Wednesday, 10 April 2013

Collateral (2004)

This entry is probably less about the above film than about its star, Tom Cruise -- "the biggest movie star in the world" (trademark!).  I was watching one of this week's Sky premieres, "Rock of Ages" (2012) and I really began to wonder about Cruise's appeal, popularity, and power. I didn't particularly care for the film since the pop-rock score all sounded much of a muchness to my tin ear. I far preferred the music in another of the premieres, "Joyful Noise", since Gospel is the more emotive sound, but the film itself was nothing very special, despite stellar turns from both Dolly Parton and Queen Latifah. Cruise acquitted himself reasonably as the troubled, heavy metal rock god in the former movie, but I really didn't give a toss for his character. Oddly enough the best thing in the film was probably the abrasive Russell Brand, who normally gets up my nose, especially in his unexpected love scenes with Alec Baldwin's laidback club owner.

However getting back to Mr. Cruise, I know for a fact that I have seen all of his films up to "Rock of Ages", since that's what I do! However despite my mania for collecting any film that appeals to me, I have only chosen to add two of his movies to my collection on the strength of his performance and in both of them "Magnolia" (1999) and "Tropic Thunder" (2008) he took basically OTT cameo roles as part of an ensemble cast. I admit to owning "Legend" (1985) and "Interview with the Vampire" (1994) as entertaining films, despite Cruise, and to also having "Rain Man" (1988) and "A Few Good Men" (1992) as freebie acquisitions. But if I had to explain why most of his films since his break-out performance in his spanking white undies in 1983's "Risky Business" have left me cold, I would have to say that there is something about the man that just puts me off. He is certainly an adequate actor who is not risk-avoidant and who welcomes roles that challenge his abilities, but he comes across as one who believes that he is infallible. How else to explain the recent entry of a mini-Tom playing the 6' 4" Jack Reacher? Apparently he is extremely diligent and approachable on set, but something about him just doesn't feel real, and it probably has a little to do with his scientologist beliefs. He seems to expect success as his due, rather than something that he has achieved through a genuine or unique talent and nearly all of his roles are overladen with cockiness.

To test my feelings about him, I decide to re-watch the above movie which happened to be playing this week. In it he plays a cold-blooded, silver fox hitman called Vincent, who effectively hijacks cab-driver Jamie Foxx's taxi, for a night of scheduled killings. Foxx's Max daydreams about someday running his own high-class limo service and is initially intimidated by the vicious gunsel in the back seat, but gradually learns the meaning of courage. The pair play well against each and the film holds one's attention, but it's really not a flick I would wish to own or re-watch a third time. Director Michael Mann does a top rate job of portraying the dark side of Los Angeles by night and uses the musical  underpinnings effectively. However I think he rather over-eggs the pudding, possibly encouraged to do so by his demanding leading man. The movie might have been sharper and leaner with fewer adoring shots of Cruise doing his thing. I also think it would have had a far more effective ending if Mann's camera had gradually drawn away from the now dead Vincent, rather than making us watch the newly heroic Max walking hand in hand into the sunlight with potential squeeze Jada Pinkett Smith.

The film's supporting cast is interesting and includes Mark Ruffalo and Javier Bardem amongst others, but there's no question about whom we are meant to be looking at; Foxx is good, but he is definitely the second lead here. Incidentally Jason Statham has a blink-and-you-might-miss-him role in the opening shot, but no doubt he relished this opportunity to believe that he was now a Hollywood player. Mind you, his is another career that mystifies me, but that's another story for another day.
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