Monday, August 16, 2004

Notes on Collateral 

When Michael Mann makes a movie set in LA, it's always a treat for me. He seems to frame the city I am so familiar with better than anyone. Collateral was good, but it wasn't his best. It feels like the sort of movie that a very talented director can toss off because he's bored and doesn't feel like working too hard.

Almost everything is great. The directing is fantastic, as is the cinematography. The acting is excellent. The dialogue is pretty good, the action is very exciting, and the whole thing is suspenseful. It's a pretty good movie. (Like I've said, you can tell I liked a movie when I don't say much about it). What has nagged me about the movie is a bunch of little flaws.

Early in the movie, he turns on the radio while driving around with a woman, and it's a nice montage of LA at night. What made it great was that the song he plays is "Hands of Time" by Groove Armada. But apparently this was not the song they originally intended to play, because the woman remarks, "You like the classics, I see?" The song came out in their CD Love Box, which came out in 2002. OK, that one is really minor, but it took me out of the movie. Even if you weren't familiar with the song, it's obviously not anything commonly considered "classic" in this day and age.

The main problem I had is part of a larger problem with Michael Mann's villains: they're really cool. In Heat, Robert DeNiro was way more bad ass than Al Pacino, and you're sorry to see him lose. Similarly, Tom Cruise's Vincent is a totally terrifying guy. Tom Cruise runs and kills with a calm, ruthless efficiency of movement that looks very powerful on the screen. He seems unstoppable, and indeed, survives hoards of professional goons. Yet in the end (and this a spoiler warning for you people out there), he is killed by Jaime Foxx standing dead in front of him, emptying a gun at him. Jaime Foxx is untouched by the similar barrage from Vincent. I'm OK with the bad guy losing, you don't really want him to win, because he's so terrible. But such a cool character deserves a better defeat than that. It's so especially disappointing in this movie because it's so damn implausible.

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