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Collateral Review

By Shawn McKenzie 01/28/2005

I really have to give a huge credit to Jamie Foxx.  Back in the ‘90s, the biggest roles he was known for was his Wanda character on FOX’s “In Living Color” and his player role in 1997’s Booty Call.  He finally started to get respect when he played a small role in Oliver Stone’s Any Given Sunday, followed by some award nominations for Michael Mann’s Ali.  2004 was his year though, because he was nominated for three movies at the Golden Globes:  FX’s TV movie “Redemption,” Ray (which he won for), and this movie, Mann’s reunion with Foxx, Collateral.  He went on to be nominated for two Oscars, both of which I think that he deserves to win (though odds are that he will win for Ray.)  If it is actually possible to surpass Tom Cruise, I think that Foxx has a shot.

Vincent (Cruise), a silver-haired contract killer, arrives at LAX airport in Los Angeles and casually switches briefcases with an Australian man (Jason Statham) who has all the Intel he needs to assassinate five targets.  Meanwhile, Max Durocher (Foxx), a LA cab driver, has just dropped off United States Attorney Annie Farrell (Jada Pinkett Smith) at the federal prosecutor’s office.  He tells her that he has been dreaming of operating his own limo business, called Island Limos, for the past twelve years, and that this job is just to make ends meet because the tips are better and the traffic is less stressful.  She tells him that she is in LA to prepare herself for a big case, but she expresses interest in him, as does he (he gives her his picture of the island he’d like to go to someday, and she gives him her business card.  He’s obviously attracted to her and wants to call her.)  After that, Vincent takes Max’s cab and says that he wants to hire Max for the night to drive him around for some “real estate business.”  He gives Max $700 and says that he needs to meet five people and be back at the airport by 6 A.M.  What turns out to be a boring though better-paying cab fair quickly turns into chaos.  The body of Ramone Reyello (Thomas Rosales Jr.) flies out a hotel window and onto Max’s cab, which understandably freaks him out.  Soon Max realizes that Vincent is not a businessman, at least not one interested in real estate.  Vincent then forces Max to drive him around to his other four destinations.  Following behind where Max’s cab has been are local detectives Ray Fanning (Mark Ruffalo) and Richard Weidner (Peter Berg) along with federal agent Frank Pedrosa (Bruce McGill.)  Weidner thinks that Max has something to do with the murder of Ramone, but Fanning thinks that the cabbie’s clean record doesn’t put him in the same category as killers.  Vincent’s next target is a criminal lawyer turned lawyer criminal named Sylvester Clarke (Angelo Tiffe) who had represented Ramone.  His third target is a jazz musician named Daniel Baker (Barry Shabaka Henley) who had run into some trouble with a local gangster named Felix Reyes Torreno (Javier Bardem), the man who hired Vincent to take out the five targets.  After that, Max gets a call from his dispatcher that his mother Ida (Irma P. Hall) has called from her hospital bed wanting to see him (she is sick in bed there.)  After seeing her, Max escapes temporarily and destroys Vincent’s briefcase.  Vincent makes Max retrieve the Intel again from Felix so he can finish the last two jobs, the first one being a witness the feds are trying to protect named Peter Yip (Inmo.)  As the cops and the feds close in on Max and Vincent, Max learns a disturbing fact about Vincent’s last target.

The acting and dialogue in this movie elevates it to more than a standard action film.  Sure, there is some action, but what really sets it apart is the dialogue between Vincent and Max.  Little things like Vincent’s story about a man who died on the MTA subway and wasn’t discovered for days fills in between the action-filled scenes.  Cruise plays a bad guy for the first time in his career (that I can remember), and he does an excellent job, but this is a major acting showcase for Foxx.  When Vincent coldly murders people, Max can really feel their pain.

I don’t want to overlook the actual action in the movie though.  Cruise trained with Michael “Mick” Gould, a former member of the British Special Air Service and an authority in the areas of martial arts and weapons training, so he could look cool shooting his gun, which he does.  The choreography of the gunplay is outstanding, and it is the coolest gunplay action I have seen since The Bourne Identity (I wish I could say the same about The Bourne Supremacy though.)

While I doubt he will win the Oscar for Collateral, Foxx certainly warrants the win.  The thing I didn’t understand is why he was nominated for Best Supporting Actor instead of Best Actor.  I didn’t time it, but I would bet that Foxx actually got more screen time than Cruise.  I figure they did that to double his chances of being nominated, which obviously worked as a strategy.  The movie doesn’t become a mere buddy flick, but the chemistry between the two is undeniable.  Obviously, Max didn’t want to be in this situation, but he learns to adapt.  Whether or not Foxx wins, this movie deserves at least a rental, if not an actual addition to your DVD collection.  Foxx is certainly now an A-lister, and this movie proves it.

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