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The Duke On “Collateral”

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I’d imagine the worst thing most taxi-drivers have to put with is a couple drunk fuckers in the back seat asking them the same damn question twenty times and then they puke, but at least they opened the door, even though it still splattered all over the interior. For sure, that’s a thing and a half for a man to endure, but it’s hardly the worst thing in the world.

“What time you on tae, anyroad? Aye, knows the score. Knows the score that cunt there. He’s a fuckin’ good man. What’s your name anyway taxi driver? Oh aye. So what time you on tae anyroad? Three? Fuckin hell. Here, you ever see that film about the taxi driver. Oh, hire it out, hire it out, I’m telling ye. Martin Scorsese. Knows the fuckin score that cunt Scorsese. Oh aye. So what time you on tae?”

And so on and so forth.

Turns out, though, there are worse things for a taxi driver to put up with, especially if you’re a taxi driver by the name of Jamie Foxx, and happen to be part of a motion-film by the name of Collateral. I’m guessing Jamie Foxx would pay good money for to have a fella ask him what time he’s on till and then puke over the back of his neck. Anything, thinks Foxx, for a fella that falls asleep and forgets where he wants to go.

What Foxx gets saddled with though, is none other than Tommy Boy Cruise. He probably assumed that the worst that could happen would be maybe Cruise would start yacking about the time he was in Days of Thunder, or try to palm off some Scientology literature of some kind. Turns out, though, Tommy Boy Cruise is nothing less than a grey-haired motherfucking hitman.

What Tommy Boy suggests is that Jamie drive him around L.A so that he might perform the “hits” lingering on the old “hit-list” for that particular evening. I’d imagine you might not be too fussed on the idea, but there is the fact that probably Tommy Boy’ll kill your guts off if you refuse, and then kill your bed-ridden mother, and then probably rope you into some film about he hangs off of a mountain in the trailer, but that’s all anyone knows since they missed it at the cinema and never bothered hiring it out.

What Collateral illustrates, is that Michael Mann is still among the finest directors in Hollywood. It’s just that everyone seems to forget between pictures. It’s not like with Coppola, where everyone assumes that he’s brilliant just cause he made these couple flicks back in the day that you read about all the time. Mann has to keep up the quality, is what. He’ll fling out The Insider, and it’ll rule, and everyone loves it, but next thing you know they’ve forgotten all about it. He’ll remind you again with Ali, and again, you forget ten minutes later. So here he is reminding you again. What Collateral is saying to the world is “I made Heat and Manhunter for fucks sakes. Did Scorsese ever get De Niro and Pacino to share a scene? No he didn’t, but I fucking did. Pay me some damn attention, would you ever?”

To this end, Collateral, at times, plays out like The Best Of Michael Mann. There’s the lengthy, inexplicably tense dialogue exchanges, there’s L.A presented as a neon netherworld, there’s the synth-heavy score. It’s all very 1987, is what. Also, the last fifteen minutes are pure Manhunter.

Most important of all though, is that it’s fantastic.

Hit-Man flicks are always going to be worthwhile, is what The Duke has deduced. A fella slinking around corridors and then hiding in a cupboard, and someone else comes into the room and the lights don’t work, but wait, there’s red dot dancing around my chest. Either it’s a buncha motherfuckers with those damn laser pens, or I’m about to be killed for reasons I probably wouldn’t understand even if he told me, which he’s not gonna, since he’s a silent assassin. From Le Samurai to Leon to Grosse Point Blanke and all those Hitman video games where you can even shoot the fucking pigs in the pig-pen if you so desire, Hit-Men have always provided hours and hours of quality entertainment.

I was gonna be one myself, truth be told, but a couple factors, i.e., being a pacifist and all, and not really having the arse for it, limited my career prospects. I was hoping maybe I could just break into someone’s brothel and have a long chat with them about Kirsten Dunst and maybe they’d rethink their lives. But no. A bullet in the guts, said the agencies, to which I cuttingly spat “Well fuck you then.”

But I digress from the point I haven’t made yet.

Michael Mann has once again conjured a world before our very eyes, a world of smoke and reflection, of jazz-clubs and foreboding alleyways, of steel-eyed killers and cops drenched in regret. I’m sure it bears little resemblance to the actual real-life locale, but just as Woody Allen cared less about the reality of Manhattan that what it meant to him, so Mann evokes the spirit of L.A., and to molten hell with the facts of the matter.

Tommy Boy Cruise is magnificent here, although truth be told he’s never really much less than magnificent in anything. For sure, Far And Away with it’s quirky Oirish, and Vanilla Sky, Cameron Crowe’s pointless remake of Abre Los Ojos can be locked in an underground vault someplace, but even in the weakest material, Cruise shines. What happens in Collateral is that the material is worthy of him. It’s the best thing he’s done since Jerry Maguire.

“Show me the motherfucking money, you fuck”, was, i believe, the big “catchphrase”.

Unlike Maguire, Collateral is a particularly downbeat picture. It’s all very mournful, very solemn. When it chooses, though, it pumps the adrenaline like as if it were some hoody-cloaked malcontent wandering round one of those side-streets, opening their coat now and again to reveal a dozen sachets of the smackity cracks or whatever, and probably a couple bootleg Rolex’s. The shoot-out in the nightclub is fantastic, a flurry of confusion and screaming and folks getting shot in the legs. Mann, y’see, takes the opposite route from action flicks that punctuate the screaming and the bleeding with a moment of calm. His whole flick is a moment of calm, but it’s an eerie calm, like the bit in The Birds when they walk through all the dead sparrows but it feels fucked-up somehow, like as if some horrible shit’s about to happen any damn minute, like maybe somebody decides to put on The Birds II – Land’s End.

Collateral is Mann’s The Birds, then. It’s all very eerie, very eye-of-the-storm, and then every now and again a buncha pigeons start pecking the fuck outta school-kids, or Tommy Boy Cruise decides to rudely interrupt a very interesting anecdote by shooting somebody’s face off.

See it, folks. That’s all a man like The Duke can ask.

Thanks folks

The Duke resides at Mondo Irlando

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