R E V I E W   B Y   R I C H   C L I N E dir Michael Mann
scr Stuart Beattie
with Tom Cruise, Jamie Foxx, Mark Ruffalo, Jada Pinkett Smith, Peter Berg, Javier Bardem, Bruce McGill, Irma P Hall, Barry Shabaka Henley, Bodhi Elfman, Debi Mazar, Jason Statham
release US 6.Aug.04, UK 17.Sep.04
04/US 2h00

The fugitives (Cruise and Foxx, above) and the cops (Ruffalo, McGill and Berg, below).

cruise foxx ruffalo

24th Shadows Awards

Collateral (Style B - Jamie Foxx) Support Shadows: Buy a Poster
There are two things that elevate this above the average action movie: A superbly well-structured screenplay and an unhurried, sure-handed directorial style. Otherwise, alas, there's not much to it.

Max (Foxx) is a cab driver in Los Angeles just biding time until he can start his own business. On one fateful night, he picks up a young prosecutor (Pinkett Smith) and delivers her downtown, sparking a flirty conversation along the way. Then he picks up Vincent (Cruise), who guides Max to five stops through the night on the way to the airport. But at the first one, it becomes more than a little obvious that Vincent is a hitman with five people to kill. And now Max can't get out of it.

Sleek and seductive, Mann orchestrates the film to draw us into Max's predicament, and Foxx is superb. As our minds whirl for a solution to this predicament, Max is one step ahead of us, desperately and inventively seeking a way out. But Vincent always cuts him off--and Cruise gives the role a steely relentlessness that recalls, oddly, The Terminator. His too-tight suit restricts his movements, while his too-grey hair looks like a wizened-human disguise. Together Foxx and Cruise are terrific simply because they balance each other so well--heart and soul versus heartless soullessness.

The supporting cast is good but only there to nudge the plot along, so Mann uses Los Angeles brilliantly as a third character, carefully maintaining its geographic integrity with floating camera work, moody editing and inventive set pieces. The hypnotic tone is deeply involving, and it's not until later that you realise all the standard action movie cliches are present--ruthless mastermind (Bardem), tenacious cops (Ruffalo and Berg), sweet ol' mom (Hall), woman in peril (Pinkett Smith, of course, in the end), and a message that only appears to be deep. But Beattie and Mann throw us off the scent with an unconventional structure and seductive filmmaking that go against most of what Hollywood throws at us. The result is a breath of fresh air on the screen--profoundly enjoyable but not very filling.

cert 15 themes, violence, language 6.Aug.04

R E A D E R   R E V I E W S
send your review to Shadows... collateral Laurie T, Minneapolis: "Tom Cruise plays a different type of character - not the action/hero star - he is a hit man hired to hit some people who are going to testify against his employer. And what can I say - another good movie. I was glued to the screen - and was placing bets with my husband on how this will end. I was sorta right - but really, this movie keeps you guessing up until the very end. Tom Cruise played a really evil man who feels no remorse when he kills someone - he is simply doing what he is being paid to do; and not get caught doing it. I highly recommend this one - see Tom in a different light." (6.Sep.04)

Donna Carter, Wisconsin: "Very well done. I thought I wouldn't like Tom Cruise in that role, because he doesn't look 'normal' with salt-and-pepper hair, but it worked out okay. Don't go to the site and watch the trailers. I wish I hadn't. After the first scene, having watched the trailers, I knew too much and put everything together too soon. Anyway, still, there were enough surprises that I was glad I went." (13.Sep.04)

2004 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall