Beware the sharp-dressed man
To say that Max (Jamie Foxx) is having a bad night is like saying that the Titanic ran into a little trouble at sea. It's bad enough that the LA cab driver has let a beautiful woman slip through his fingers; now he's got a fare he can't shake, a sharp-dressed man named Vincent (Tom Cruise) who makes him an offer he can't refuse. All Max has to do is make five stops, then drop Vincent off at the airport by 6 a.m. Vincent's story is that he's working on a real-estate closing and needs some signatures to close the deal. As it turns out, he's really a hired killer out to complete a multihit contract.
As high-concept premises go, Michael Mann's Collateral sports a doozy, and yet the firm proves one of the most entertaining films of the summer, including inventive action scenes, a wicked sense of humor, and an intriguing relationship between its two principals. A game of cat and mouse develops between Vincent and Max, with the killer easily getting inside the driver's head, preying on his insecurities and fears to keep him behind the wheel. Meanwhile, as the night progresses and his situation becomes more desperate, Max realizes he must overcome his sense of low self-esteem and act before more innocents wind up dead.
The sort of relationship that develops between Vincent and Max is far more entertaining and exciting than the film's action sequences, which progress from improbable to impossible. Credit Cruise and Foxx for bringing to life two characters that could have easily been rendered as stereotypes. Cruise takes a chance here, playing the most despicable character of his career and embracing it. After a string of subpar films, Foxx is finally given a chance to shine, and he makes the most of it. The movie may fall apart in the end, but, thanks, to Cruise and Foxx, the characters at its center seem real, even when the turmoil surrounding them is overblown fantasy.
What other critics are saying. . .
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