With most pictures I despise, I nevertheless understand how and why others liked it. Yes, Donnie Darko was nonsensical, boring, and pretentious, riddled with silly plot holes and an odious protagonist, but it successfully tapped into the teenage angst of countless idiots while presenting some genuinely weird and beautiful shots, along with a couple of neat 80s music videos.
But every so often, an awful movie comes along that I cannot, for the life of me, figure out how anyone liked. Or, if they liked it, why not a few dozen widely reviled pictures?
Collateral is one such movie. It's about a LA taxi driver that, against his will, drives around a professional killer to multiple hits during the course of a single night.
The idiocy begins in the first few frames. It's revealed that cab driver Max is black, which I had a good laugh at. See, I lived in LA County for 4 years and took multiple taxi rides during that time. The overwhelming majority of cab drivers were Armenian. Occasionally, one would get a Russian, Indian, or Hispanic driver. Once, I even had a Mongolian driver that told me about eating horse and wolf meat. And most shockingly of all, one cabbie was an American white guy.
But a black taxi driver? Never. They simply don't exist in LA. Had the film taken place in Las Vegas or New York, the race of its protagonist would be believable. But not in LA.
The first 10 to 15 minutes are primarily used to establish that Max is a swell guy, as he knows how long it takes to get to a location down to the minute (a skill no cabbie has ever possessed), and willingly takes faster routes despite losing out slightly on the fare. (This does actually happen, but it's basic business sense to get to a new fare quicker, not generosity) He meets a single young black female DA, a species that I am sure is every bit as fictional.
Speaking of Max, he is played poorly by Jamie Foxx. I'm continually baffled by how Foxx gets cast in non-comedic roles. He almost single-handedly ruined "Django Unchained", and was barely better 8 years earlier in this movie. Foxx plays "generic, slightly wimpy nice guy", except for when when the script inexplicably needs him to be tough and capable. He does the latter type with zero transition from the former, as if there is an on and off switch on the back of his neck.
The plot finally begins when hitman Tom Cruise hires Foxx to drive him around. Why would a hitman ever use a taxi? It's one more person that can tie him to the scene of a crime, even if said driver doesn't directly witness the killings. And if he does, that's one additional adversary that he has to kill, and who can escape, crash the car, or run him over. It's the kind of stupidity I would expect in a Leslie Nielsen action spoof, not in a Michael Mann picture that takes itself as seriously as cancer.
What follows is a comedy of idiocy and plot holes. Cruise tells Foxx to park right next to the location of a hit. For some reason, he has to kill 5 people in a single night, which has to be some kind of hitman record. Cruise decides that riding around in a taxi with a smashed windshield isn't conspicuous at all, and easier than killing Foxx, driving the car to a remote location, and abandoning it. Foxx has an opportunity to escape by signaling to the two cops inspecting the car and then dropping to the floor (after all, the glass in a taxi is bullet-proof). Which he doesn't do.
Foxx then gets mugged by a group of white guys, the main ethnic scourge of Los Angeles. Cruise goes into a jazz lounge with dozens of people, tells the waitress he needs to speak with the owner, then kills said owner while various witnesses slink around in the background. He doesn't bother with either the waitress or anyone else. It's also safe to assume that like every lounge/bar/club in LA, this one had security footage. Cruise doesn't care about that, either.
Then the hitman goes to meet Foxx's mother, ostensibly not to arouse suspicion, a point so insanely stupid I burst out laughing. In the process, he reveals himself to dozens of other witnesses and a fresh series of security cameras.
Matters become even more absurd when Foxx destroys Cruise's laptop, and the latter forces the cabbie to talk to his employer while posing as the hitman to get a replacement USB drive. Apparently, the same hitman who has just been witnessed killing a man by countless witnesses is so secretive that not even his employer has any clue what he looks like!
While this already beggars beliefs, his employer doesn't even know whether he's black or white, which seems too silly for even "The Naked Gun"!
During the meeting, the mob boss is at no point surprised that his hitman has revealed himself for the first time in his long career, or that he's a scared wimp. But of course, at the crucial moment, Foxx curses and threatens physical violence, which totally persuades the mob boss that he is legitimate.
The fourth hit occurs in a club with literally HUNDREDS of people and dozens of police officers. Cruise just doesn't give a fuck.
Despite successfully killing all four witnesses in a case against the mob boss, Cruise has one last hit left, who is (of course!) the unicorn-like DA we met at the beginning of the movie. If you didn't figure this out 30 minutes into the picture, I feel sorry for you.
Of course, it makes zero sense; why kill a DA when all her witnesses are gone and she has no case? It makes even less sense when one realizes that a DA can easily be replaced by countless prosecuting attorneys waiting in the wings, some of whom might even be better.
Before this can happen, Jamie Foxx crashes the car going at a solid 70+ mph. At one point right before this, he is driving straight down a completely empty road. A perfect opportunity for Cruise to shoot him in the head and then quickly grab the steering wheel, avoiding a crash. One which he doesn't take. Of course.
Despite a catastrophic accident that leaves the car flipped over and totaled, both hitman and Foxx run out of the car none the worse for wear. No comas. No broken bones. No concussions. Not even any limping! In fact, Foxx is so refreshed that as a common cabbie, he easily overpowers a police officer pointing a gun at him!
I won't go into the retardation that is the conclusion, except to mention how funny I found it that blood dries within 10 minutes for every character in the film, even if it's coming from a grievous gunshot wound to the side of the face. X-Men's Wolverine should be jealous of these guys; their platelets are at least 10,000 times faster than those of any ordinary human being.
Look, it's bad enough when a thoroughly idiotic action film treats itself dead seriously, instead of being humorous about it. But it's even worse when, like Collateral, it's so damn boring.
There is way more pseudo-philosophical exposition between Foxx and Cruise than there is action, and what few action scenes there are suck.
What's the best thing about "Collateral"? Tom Cruise. An actor who I despise so much I nicknamed him "Rat Boy". And that's not to say he did a convincing job playing a hitman. He didn't. Instead, he played his usual charismatic, mailed-in, stock character. Tom Cruise playing Tom Cruise. When that's the best thing a film has going for it, it's truly atrocious.
What baffles me with is how many people liked this. And if they liked it, why aren't otherwise unremarkable hitman movies like "The Eiger Sanction" and original version of "The Mechanic" considered masterpieces? A true mystery.
If you haven't seen "Collateral" yet, avoid this shit like a plague.
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