Collateral – DVD Review

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Michael Mann


Tom Cruise……….Vincent
Jamie Foxx……….Max
Jada Pinkett Smith……….Annie
Mark Ruffalo……….Fanning
Bruce McGill……….Pedrosa
Javier Bardem……….Felix
Barry Shabaka Henley……….Daniel
Irma P. Hall……….Max’s mother

DreamWorks presents Collateral. Written by Stuart Beattie. Running time: 119 minutes. Rated R (for violence and language).

The Movie

It’s a dark night in the City of Angels. The hustle and bustle of honking horns and finger gestures are still prevalent, but to a lesser degree. Skyscrapers light up the night sky as their facades reflect off the well-polished automobiles that pass on by. Coyotes, both human and animal in nature, are on the prowl as the rest of the city sleeps. And Max (Jamie Foxx) is there to see and hear it all.

Max shares the cab with another driver. Max works nights while the other driver works during the day. He finds that at night traffic is less stressful than daylight business. The customers also tip better during the twilight hours. As his shift progresses he picks up an attractive young woman. Her name is Annie (Jada Pinkett Smith) and she is an assistant district attorney. Annie is a no nonsense type of woman. As she spouts into her cell phone she insists Max reach her destination the way she instructs him. Max, being ever so keen, makes a bet with Annie. If he can’t reach her destination the fastest way he knows how, she gets a free ride.

During that short seven-minute cab ride both Max and Annie make a connection. They open up to each other expressing their goals and regrets. The two do it in such a way that it doesn’t seem flirtatious. When the cab inches up to the curb and the two say their goodbyes a pain is etched in Max’s face; he regrets not asking for her number. Max ponders a bit in the cab as Annie rushes back with one of her business cards. Looks like tonight’s going to be a good night.

That is until Vincent (Tom Cruise) becomes his next fare. Now the night has gotten considerably worse. Vincent, dressed to the nines in a custom tailored suit, hops in the backseat and tells the driver that he’s in L. A. for one night to close a real estate deal. Five stops need to be made and Vincent wants to hire Max for the night. He even makes it worth Max’s time. Six hundred dollars for five stops and trip back to LAX. Weighing his options, Max reluctantly accepts.

In the course of the evening it is revealed that Vincent isn’t a real estate agent. He’s a hit man for a major drug player named Felix (Javier Bardem). The five stops are the locations of the people he’s supposed to kill. So here you have Max, a mild-mannered cab driver, driving a cold-blooded killer, albeit one who is both calm and collective, against his better judgment.

The process by which the film progresses makes one want to believe this is an independent feature. Especially when a cab acts as the mainstay for the entire picture. But Collateral isn’t your typical summertime movie excursion. The characters Max and Vincent are plotted perfectly. Max personifies a man who is unwilling to take action when the moment arises. Vincent is a man who acts without hesitation. Put the two together and you have a powder keg waiting to detonate.

Tom Cruise is pure dynamite as Vincent. People who are unconvinced that Cruise can play a villainous role have nothing to fear. Cruise’s portrayal as a hit man is perfect. His methods may be meticulous but his unexpected behavior is a sight to behold. During the film Cruise acts as a killer and a mentor to Max. Vincent is a mentor in the fact that he unconsciously gives Max all the tools necessary to end this deadly cat and mouse game.

Years from now when people look back on the filmography of Jamie Foxx they will remark that Collateral was his big “coming out” film. His character, Max, is an interesting study. From the very beginning we see Max as the type of guy who’s just trying to get by. He has a wide knowledge of the roads that run up, down, and everywhere in between the City of Angels. His big dream is to open a limousine service. But his aspirations wear thin as his servitude as a Los Angeles cabbie reaches the twelve-year mark.

Prior to the film’s release many were skeptical on how well Jamie Foxx could do in a dramatic role; especially, when you consider that Foxx played a guy named Bunz in Booty Call. But throughout the years he has matured little by little. His performance as Drew ‘Bundini’ Brown in Ali was a breakthrough role for him. Foxx kept this momentum going when he portrayed the founder of the Crips gang, Stan “Tookie” Williams, in the made for TV movie Redemption: The Stan Tookie Williams Story. This fall Jamie Foxx was in a biopic about legendary musician Ray Charles entitled Ray. His performances in Ray and Redemption, as well as Max the cab driver, have garnered him three Golden Globe nominations.

Tom Cruise and Jamie Foxx may be the stars, but star power does not automatically make for a good movie. It’s a good thing writer Stuart Beattie supplied the two with an excellent script. The film is part action-thriller and part character study. If you don’t like a lot of talking in your movies rent something else. This film is littered with it. But it isn’t there just to take up space on a sheet of paper. The dialogue helps draw out the film and allows us to explore the philosophical ideals of a contract killer and a lowly cab driver. Stuart Beattie has the makings of a great writer, a combination of Quentin Tarantino and David Mamet.

