As anyone who regularly has to deal with London cabbies knows, sometimes you just have to take a chance and go with the ride.
And that's the best way of enjoying this Tom Cruise thriller too. The taxi driver in question is Max, played by Jamie Foxx (the same Jamie Foxx who just won a Golden Globe for his portrayal of Ray Charles in Ray and the same Jamie Foxx who played Bunz in Booty Call.) Max knows Los Angeles like the back of his hand. He also knows he's going to quit soon and set up his own business. But then he's been saying it for ten years now.
Can Max get out of his rut? Maybe. On this particular night, two fares serve as a catalyst for change. First up there's Annie (Jada Pinkett Smith), a smooth lawyer who isn't so aloof that she doesn't recognise the connection between the two of them. Then there's Mr Cruise, looking a million bucks in his grey Armani suit and his grey Armani hair. Cruise (Vincent) commandeers Max's services for the night. He has half a dozen appointments across the city, and he's on such a tight schedule, he needs a great driver to keep him on track. He'll pay handsomely too. And if Max doesn't agree, he'll kill him.
It doesn't take more than a minute's thought to see that this story is frankly ridiculous. Six hits in one night? That we might buy, but why would the mobsters rely on one man to carry them all out? And why wouldn't they think to supply him with their own driver come to that?
The coincidences only pile up as the night goes on. But, here's the rub: it doesn't matter. Collateral may be more fantastic than Attack of The Clones on some level, but Max is a real character; we can believe in him and care about his predicament. And director Michael Mann who made Heat, The Insider and Ali makes sure that we do. In fact, while the movie has a couple of bravura action set-pieces, its real pleasure comes from listening to Max and Vincent (as well as Annie, and sundry supporting characters) riff on their very different world-views. It even reminded me of that exquisite conversation piece Before Sunset in places.
Sure, some people will find it too slow. Others just won't be able to swallow the contrivance. My advice? Accept it, go for the ride; it might just take you unexpectedly close to home.
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