"At Last, the Nice Guy Wins"
What You Need To Know:
This is not a complex plot, but it is well executed. It exposes deep character flaws in each man. Max is a nice guy who finally has to stand up for his rights. He does so with strength, courage and compassion at the end. The acting, direction, production, and lighting are all in harmony, so this is a movie that works as a whole. On the downside, COLLATERAL is a very violent crime drama with a surplus of foul language. COLLATERAL is a well made movie, but seeing it demands extreme caution.
(BB, O, Pa, FR, LLL, VVV, A, D, M) Moral worldview where the good guy finally wins over the bad guy, and the bad guy is a humanist atheist and nihilist who believes that people are just specks in the universe, with references usually by the villain (except where the hero is mimicking the villain) to I Ching, karma, psychics, and other confused religious doctrines, but most seem to have no real meaning in context; 52 obscenities and six profanities; bloody violence, including man falls from four story window, brain blown open, bodies blown open, point-blank shootings, barroom shootings, beatings, broken legs and arms, blood spurting, and man walking around with severe wounds; no sexual activity except mildly provocative dancing in club; no nudity; alcohol and tobacco in clubs; and, Federal agents are portrayed as clueless as opposed to the local police who have sense and sensibility.
COLLATERAL is a high intensity, well made, emotional, good guy vs. bad guy crime drama. The plot is simple and straightforward: Vincent, played wonderfully by Tom Cruise, is a contract killer. His job is to kill five people in one night who are going to testify against his client. Max, played superbly by Jamie Fox, is a fastidious, nice, caring cab driver who is gracious to his passengers, takes care of his sick mother in the hospital, tries to do the right thing, and has a dream of starting his own limousine company. Max says that driving a cab is just a part-time job, but he’s been doing it for 12 years!
Vincent commandeers Max and his cab to go on his Los Angeles killing spree. When the first body lands on Max’s cab, Max realizes what’s happening and wants out, but Vincent is too fast and literally holds him hostage. Meanwhile, the police are hot on the trail of the killings, and the federal agents have been investigating the drug dealer that they’re brining to trial and are naturally upset that their witnesses are being murdered.
Everything comes to a head with the last target – a U.S. attorney named Annie, with whom Max had a special rapport when he drove her in his cab. Max fights valiantly to rescue her before Vincent can kill her.
This is not a complex plot, but it is well executed. It exposes deep character flaws in each man. The psychological insights into Max and Vincent are superb and touching. Max is a nice guy who finally has to stand up for his rights. He does so with strength, courage and compassion at the end. Vincent is a killer who thinks that people are just accidental specks in the universe. He’s doing his job killing these worthless people, and he won’t let anybody get in the way. As the night progresses, however, he starts to develop a rapport with Max, and that rapport throws Vincent off his game.
The acting, direction, production, casting, and lighting in COLLATERAL are all in harmony. This is a movie that works as a whole. On the downside, it is a very violent crime drama. In spite of the fact that Vincent is a point-blank, mean-spirited contract killer, the audience develops a bond with him, sometimes even rooting for him. After all, he just has a job to do.
Director Michael Mann (HEAT and LAST OF THE MOHICANS), using a script by relative newcomer Stuart Beattie, keeps the audience on the edge of this love-hate relationship with Vincent and Max all the way to the end. Sophisticated, older audiences may be able to tolerate this tension, but younger audiences may buy into the wrong conclusions about this movie, such as thinking contract killing is a worthy profession where you can make big money for a simple job. Vincent’s lifestyle is rebuked soundly, but with a very fine point, at the very end.
The further downside to the movie is a surplus of foul language, from profanities to obscenities. Amazingly, there is no sex or nudity in the movie; even the club dancing scene is very mild. There is nothing salacious. The federal agents, however, are shown to be weak, and the good policeman does not survive.
COLLATERAL is one of the best made movies of the summer, but it demands extreme caution.