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Thursday, Aug. 5, 2004 06:03 pm

movie review

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Collateral

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. . .

Anchorman [PG-13] Will Ferrell is a pompous newscaster in the '70s who is matched with an ambitious and talented female colleague. Parkway Pointe

The Bourne Supremacy [PG-13] The second of the planned trilogy based on Robert Ludlum's novels about a CIA agent (Matt Damon) with a secret identity. The Chinese vice premier is assassinated by someone using the agent's cover name, Jason Bourne, and the agent must find the real killer to prevent a war between the U.S. and China. ShowPlace West, ShowPlace East, Route 66 Drive In

Catwoman [PG-13] Halle Berry stars as Patience Philips, a graphic artist who is murdered when she discovers secrets about the cosmetics company she works for, which is a front for a criminal organization. Parkway Pointe, ShowPlace East

A Cinderella Story [PG] Routinely mistreated by her stepmother, Sam Martin (Hilary Duff) looks forward to meeting her Internet beau at a Halloween dance. Parkway Pointe, ShowPlace East

Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story [PG-13] Vince Vaughn leads a group of friends to a dodgeball competition in Las Vegas to save their favorite gym. Ben Stiller leads the corporate team. White Oaks

Fahrenheit 9/11 [R] Michael Moore (director of Roger & Me, Bowling for Columbine) looks at the Bush Administration's response to the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attack. Parkway Pointe

Garfield [PG] The famous cartoon cat finally comes to the big screen in a mix of live action and CGI animation. Bill Murray seems the ideal choice to voice the cat with an attitude. White Oaks

Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle [R] Kumar convinces his weak-willed buddy, Harold, to get high. Their late-night quest for munchies turns into an odyssey of self-discovery. Sort of. Parkway Pointe, ShowPlace East

I, Robot [PG-13] Set in the year 2035, Chicago police detective Del Spooner (Will Smith) investigates a murder that may have been committed by a robot. ShowPlace West, ShowPlace East, Route 66 Drive In

Little Black Book [PG-13]Woman sneaks into her commitment-phobic boyfriend's electronic organizer to get names of his old girlfriends. She interviews them to find out why his past relationships didn't work -- and to find out if he's worth her trust. ShowPlace West

The Manchurian Candidate [R] Director Jonathan Demme remakes and updates the classic 1960s political thriller about a soldier (Denzel Washington) who was captured by the enemy in the Korean War (this time it's the Gulf War) and brainwashed to be used later as a pawn. Parkway Pointe, ShowPlace East

The Notebook [PG-13]Two young lovers from different backgrounds are separated when the U.S. enters World War II. Seven years later, she is engaged to a soldier when she discovers the whereabouts of her first true love.Parkway Pointe

The Princess Diaries 2: Royal Engagement [G] Princess Mia (Anne Hathaway) is primed for an arranged marriage to a English suitor. Opens Wednesday

Spider-Man 2 [PG-13] Peter Parker still has personal problems, while Spider-Man is forced to confront Doctor Octopus. ShowPlace West, Route 66 Drive In

Thunderbirds [PG] Live-action version of the popular British science-fiction series featuring marionettes as a family of rescuers. Bill Paxton is the patriarch of the Tracey family, who use various ships and rockets called the Thunderbirds, and Ben Kingsley is the villain, known as the Hood. Parkway Pointe

The Village [PG-13] M. Night Shyamalan (The Sixth Sense, Unbreakable), the director who brought intelligence and thought to the horror and science-fiction genres, is back with a period tale about a tiny village in 1897 Pennsylvania that is surrounded by a forest hiding a group of mythical beasts. ShowPlace West, ShowPlace East

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