Funny, surprising, action-packed, and only slightly predictable,
Collateral boasts a likable cast, including the bad guy. Can you
imagine Tom Cruise playing a real bad guy? Completely evil and
irredeemable? Neither can Cruise, as this movie shows.

A thin premise, stretched pretty far, carries this film. Cruise’s
character Vincent uses taxi drivers to drive him to various stops
while he kills marks and then frames the cabby. Vincent enters our
hero Max Durocher’s life just after Max meets the woman of his dreams,
played by Jada Pinkett-Smith. We have seen Max, played by Jamie Foxx,
go through a normal day up to this point. The movie works hard to
establish Max’s character. He’s smart: he does crossword puzzles.
He’s clean: he wipes down the cab frequently. He’s a dreamer: he has a
photo of a tropical island attached to his visor. Now we see Vincent
change all that in just a few hours. Max must become more than a
dreamer, he must become the man of action that Vincent ironically
calls him at the beginning.

The circumstances bring out the courage in Max as he and Vincent
travel through L.A. The cabby becomes many things at Vincent’s urging
and continues trying to thwart the hit man’s plans. We see Vincent act
almost as a friend, as he pretends to be an official at the DMV who
threatens Max’s boss, makes Max buy flowers for his mother, and
encourages Max to call Annie, whose business card now resides in the
place of honor usually reserved for his tropical island.

The hit man shows himself able to kill anyone, anyplace, and as the
movie progresses we lose hope for Max’s survival. Just when we think
that Max may be out of danger, Vincent pulls him back by killing his
ostensible savior. Now Max must use all his own resources. Mr. Foxx
does an excellent job as the every man, while Mr. Cruise plays an
interesting villain. Both submerge themselves so well in their roles
that the audience almost forgets their celebrity personas. The
movie’s action scenes work well. Vincent escapes unscathed at a club
packed with security, FBI, and police and we believe because he has
displayed his skills earlier in the film. Mrs. Pinkett-Smith copes
ably as the damsel in a dress, and the supporting cast all convey
their roles adequately; even a disguised Mark Ruffalo as the one cop
who believes in Max’s innocence. Go see this movie at the theater,
don’t wait for the DVD. [Chelle Lee]