In fairness, I was always going to see the film. I like Michael Mann, and especially Heat... but of course, this film is not Heat. This film isn't even Ali, which is a film that I thought was okay, but nothing special in that for a biography, it appeared to be missing a huge chunk of Ali's life. But hey, whatever. I'm writing about Collateral: the film that tries to convince me that Tom Cruise could be a nihilistic killer.
Please. I mean, please.
Now, I don't know why Cruise is incapable of pretending to be such a person. Could be he's just limited as an actor. That's a fair enough comment. Certainly, I think he's limited as an actor when not playing the hero. He showed something in Kubrick's Eyes Wide Shut, but it wasn't that much. It certainly wasn't an essence of nihilism. It wasn't a sense that he would turn around, and say, "There's nothing," and you'd think, fuck, Tom, you're so right. Considering that he spends half his time in Collateral trying to convince Jamie Foxx's taxi driver character that no one cares, no one is watching, and they're nothing but a speck... well, imagine me sitting there and thinking, gee, Tom, maybe if you just believed that then I could leave this film a happy camper.
But Tom Cruise doesn't believe in nothing.
Cruise is a Scientologist, so you know he has the capacity to believe. More, you know he'll believe in any piece of bloody rubbish you push under his eyes. For example, if you say, "You know, L Ron was Jesus and I'm the Easter Bunny and we've got poisoned easter eggs to give to poor people," you know Tom will have to think about that just a little bit until he decides that, due to a lack of ears and fluffy bunny tail, that I might just not be the Easter Bunny.
Ultimately, Vincent, Cruise's nihilistic killer, has to be charming while also being convincing. He has to have both as he sits in the back of a cab and murmurs his dark truths that eventually wear down the cab driver, or the audience (well, maybe me) will just fail to be convinced by it. And failed I was. I could see, in the back of Cruise's head, this belief in something, this sense that even he, as he said the lines, did not believe a word of them--and in the end, you have to ask yourself what Michael Mann was thinking when he cast Cruise in the film?
Outside Cruise, the film is decent. It's bright sparks are Mann's portrayal of nighttime L.A. (though his use of digital cameras in part irritated me) and Jamie Foxx's loser cab driver. Indeed, in one scene, Foxx demonstrates that he might have been a better choice for a nihilistic killer, but perhaps not. Still, he has a nice humanity about him in the roll, and though he isn't very interesting, as the every day man caught up in circumstances beyond his control quite often are, he is at least sympathetic.
The final problem of the film, however, is the script. Well, they're problems I'm going to put down to the script. They might not be there, given the nature of film, but lets assume they are. Lets assume, for example, that the script writer actually thought it was a convincing idea to work the climax into a showdown that involved the lawyer from the start of the film. I'm not spoiling anything for you, I might add, because it's so bloody obvious that it's going to come back to her, that you find yourself thinking that Mann should've just cut out the centre part of the film. I mean, how hard would it have been to keep her apart from the main plot of the film? Am I the only one who thought, wow, look at all this coincidence going on here. Isn't that odd. Just, come on, please, if you're going to write a film, if you're going to chuck this kind of cash into it, have some class and give me a plot I can't pick in the opening moments, and try to give me some surprises. If I find myself, for example, thinking that these are nice city images Mann has taken, chances are I'm not entirely caught up in the film.
Of course, the final problem with the script, is the bland dialogue. The majority of the film takes place in a taxi, in a dialogue between two men, and I am struggling to remember anything interesting that they said. I know that some people don't like that stylised dialogue, because it leaves you with the sense that it's not real, that it's somehow not convincing, but I figure when you've got a little thriller going with Tom Cruise as a nihilistic killer in a plot that is as simple as skipping, where he's fulfilling the contract of a criminal underworld figure by driving round in a taxi on one night and killing people, that stylised dialogue actually benefits the film.
Of course, it probably wouldn't have lifted Collateral out of being a minor thing.