HE SAID: Straight action from Cruise, Foxx
As a depiction of the taxi ride from hell, “Collateral” sometimes seems a little pedestrian.
Let me qualify that: “Collateral” constitutes a valiant attempt to play the action-movie genre straight with good actors, a possibly great director and a solid script. And coming at the end of a summer full of twists and turns, it’s certainly an admirable effort. So maybe it’s no fault of “Collateral” that I wanted more than two hours, 15 minutes and able performances from its leads – both marquee names. In the end, the valiant effort came off as vanilla.”Collateral” is a throwback, and in a lot of good ways. Tom Cruise shares top billing with Jamie Foxx, which could sound like a recipe for disaster if either was filtering his character through his respective persona. Instead, both are actually acting: Cruise subdues his all-American everyman act to play hitman Vincent as a straight villain, and Foxx (who played Bundini Brown in director Michael Mann’s “Ali”) detunes his funnyman tendencies to make cabbie Max, who unwittingly picks up the worst fare of his life in Vincent, into a likable nerd.
But “Collateral” throws itself a little too far back – to Mann’s “Miami Vice” days. When “Miami Vice” was new – when Mann was working on it – it was groundbreaking. “Collateral” latches onto some of what made it cool in the mid-’80s and is cool once again in the middle of this decade. The dark tone – both visual and emotional -black humor and hushed, jazzy feel covering a general, darker sense of malice work again in “Collateral.”
But that brooding mood also obscures Mann’s best assets in “Collateral”: Cruise, Foxx and journeyman actor Mark Ruffalo (seemingly channeling John Travolta) as Los Angeles police detective Fanning. That’s not to say Foxx would come shining through and make “Collateral” a winner if he reverted to playing Bunz from “Booty Call” as a cab driver, but both actors’ charisma is muted. There’s no shortage of compelling hitmen in movie annals, and while Cruise is a top-notch actor giving a very good performance, his Vincent is much more human than Matt Damon’s Jason Bourne and much more believable than John Cusack’s Martin Blank – but not as compelling to watch as either.”Collateral” is much the same way: a straight arrow that hits its mark but falls short of being a bull’s-eye.
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