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Awesome: 24.87%
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15 reviews, 99 user ratings

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by Mel Valentin

"A routine crime/actioner elevated by Michael Mann's stylish direction."
4 stars

With "Collateral," what otherwise would have been a slight, predictable, and clichéd action/thriller, Michael Mann ("Thief," "Manhunter," "The Last of the Mohicans," "Heat," "The Insider," "Ali," "Robbery: Homicide Division") once again proves himself a filmmaker of indisputable talent, a visual stylist fully aware of, and responsive to the possibilities inherent in the medium. In less distinguished hands, superior cast notwithstanding, "Collateral" would be immediately dismissed by audiences and critics alike, easily becoming late-night cable fodder.

Collateral can be described as a two-character drama between kidnapper, an assassin who identifies himself only as “Vincent” (Tom Cruise) visiting Los Angeles with a computer-generated hit list and his kidnap victim, an unsuspecting cab driver, Max Durocher (Jamie Foxx), who becomes an unwilling accomplice in Vincent’s killing spree. Vincent is a typical example of the genre: coldly and dispassionately efficient, disconnected from social and cultural reality, in short an amoral, violence-prone sociopath. Max, the putative protagonist, is an everyman, whose mundane existence is a pale imitation of the life he dreams about (twelve years as a cabdriver indicates he’s more dreamer than the active protagonist of his own life). His dream is, at its center, the generic and escapist American Dream, success measured by money and consumerism.

Collateral opens with the arrival of the Vincent character in Los Angeles. Mann liberally uses tight steadicam shots, unbalanced medium shots to introduce us, almost claustrophobically, to the antagonist, suggesting the discomfort and unease implicit in his presence. Max is first introduced fastidiously cleaning his cab, preparing for work. His first fare, however, isn’t Vincent, but a federal prosecutor, Annie Ferrell (Jada Pinkett Smith). The scene unfolds with noticeable implausibility; their romantic connection (and later the connection of their encounter to the main plotline) is both underdeveloped and unlikely, given the obvious differences in social status between the two characters. Annie’s character serves to introduce both the romantic subplot and later to connect the subplot to the main plotline in the third act.

There would be no film, of course, without an apparently coincidental encounter between the two central characters. To Max, still high on his encounter with Annie, Vincent is just one more fare. He soon discovers, however, that Vincent’s desire to hire him for the night hides an ulterior motive: Vincent’s brief visit to and through Los Angeles involves the murder of five, apparently disconnected, individuals. The first-act climaxes with Max’s dramatic discovery of Vincent’s identity and his plans. Mann punctuates the end of the first act with a falling body literally separating the first from the second acts, wrenching Max violently from his insular existence. The ethical dilemma, no surprise, is a stark one for Max, between guilt-inducing participation in Vincent’s criminal actions, or simply put, his own death. Max is first compelled to act as Vincent’s getaway driver, his complicity and increasing uncertainty about the moral tradeoffs he’s made and continues to make, lead to an attempted escape, and later, impromptu attempts to frustrate Vincent’s plans.

The screenplay for Collateral by Stuart Beattie falters in several ways, however: first and foremost, Vincent’s decision to use a public cab, instead of simply renting or stealing a car strains the audience’s suspension of disbelief. The audience is expected to believe that meticulous, highly trained killer would risk discovery (or worse) to engage in a cat-and-mouse game with a second-rate cab driver. Second, the introduction of the romantic subplot in the prologue, matched by its re-introduction into the third-act (and into the main plotline), is flatly implausible. Third, the transformation of the protagonist from everyman to hero is overly schematic, undermotivated, and ultimately unconvincing. Max's heroics are driven more by the plot’s overarching requirements (and the need for a continuing series of reversals and complications) than his abilities or his growing self-awareness. Last, given how grounded the first and most of the second acts are, Vincent’s transformation into an uber-assassin/Terminator-like killing machine, who fearlessly and recklessly attempts an assassination inside a packed nightclub (contradicting his earlier stated comment that he prefers to work at the margins, unseen and unidentified) rings hollow.

