Rakesh's movie talk
Collateral (2004)

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Directed by Michael Mann
Written by Stuart Beattie
Starring: Tom Cruise, Jamie Foxx, Jada Pinkett Smith, and Mark Ruffalo


Ah, Michael Mann. How I love his movies.

Okay, I am not a big fan of The Last of the Mohicans, but after that, all his movies rocks. The best being Heat, for a simple biased reason being the pairing of two giants, De Niro and Pacino. The Insider blew my mind. How can someone make a suspense thriller movie with a 60 Minutes material like that? And Ali? Need I say more?

Here, Mann returns to his favourite genre: crime thriller. Pre-Mohican, audience knows him as the creator of the hit TV series like Miami Vice and LA Law. Very few know that he directed James Caan in a crime flick called Thief back in 1980. Aha! You never knew, did you? You did? Oh hell...

Coming back to Collateral. Most reviews I read screamed that Tom Cruise was amazing and Jamie Foxx did even better. I agree, with an exception to the 'amazing' part.

I recall another movie where a pretty boy turned to playing bad guy. It was Richard Gere in Internal Affairs. But Gere did not play an all out bad guy. He was a corrupt, violent cop, who thinks that what he is doing is not wrong. A cop! He really scared me in that movie. I even had nighmares. That was perhaps the only time I liked Gere. Or disliked. Or whatever.

Here, Cruise plays a hitman. All he has to do is look funereal and mean. He does that, and it was an easy job. Quite a departure for a man who usually plays good-guy-on-the-run-out-to-prove-he-is-innocent. Otherwise, anyone else can pull that role off easily.

Now, the weight lies heavily on Jamie Foxx. This is the guy that the audience has to hang on to. He is just an everyday guy like you and me, unless you are gay. He takes him a long while before he can gather up his guts to face Cruise.

By now, most of you know the plot already. Foxx is a cab driver who had the misfortune to have Cruise, the hitman on his job, as his passenger. He realises who Cruise is and the thrill starts.

Some of the best scenes are in the cab itself, when the two exchanges banter. Brilliant dialogues. Simple but brilliant. Here, Mann does not try to outdo his previous tricks with camera. He stays on both character most of the time. Both in the same frame in fact, that you sort of start feel some kind of bond between them. Without the gun and the killing, both could be buddies. But the morality comes in between, like the glass separating the driver and his passenger. Hey, I am figuring out symbolism here. Damn, never thought I'd that good.

There are two major action scenes. And Mann does not hesitate to revisit the usual haunts of crime flicks - the nightclub and the subway. Give them to Mann and watch him have fun. It may not get the same grandeur treatment he gave to the LA street like Heat, but it really makes you grip the seat arms. I couldn't, I was holding popcorn. The subway scene, while may not be as exciting as it did in the Spider Man 2 (bad comparison, ey?), was thrilling enough, even if you know that the good guy wins in the end. Oh crap, did I give the ending away?

Forgot to tell you this. Mann films LA like Scorcese shoots New York. My vision of LA use to be mainly of that in Heat, and thanks to this film, this IS LA. Unlike Scorcese, he does not shoot it like he owns the city. There are plenty Mann's typical edgy, over the shoulder shots, that makes the viewers more of a cautious visitor, than Scorcese's authoritarian outlook of his hometown.

Collateral is not Mann's best film. But it is easily one of the best to come out of Hollywood since his own Heat. I hear it is doing well. Quite a compensation for the lack of collection in The Insider and Ali. Mann is now flexing his wings again. I am curious as to what he is going to do next.