Cruise, Foxx deliver stellar performances in visceral 'Collateral'
By Jack Garner
Gannett News Service
|COLLATERAL (Rated R) Three-and-a-Half Stars (Good-to-Excellent)
Michael Mann's stylish, visceral thriller about a decent cabbie and a ruthless killer, and the night they share in Los Angeles, as the assassin is at work.
Tom Cruise and Jamie Foxx deliver first-rate performances. DreamWorks, 120 minutes.
Tom Cruise and Jamie Foxx co-star for director Michael Mann.
Screenwriter Stuart Beattie's premise revels in its clever simplicity.
Max (Foxx), a decent, working-class cab driver, is forced at gunpoint to chauffeur Vincent (Cruise), an intense mob hit man, around Los Angeles overnight, as the professional killer methodically pursues five murder assignments, all designed to thwart a federal drug investigation. Along the way, the cabbie and the killer play desperate cat-and-mouse games with each other's psyches.
The hit man oozes confidence bordering on arrogance, along with a dark wit and smooth professionalism, and is convinced he'll get through the night successfully completing his mission. It's a perfect role for Cruise, who sports a new look, with salt-and-pepper hair and a four-day beard. And it gives Cruise a rare opportunity to play evil, since Vincent is devoid of morality or human feeling. Cruise couldn't be better.
Meanwhile, Max has been driving a cab for a dozen years, despite his long-held dream to open his own limo service. He's a nice guy who lacks gumption or ambition. On this night, his goal is simply survival, although he'd also love to somehow derail Vincent's violent intentions. The role is a breakthrough for Foxx as a serious dramatic actor.
It's a performance with far more demanding range than Cruise's and he delivers.
With his upcoming portrayal of Ray Charles (in "Ray") already generating Oscar buzz, it's safe to label this the year of Jamie Foxx.
"Collateral" proves to be a showcase not only for two fine actors, but also for an imaginative, distinctive director who adds to an already-impressive track record that includes "The Last of the Mohicans," "Heat," "The Insider," "Ali" and TV's "Miami Vice." As the New York Times recently pointed out, Mann's sense of style for his film characters has long been an arbiter of taste for men's fashions and attitudes.
Think "Miami Vice's" effect on the '80s. That carries through in Cruise's look here, which Mann describes as "rough trade in a good suit." But Mann is far more than a fashion maven. His films typically offer a strong visceral quality and an energy that seems to explode off the screen, along with distinctive visual qualities. Here he employs high-end digital filming to accent the eerie light of Los Angeles at night. ("Collateral" would be my nominee for the most effective film yet shot digitally.)
"Collateral" isn't flawless your credibility will be challenged in the final reel by a coincidence of astronomical proportion. But, by then, you'll be so engrossed in the saga of Max and Vincent you'll forgive it this one big stretch.
Rated R, with profanity and violence.