Archive for the ‘Collateral’ Category

184 – Collateral

December 31, 2004

Max (Jamie Foxx) is a morose, temporary (for 12 years) cabbie who picks up an unusual fare: For $600, he’ll ferry Vincent (Tom Cruise) around to various real estate deals. Small problem, though: Turns out Vincent’s deals are actually hits. That might cost extra on the meter. Michael Mann’s dark action film is mainly a two-character study of the hijacked Max and the confident Vincent. Will Max ever get the psychological upper hand on Vincent? Who will win out? Will Vincent complete his “rounds”? The other characters are merely background decorations, for the most part, as this is a batter of wits between a cold master and a warm, pensive dreamer.

Critics have raved about this movie, especially about Foxx’s performance and about Cruise’s ability to disappear into a character. I can’t agree with the latter of those two assessments. To me, Tom Cruise never stopped being Tom Cruise. You can whiten his beard and give him a salt-and-pepper mane, but you can never completely take away the very distinct Cruise mannerisms. You can never, in other words, completely forget Vincent is Tom Cruise, Movie Star, and that’s where the movie really suffers. I believe Cruise was miscast in this movie, because another, less-mannered actor would have given a much more-nuanced performance.

Foxx, on the other hand, was perfectly cast, and this (along with Ray) is surely a breakthrough role for the former In Living Color vet. Foxx immerses himself so much in his character that one completely empathizes with Max’s plight. We understand when he’s uncertain about calling Annie, the lawyer who was the fare before Vincent. We know where he’s coming from when he’s asked to do reprehensible things by Vincent over the course of the long evening. We never have to stop and ask ourselves why Max is doing something, or – more appropriately – why Max isn’t doing something to stop Vincent.

There are some holes in the story itself, which never bodes well when the movie is as plot dependent; even worse, though, is that the plot – particularly the ending – seems far too contrived and tidy for the people involved. Things happen in the movie that would be considered mere coincidences in real life, but here they look manipulated.

Because of this, Collateral was a disappointment to me. Even if one sawed through the hype of the movie (“Ooh look! It’s Tom Cruise looking old!”) and took it at face value, the plot contrivances and hamminess of Cruise ultimately sink it, at least to some degree. It’s not a wholly unentertaining movie, as it’s fun to watch Cruise and Foxx interact. It’s just not as satisfying as it should have been.

Collateral: **1/2