review for Collateral on AllMovie

Collateral (2004)
by Perry Seibert review

In Michael Mann's cinematic universe, the good guys and the bad guys are clearly defined. The catch is that the good guy discovers that very little separates him from the bad guy. This conflict was at the heart of Mann's best films (Heat and Manhunter), and it plays itself out again in Collateral, where Jamie Foxx's everyman taxi driver discovers how hitman Tom Cruise's practical nihilism offers him a way out of the rut in which he finds himself. The action and suspense sequences are taut, and Mann sets the sequences up with such economy that those familiar with the genre may giggle with joy at the artistry on display. This being a Mann film, the action slows in order for the characters to engage in philosophical discussions. While it is fun to watch Tom Cruise play against type, Jamie Foxx is the heart and soul of this movie. During a very entertaining opening act in which Foxx flirts with a high-powered lawyer played by Jada Pinkett Smith, the actor deftly reveals a variety of aspects about the character, all the while remaining entirely believable. This opening sequence is so good, it helps sell the rest of the film because the audience is with Foxx from the get-go. In other hands, this script might have come off as just another run-of-the-mill psychological thriller, but the movie is elevated by confident direction, a fantastic look, and a noteworthy lead performance. Collateral is not the best Michael Mann film, although it is arguably his most representative.