If the film Collateral is the vessel, then director Michael Mann is the captain. Mann is no stranger to films with dark, seedy characters. He was the one that brought Hannibal Lector to the silver screen in Manhunter, with thespian Brian Cox playing Hannibal. Mann also directed a film centered on L.A. entitled Heat, which is highlighted by its amazing shootouts and the diner scene conversation between a cop (Al Pacino) and a criminal (Robert De Niro).

With his newest film Michael Mann brings forth his all-encompassing cinematic bravado. The variety of camera shots and his implementation of digital video give Collateral a gritty but Hitchcockian feel to it. His action set pieces are small but not exaggerated; because he knew that the characters were the driving force of the film, not the action.

I may be praising this movie to death, but no movie is without its faults. My biggest complaint with Collateral is that some of the actions by Vincent are beyond belief. Near the end of the film he switches from assassin into some kind of terminator. And somehow he is able to pinpoint a character’s location like he had ESP. Yeah, right. Those little quibbles are not going to keep me from enjoying this film any less. I can live with them.



Since the majority of the film was shot in high-definition – and at night – it’s difficult to judge the saturation quality of the colors. But, overall, the reflections in glass come off very crisp and the aerial shots are a plus. The film’s theatrical aspect ratio of 2.40:1 is enhanced for Widescreen TV’s. Full Screen is not available. (Thank you, Michael Mann.)


The scene inside the dance club pulsates with techno beats, and Vincent’s gunshots have a nice ring. You can listen to the film in English DTS 5.1 (Digital), English 5.1 (Dolby Digital), English 2.0 (Dolby Digital), or French 5.1 (Dolby Digital). You can also view the film with English, French, or Spanish subtitles.


After watching the bonus features on the second disc you will wonder if the Collateral DVD shouldn’t have been only one disc. Dreamworks probably went the 2-disc route because of all the different audio tracks on the first disc.

But I digress, on with the extras.

The first extra comes in the form of a screen-specific commentary with director Michael Mann on Disc 1.

This commentary is flat out great. Michael Mann is very down to earth when discussing the characters of Max and Vincent. Mann is an actor’s director. He lays out a foundation for the characters in each film he directs. Even when his hit series Miami Vice was style, he could bring out the substance of his characters. My fingers are crossed for a Michael Mann commentary track on the special edition of Heat in 2005.

On the second disc the first six features have a “play all” option if you so desire. The first feature on the disc is City of Night: The Making of Collateral. In the course of 40 minutes you get a great behind the scenes look at Collateral. It is one of the better “Making Of’s” that I have seen. It wasn’t pretentious; it didn’t have an EPK (Electronic Press Kit) type of feel. During the featurette the character development of Vincent and Max is examined. Prior to production, Tom Cruise spent three months training in the arts of gunplay and hand-to-hand combat. Michael Mann adds his two cents explaining the depth of Cruise’s character, including backstory that never made it to screen. For the character of Max the cab driver, Foxx talked with one cab driver whose ultimate goal was to be the best driver he could be. Other topics include the methods in how they shot the cab (there were 17 total!) and the musical score by James Newton Howard.

The next five features could have been added to the “Making Of,” but I guess the studio wanted to mask the appearance of more bonus features. In actuality, these featurettes run between a minute to four minutes in length.

Special Delivery is a small bit where Tom Cruise is disguised as a Fed Ex deliveryman. He delivers a package to the Central Market in Los Angeles, California.

There is a deleted scene with commentary by Michael Mann. The scene is one in which Vincent is about to assault his most difficult target. So he tries to dry-clean himself of any tails he has picked up. It is an okay scene, but it doesn’t add anything to the story. In fact, it causes the film to lose its momentum.

In Shooting on Location: Annie’s Office, Michael Mann tells how they shot the scene with virtually no light. The carpenters constructed hallways in the office library to give the sense of silhouettes of not only the glass windows but of the hallways as well.

The Tom Cruise and Jamie Foxx Rehearsal Footage is the best of the smaller bonus features. While rehearsing various scenes from the film the screen splits revealing the end product.

For Visual FX: MTA Train, Mann used green screens while shooting the scene. It was not to fake a moving train. Instead, the director used it to customize the backgrounds to fit his needs.

Cast and Crew Filmographies, Production Notes and Trailers for the DVD and video releases of The Bourne Supremacy and Anchorman round out the rest of the extras on Disc 2. That’s strange. I could swear The Bourne Supremacy was a Universal Studios production. What is that trailer doing on a Dreamworks/Paramount Studios collaboration. Never mind that, where are the trailers for Collateral? Weird.


The A-list cast, exhilarating dialogue, and a great director plus the ambiance of Los Angeles make for a great night. Collateral is just a terrific film. It was my favorite film of the summer and it is definitely one that will earn a spot on my Best of 2004 list.

The DVD Lounge’s Ratings for Collateral
(OUT OF 10)






Travis Leamons is one of the Inside Pulse Originals and currently holds the position of Managing Editor at Inside Pulse Movies. He's told that the position is his until he's dead or if "The Boss" can find somebody better. I expect the best and I give the best. Here's the beer. Here's the entertainment. Now have fun. That's an order!