Movie #133 2021: Collateral (2004)

Michael Mann. Tom Cruise. Jamie Foxx. Action movie. That was the extent of my motive for watching this movie. Was it on a single one of my watch lists? No. Had I ever even heard of it? Only in passing. Basically, I went down an Amazon Prime hole and this is what I dug up. And we’ve all done that before, right?

Collateral is one of those standard neo-noir action thrillers set in LA that was made purely for entertainment value. Foxx stars as cab driver Max, who one night picks up a man named Vincent (Cruise). Vincent offers Max $600 for the night just to drive him around. Easy money. However, it quickly becomes apparent that Vincent is using Max to conduct some very untoward business: he’s a cold-blooded assassin. Things gradually get worse when Max realises that if he doesn’t stick with Vincent and do whatever he says, it’ll be his own family that are in danger.

Collateral (2004) - Movie Review : Alternate Ending

To be honest, I could watch two hours of Jamie Foxx and Jada Pinkett Smith just flirting in a cab, and that’s exactly how the movie begins. I was actually a little bit sad when the opening scene ended, because it was more interesting than any of the action sequences that followed. That’s not to say the rest of the film is bad, it’s just that Foxx and JPS are so dynamic as a pair that they set the bar super high from the get go.

There’s something to be said for how successful the film is stylistically of course. I mean, no one achieves such a perfect neo-noir aesthetic quite like Michael Mann, do they? The twinkling background lights, the dark blue colour palettes, the tightly framed close-ups… He’s simply a bloody great director. Collateral isn’t quite up to the same standard of Heat, but that doesn’t mean I didn’t enjoy it way more than I expected to. 

Collateral - Movies on Google Play

On that note, what I expected even less from was the movie’s soundtrack, yet I was completely floored by how brilliant it is. Then I found out it was a James Newton Howard effort and it all made sense – I loved his work on News of the World last year so I should not have been surprised that the soundtrack here was so moody and mysterious and resoundingly appropriate. Indeed, the score was much better than it needed to be and of a way higher quality than other movies of this type.

Now, let it be known that I’m not Tom Cruise’s biggest fan. However, even I will admit that he’s kind of perfect in this role because his character is such an asshole – couldn’t have been too difficult for him, right? In fact, most of the cast step up to the mark, and Jamie Foxx is particularly good here. Narratively, it gets a little confusing at times, but the script is so snappy and fast-paced that boredom isn’t an option. Could there have been more Jada? Always. But you can’t win ‘em all. 

The only thing I couldn’t get on board with here was the ending. After such a high octane, anxiety-fuelled 90 minutes, the end seemed like a little bit of a cop out. However, Collateral is so brilliantly made that it’s still worth the watch.

Collateral is available to stream on Amazon Prime Video in the UK.

TQR Category Ratings:

Costume & Set Design: 
Overall Rating: ½

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