriller that demonstrates Michael Mann’s realistic style of movie making and it’s probably my favorite Tom Cruise performance.