COLLATERAL 

An Illusion Review by Joan Ellis


            The good news first:  Tom Cruise is entirely credible as a bad guy.  Heís a polished villain in a perfect Armani suit with a tie and shirt that move from one shade of messy to another as he goes about his job of killing witnesses in what is about to be a high profile court case.  Had he been disheveled, he would have been Tom Cruise in costume.  This way he is eerie Ė Immaculate Tom with evil instincts inside that beautiful head, wrapped in the image of a businessman.  With the skills of a deft killer and the moves of a perfectionist, he surprises us repeatedly.  Even covered in blood he is in charge.  The heart of his character is freezing cold.

            More good news:  The movie begins beautifully with Annie (Jada Pinkett Smith) as the passenger in Maxís (Jamie Foxx) cab.   A cab driver and a lawyer discover their mutual pleasure in listening quietly to beautiful radio music as they drive.  By the end of the ride we know these two are good people will see each other again.  Itís a lovely beginning.

            After a body falls from a few stories up onto the roof of Maxís cab; the beautiful soft music changes to a nervous, edgy beat that never goes away.  Our peace is over.  Vincent (Tom Cruise) becomes Maxís passenger, ordering him to chauffeur him for his own nightís work, which happens to be five quick stops to kill five people.  Itís here that things begin to go astray.

            We are never quite sure who Vincentís victims are or why they are being shot.  One seems to be involved with drugs, another is a trumpet player, and none of them become known to us in any way that might make us interested in them.  Knowing they are witnesses doesnít help.  A string of people dies from Vincentís bullets without our ever really understanding the puzzle.  As our attention drifts away from the plot, our idle minds see gaping holes.

            For one thing, the setting is busy Los Angeles.  But in this movie, nighttime L.A. is deserted.  You may never have seen such deserted streets or buildings Ė until, that is, someone needs to be shot, and then we are in a crowded dance or jazz club.  The final chase through the subway is surreal Ė gleaming silver and white surfaces without people.  Max could escape many times, but doesnít; Many people could pick up the phone to dial 911, but donít. 

            So itís not much of a movie Ė except for some very good acting.   Tom Cruise manages to make precision horrifying without saying a word;  his cold, quick, killer is chilling from beginning to end.  Jamie Foxxís Max is a human calculator of times and distances, a dreamer who calms himself down with a picture of an island behind the visor of his cab, a good man whose most endearing quality may be that he doesnít even know how to release the safety on a pistol. 


Copyright (c) Illusion

Return to Ellis Home Page