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2004, dir. Michael Mann
119 min. Rated R.
Starring: Maverick, Jamie Foxx, Jada Pinkett Smith, Mark Ruffalo.

Review by Justin Patterson

Our beloved webmaster asked me a few weeks ago if I could send in some reviews for Christmas, Thanksgiving, Kwanzaa, Festivus, whatever. Disregarding what the last couple of months had been like and oblivious to the future, I said "Sure!" As time rocketed past, though, I began to realize the reality of the situation. I hardly ever have time to go OUT to the movies now. I'm gone from home at least 12 hours a day. I get home exhausted. Finally, there's the simple fact that I just don't like most Christmas movies. Sure, I like Bad Santa and The Ref and It's a Bundyful Life, but I can't handle crap like Miracle on 34th Street or Christmas With the Kranks. They, as Kevin Kline would put it, "make my ass twitch."

Soooo, in the loving and giving spirit of Solstihannukwanzmas, I went to see Michael Mann's latest thing, Collateral. With stuff like Manhunter, Heat, and The Insider behind him, I figured he could probably turn out a decent story. For the most part, he did.

You may remember the trailers: Tom Cruise is in LA on business and has to visit several friends in one night and be on a 6 a.m. flight back to . . . wherever. He hires Jamie Foxx's cab to drive him around. It turns out that he's actually in town to "hit" several folks before he gets the hell outta Dodge. Jamie Foxx wants no part of it, but isn't allowed to back out and go home.

Generally speaking, this movie was excellent. The one thing that really caught my attention was the fact that Tom Cruise does a great job of playing the Bad Guy. I think that the only time I've ever seen him play the Bad Guy was in Interview With the Vampire, stupid trivia from IMDB aside. In that film, which relied so much on Anne Rice readers, he was even a little bit sympathetic. In this film, though, he's nothing but a cold-blooded killer. Sure, he's charming and witty, but he doesn't really do anything to cause someone to side with him (unless they're a little off). He spends much of the film being calm and cool, and it's almost a relief to see the glee on his face when he finally gets to revel in the joy of killing. It's a little uncanny. Just for a few moments at a time, we get treated to seeing Cruise let out the dark side a little bit. He gets that wild look in his eye, the grin on his face that lets us know that either the acting is fine or Cruise really likes being the Bad Guy a little bit.

Jamie Foxx does predictably well as the taxi driver who is definitely NOT Travis Bickle. He's been driving a taxi for much longer than he ever planned, but his dreams are still percolating in the back of his brain. He takes pride in his work, though, and he isn't resigned to his life as it is. He does an adequate job of relaying the range of emotions that a relatively simple man would go through when put in an extremely tough series of situations. He's hired for $600 for one night. He's made an accessory to multiple murders. He's not allowed time to step out and process anything, instead being forced to drive Cruise on to hit after hit. He's forced to go to places in himself that he's assidiously avoided, and [spoiler!] he's forced to finally take a stand and stop letting life pass him by.

The only real drawback to this film is the predictability towards the end of the film. We get a feeling that we know exactly how the film is going to end, though we're not clued in on the details. On this website, though, we watch so many movies that correctly guessing a predictable ending is something that comes as naturally as breathing. Once we accept that, watching movies becomes a lot easier. Foxx does okay. Cruise is actually (and finally!) exciting to watch as he revels in his chosen profession. The director does a good job of building the tension, leading us up to a climax that we actually care about.

The only trite bit of script writing is when they try to add a little dimension to Cruise's character by letting him run off at the mouth. Personally, I think that his character would have a much deeper impact if they had left him as the enigmatic, quiet killer. Instead, they attempt to make us think of him as clever, witty and something more than the cold-blooded sonofabitch that he really is. They make a little Tyler Durden detour, with Cruise trying to get Foxx to live out his dreams or admit that he's too cowardly live. Take a look at the following verbal diarrhea:

"Okay, look. Here's the deal. Man, you were gonna drive me around tonight, never be the wiser, but El Gordo got in front of a window, did his high dive, we're into Plan B. Still breathing? Now we gotta make the best of it, improvise, adapt to the environment, Darwin, shit happens, I Ching, whatever, man, we gotta roll with it."

He tries to convince us that he wants Foxx to get out of his rut and go after his dreams. It's cute, but it doesn't quite fly.

Overall, I would recommend this film. It has flaws, sure, but it's generally a fun ride. Cruise is fun and believable, Foxx does okay and the idea behind the film is compelling. The darkness behind the plot is palpable, and Michael Mann obviously has fun taking us on a tour of the dark side of SOMEone's psyche. Check it out, and keep in mind that Christmas is the season of giving.

Merry Christmas, and remember: "Sorry does not put Humpty Dumpty back together again."


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