The screenplay’s faults, however, can be overlooked, in comparison to Michael Mann’s mastery of camerawork, pacing, and his direction of the performances, both primary (Cruise and Foxx, both proving themselves capable of handling the occasionally nuanced material) and secondary (Jada Pinkett Smith, to a lesser extent, and Mark Rufalo, showing a chameleon-like ability to dissolve himself into an admittedly minor role). Mann chose to use high-definition video for most of the film (primarily for the exteriors). High definition is still noticeably inferior to film stock, but it offers a greater depth of field and visibility for the nighttime shots. It also adds “ghosting” or blurring at the edges of moving characters and objects. Audiences might find that ghosting distracting, but it also underscores the dislocation and heightened reality encountered by the hero/protagonist.

Stylistically, Mann avoids using establishing shots to open or close scenes. Instead, he chose tight, medium shots, with a shallow depth of field. For example, in the scenes inside the cab, he creates a sense of claustrophobia for both characters and audience by emphasizing the actors alone in each shot, pushed to the side of the frame, instead of relying on two shots of the characters in conversation. Mann also uses cutaways or inserts, fragmenting the characters from each other and from their own actions (and directing the audience to important information that will be connected to the main storyline).

Mann’s direction of the action set pieces is equally assured, from the nightclub scene mentioned above, to a confrontation inside a darkened, steel and glass office building. The interior of the darkened building is covered in eerie, indirect light streaming in from nearby commercial buildings and the highway. In addition to the multiple light sources, Mann shoots through a series of glass interiors to fragment and disrupt the audience’s perceptions of the action. The lighting, editing, and camera movements all heighten the suspense in the scene.

By the film's third act, audience sympathy is clearly with the hero/protagonist, but it's not a zero-sum game. Like Hitchcock’s better work, Mann manages to end "Collateral" with a measure of audience sympathy for the antagonist by showing his vulnerability in one or two scenes, but here, audience sympathy may be more a function of Tom Cruise's performance and Michael Mann's directorial skills. Mann smartly also avoids an extended epilogue, instead ending the film with a brief denouement that leaves the characters and the audience with a sense of closure and release (not surprisingly, the film ends at dawn).

link directly to this review at http://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=10300&reviewer=402
originally posted: 05/24/05 16:22:13
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2005 Sydney Film Festival For more in the 2005 Sydney Film Festival series, click here.

