Tom Cruise is well cast as a coldly efficient professional assassin and Jamie Foxx is excellent as the cabbie who picks unwittingly drives him to his targets in Michael Mann’s coolly attenuated thriller Collateral (2004).
Mann is the king of crime movie professionalism and his characters are the best at what they do, consummate professionals with a romantic criminal code, and the Cruise is a masterstroke of casting. Under a neat salt-and-pepper trim and stubbly beard, he’s a man whose youthful cockiness has aged into self-assurance and cool confidence.
The dynamism of Collateral, however, comes from Foxx, a comic actor who had previously been most often cast for his verbal dexterity and flip attitude. Like Cruise, he’s cast against type here. Unlike Cruise, he shows the full range of his acting chops as Max, a twelve-year “temporary” L.A. cabbie who picks up Cruise’s icy killer Vincent and ends up his unwilling accomplice.
Stuart Beattie’s screenplay has all the calculation of a high concept Hollywood pitch, and the dialogue is full of Tarantino-lite stories that jab the film with inoculations of character. Mann brings a routine subplot involving a cagey LAPD undercover officer (Mark Ruffalo) to vivid life, but it ultimately fizzles out in the obligatory mano-a-mano trajectory.
Where Mann makes it his own is in his sharp, clean execution, visceral action scenes, and images saturated in the hyper-intense colors of the neon and florescent night (shot with a handheld high definition video camera). There are no action hero leaps of fantasy by our hero Max and no elaborate supervillain gimmicks by Vincent, and the few contrivances are forgivable under Mann’s intense direction.
Cruise is completely convincing as a one man strike force: no wasted movement, no panicked indecision, and nary a flicker of feeling as he calmly sites and executes his targets while chaos erupts around him.
Jada Pinkett Smith, Peter Berg, Bruce McGill, Irma P. Hall, and Barry Shabaka Henley costar.
It earned Oscar nominations for actor Jamie Foxx and for film editing and the cinematography by Dion Beebe and Paul Cameron earned a BAFTA.
On Blu-ray and DVD from Paramount. The Blu-ray and two-disc DVD set includes commentary by Michael Mann, the featurettes “City of Night: The Making of Collateral” and “Special Delivery,” the behind the scenes look at “Shooting on Location: Annie’s Office” and the visual effects of the “MTA Train” scene, deleted scene with commentary, rehearsal footage with Tom Cruise and Jamie Foxx, bios, and production notes.