Collateral is a 2004 American crime thriller film directed by veteran filmmaker Michael Mann with a freshman script by Stuart Beattie who first developed the idea when he was 17. The film went through several rewrites over the subsequent years, several different directors and at one point both Russel Crowe and Robert Di Nero were in consideration to star. Ultimately Michael Mann was brought on-board to direct. The film stars Tom Cruise as a well dressed hitman with a list of people to kill in one night and Jamie Foxx as a taxi cab driver with big dreams and no idea how to make them come true. When a chance encounter brings the two characters together, Vincent (Cruise) forces Max (Foxx) at gun point to carry out his mission and they set out through the Los Angeles landscape.
Both actors elevate an otherwise simplistic story with nuanced performances and stylish cinematography captured in part for the first time in a Motion Picture by the Viper FilmStream High-Definition video camera. Quick-fire action and praised work by Cruise and Fox lead to an Oscar nomination for Fox for an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor. The film would go on to earn over two hundred million dollars in domestic and international box office receipts.
Michael Mann is able to keep the story moving and the interaction between hitman and tax cab driver interesting while building suspense with a veritable who’s-who of notable supporting actors from Jada Pinket-Smith to Mark Ruffalo and Javier Bardem. Where the film falters is reliance on long, often predictable taxi cab confessions between the characters where each subsequent hit brings them together and forces them apart. There are also minor subplots that seem implausibly coincidental and under develop. What ultimately leaves the film the most unsatisfying is the final showdown where Vincent and Max begin a game of cat and mouse as Vincent guns for the last victim on his list. The necessity for the bad guy to die in the end is obvious but what isn’t clear is why when faced with the opportunity to carry out his mission does Vincent pause, deliver a line of dialog while opening himself up for Max to shoot him. The intention is there, to reinforce that Max has changed since the beginning of the film from being timid and indecisive. Yet I cannot help but recall the character of Tuco (Eli Wallach) in The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly. Tuco has many enemies and when a would-be assassin finds him indisposed taking a bath, he gets the drop on him. Instead of shooting Tuco outright, the assassin decides to talk first and shoot second. Tuco is able to get the drop on the assassin, killing him, to which he exclaims, “If you’re going to shoot, shoot, don’t talk first.”
Overall, Collateral is worth watching for Cruise and Foxx’s performances followed by the opportunity to see origins of the first video camera to be used to capture a Motion Picture.