User Comments

9/17/18 anton really good movie, except for some plotholes. 5 stars
9/13/17 morris campbell very good cruise & foxx are great 4 stars
1/24/10 Jeff Great film. 5 stars
8/09/09 Jeff Wilder Well-made and involving. Only the interminable ending keeps me from giving it 5 stars. 4 stars
2/04/09 Faraz J Boring movie. Who cares about the acting if the movie is boring. Crap. 3 stars
12/28/08 Samantha Pruitt boring ass movie, fell asleep during it, stupid plot! 1 stars
10/31/08 ldavies I don't understand the 5 star ratings, Not that special. 3 stars
8/11/08 Shaun Wallner Cruise does it again! 5 stars
4/22/08 Quigley Very well-made thriller. Foxx, Cruise and Mann do brilliant work here. 5 stars
4/15/08 Jack Sommersby Stupid script and numerous implausibilities mar this good-looking crima drama. 2 stars
11/27/07 Vincent I dare to say this's Mann's best. needs to be seen more than once to really appreciate it 5 stars
11/19/07 Jose Luis Mann got another masterpiece. Very enjoyable film, great perfomances 5 stars
5/13/07 mb Adrenalin, Murders, Some Charm 4 stars
3/27/07 Double M Just brilliant.. Cruise was perfect in a surprising role and was snubbed of an oscar nom. 5 stars
3/21/07 ES That's a good movie right there 4 stars
2/08/07 R.W.Welch Contrived but entertaining. Script has some spark to it. 4 stars
2/06/07 AJ Muller The Mann has done it yet again. Smart, slick, and wholly badass. 5 stars
1/30/07 William Boyle Spectacular nonsense. Cruise is like a Terminator with a screw loose. 4 stars
1/26/07 Tamara D. Leonard Boring! 1 stars
1/23/07 MP Bartley A snappy, brisk thriller. Direction doesn't lag and Cruise is icily excellent. 4 stars
11/03/06 mg I am 43 and this is the BEST movie I have ever seen in my life. Positive & motivational 5 stars
10/21/06 David Pollastrini very good 3 stars
4/02/06 JRE it's overrated but has lot's of action and great acting 4 stars
3/10/06 Dillon Top-notch action drama. Cruise is in top form and Foxx breaks through. 5 stars
12/30/05 Agent Sands One of greatest recent suspense films. 5 stars
12/21/05 steve newman Excellent film - the ending was predictable 4 stars
11/18/05 Chris Barrett Cruise Should Have Got An Oscar Nomination. Simply Brilliant. Mann's 2nd Best To Heat 5 stars
10/18/05 yj yyjyytn 1 stars
9/23/05 Jonathon Holmes one of the 10 best films of the year 5 stars
7/18/05 leeyicia m i loved this movie. i love anything with jamie foxx is in. 5 stars
7/10/05 slanes It was okay, I thought it would be a lot betterfrom all the hype. 3 stars
5/24/05 Casey Becher Pretty good Tom Cruise movie, but not as good as Mission Impossible. 4 stars
5/07/05 Who am I? This aint bad at all, nice look and feel although there were some misses along the way 4 stars
4/08/05 Monster W. Kung "Good guy stuck with bad guy" piece of crap, with laughably absurd action sequences. 1 stars
3/27/05 Charlie Tom's best! A great movie! 5 stars
3/26/05 Karen I hated it 1 stars
3/12/05 Fabr Nothing special. Nothing amazing in it 3 stars
2/21/05 Captain Craig Tom was surprisingly good as a bad guy, but Jamie stoled it! 4 stars
2/06/05 Phil M. Aficionado What David Hollands said. Boring, actually; I slept through parts of it. 2 stars
2/01/05 lisa w This one had me hooked from minute one, just something about it. Fab Cast 5 stars
1/31/05 Christy Harris Loved these guys! Great car chases! 4 stars
1/29/05 Dan Interesting Movie... 4 stars
1/29/05 sam bonner interesting mix of brutal action and dime store existential philosophy 4 stars
1/16/05 Landshark No, I shot him -- the bullets and the fall killed him. Maybe Mann's best. 5 stars
1/10/05 Lucas Stenz The worst Mann film yet; the wolf scene is hysterical! 2 stars
12/31/04 HL Cruise wacking bad guys and no remorse for killin' a cop..I don't think so! 2 stars
12/30/04 Tjalda L. Schiel Mann, you're Da Man. Cruise, forget being the hero, be the villain. 5 stars
12/29/04 Katie Evridge Not as much action as I thought. Much more psychological. Ok movie! 4 stars
12/28/04 Tom Ciorciari Much ado about Cruise in a buzzed flat top... 3 stars
