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Collateral (2004)

It started like any other night.

Rating: 8/10

Running Time: 120 minutes

US Certificate: R UK Certificate: 15

There are a few things Tom Cruise’s career has been lacking up until this point. One is a death scene. Another is a nightclub scene where he towers above practically everyone on the dance floor thanks to an almost exclusively Oriental clientele. And another is a distractingly large grey bouffant wig. In ‘Collateral’, the year’s big thriller from Michael Mann, he gets to add at least two of those items to his now-bulging CV. Not being a spoily-sport, I won’t fill you in on whether he finally manages to collect the full set – but I can assure you that it’s worth paying your local cinema’s entrance fee to find out.

The premise behind this belter of a movie is simple enough – the Cruiser plays Vincent, a hit-man who, over the course of one particularly busy night, has got five targets to bump off. Annoyingly, they’re all spread out over the city of Los Angeles, so he jumps into the back of a cab and forces driver Max (Jamie Foxx) to chauffeur him around while he does his dirty deeds.

As you can imagine, the situation creates a moral-dilemma for Max who, being a right-thinking sort of bloke, has a bit of a problem with helping his impeccably turned-out passenger go on a mass killing spree. “So what?”, you might think. After all, Cruise is only a little fellah – he can’t be that difficult to overpower, surely? Unfortunately (but not for us, obviously), he’s also an extremely talented actor, and in this case succeeds in coming across as far more intimidating than you’d ever have previously thought possible. In fact, by the time the film has hurtled to the end of its two-hour run, he’s more Terminator-in-my-pocket than mere slightly-scary man-on-the-street.

‘Collateral’ is one of those terrific edge-of-the-seaters that manages to get simultaneously better AND more ridiculous as it progresses. It has a slow start, and midway through it starts to look like there can’t really be anywhere left for it to go – but razor-sharp writer Stuart Beattie and director Michael Mann only use that as an excuse to push the boundaries further and throw in more twists, turns, and all-out excitement.

It’s a film with an ending that’s a little flat, like when you’re hoping for one more dip on a roller-coaster and it doesn’t come. But it’s a white-knuckle ride nonetheless – and a cleverly built one at that. Give the theme parks a miss this year and get yourself some ‘Collateral’.

It's Got: Some of the least effective nightclub bouncers you’re ever likely to clap eyes on.

It Needs: To ditch the annoying power ballads that pop up on the soundtrack every now and then – it’s completely unnecessary and adds nothing to the film.


Even Cruise’s dodgy barnet can’t take away from the fact that this is the best thriller of 2004.