12/27/04 efrain beautiful, unnerving, sad. awesome. 5 stars
12/27/04 mwildema A nice suprise. 4 stars
12/15/04 ad good job 4 stars
12/15/04 Rizal Malik One exciting ride that is addictive. Outstanding cast, direction, script and cinematography 5 stars
12/08/04 Kristina Williams my favorite movie of 2004 5 stars
12/06/04 Gazza J Fucking Champion! 5 stars
11/25/04 Shams Huque Mann is a legend. Cruise was pretty good! 5 stars
11/07/04 John Bale Possibly the best hitman film since The Professional, Cruise heads a good cast. Suspenseful 5 stars
11/04/04 Dean Nice Camera angles 4 stars
11/03/04 Lee Graham Dark and atmospheric. Best performance I've seen by Cruise. 5 stars
10/25/04 ALDO Nothing special....too much shit chat...the last 30 mins is ok 3 stars
10/23/04 Luke A real masterpice, in my opinion! 5 stars
10/22/04 Denise really good 5 stars
10/21/04 georgia visually fantastic but a dud script 2 stars
10/21/04 Monday Morning L.A.- A small town...you bump into the same people a lot. Ya, right, but still an OK film. 3 stars
10/19/04 Susan L. Awesome movie. 4 stars
10/16/04 Archanist_101 One of Micheal Mann's best yet... Too bad he didnt hire Crowe & Sandler 5 stars
10/09/04 Ingo Quite ok, but to many "What the hell?"... 3 stars
9/26/04 Graham Grip those armrests. Grip 'em hard. 5 stars
9/11/04 y2mckay Cruise and Foxx tolerable, J.P. Smith HOT, laggy first half but entertains in the end. 4 stars
8/30/04 Karl story and action a little hard to take 2 stars
8/28/04 Kimesabi A great assassin flick unfortunately assassinated in the last 5 minutes. 5 stars
8/27/04 Tristynn Pretty far fetched. Absolutly no character development. A real let down. 2 stars
8/24/04 Agent Sands By far Mann's best movie, and the best supense thriller in the past 2 years. 5 stars
8/16/04 Joe Kim Great Movie! 5 stars
8/16/04 zer0 falls completely apart halfway through, and the ending is the worst I've ever seen 2 stars
8/16/04 ownerofdajoint an incredibly tight thriller /cruise and foxx are as good here as ever..WOW ! 5 stars
8/15/04 malcolm excellent 'til the last 3 mins. no way a cab driver and lawyer beat a pro killer 4 stars
8/14/04 John a lame script full of ridiculous plot holes but expertly put together by Michael Mann 3 stars
8/14/04 Melissa Just saw it, and loved it! Cruise rocks as a bad guy. 5 stars
8/14/04 Peter James Cruise and Foxx have undeniable chemistry 5 stars
8/14/04 Gray lame! 1 stars
8/14/04 Nikolai Tofu Cruise gives Foxx some conversation instead of muttering to himself for 2 hours 2 stars
8/13/04 Uncle Phucker Mann failed with Ali. But he's getting closer to Heat and Thief days. Not as good as Heat.. 4 stars
8/12/04 McGraw Thrilling, tense, and WONDERFULLY intelligent. 5 stars
8/09/04 arlene dolen michael mann must be a great quentin tarantino fan. it's just that mann got it all wrong. 3 stars
8/09/04 Brian Halley Complete crap 1 stars
8/09/04 wintermute well painted scenes and stunning lighting 5 stars
8/09/04 Mike V Michael Mann meets Brian Depalma and it kicks ass! 5 stars
8/08/04 roddick_luva this movie was good but really draggy 4 stars
8/07/04 sarah the bearah has netflix finally become a verb? 4 stars
8/07/04 rory aweful 1 stars
8/07/04 ajay When did Jamie Foxx become an "actor"?? (ps, Held Up was funny, netflix it) 4 stars
8/07/04 Christina You guys are insane if you didnt like this 5 stars
8/07/04 KingNeutron Vincent is just too one-dimensional. Nothing earth-shattering here, but worth matinee. 3 stars
8/07/04 Brad I loved it. Good job by Jamie Foxx (and Cruise of course) 5 stars
8/06/04 Rose Doub exciting and able to keep the viewer interested and in suspense to the end 4 stars
8/06/04 Elaine Perrone Collateral: A/K/A YET Another 48HRS. Meh. 3 stars
8/03/04 Ray Ok 4 stars
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  06-Aug-2004 (R)
  DVD: 14-Dec-2004



Directed by
  Michael Mann

Written by
  Stuart Beattie

  Tom Cruise
  Jamie Foxx
  Jada Pinkett Smith
  Mark Ruffalo
  Peter Berg
  Bruce McGill

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