The premise sounds pretty dull, doesn't it? Tom Cruise plays a hit man who coerces a cab driver to drive him around LA to knock off five people. Jamie Foxx portrays the reluctant cab driver. Director Michael Mann proves that a compelling drama doesn't require an excess in plot, car chases or violence or humour. Much of the film takes place in the cab with Cruise and Foxx exchanging philosophies of life, goals and dreams. Foxx, a cabbie for 12 years, wants to save up to open a limo service. Cruise is more enigmatic about his past, but instead is a relentless, cold-blooded assassin. Still, he's not one-dimensional at all.
Cruise is excellent as the laser-focused killer with taste. Witness the scene in the jazz club to see how good his taste in music is. He's not cocky like the mastermind bad guy in the first Die Hard, but he is cool, confident and obviously emotionally detached from his victims. He doesn't care who they are since he's just doing his job. He also doesn't flash the million-dollar Cruise movie star smile.
Jamie Foxx also performs well as the uncomfortable cabbie counterpoint to the Cruise character. He's just your average joe hoping to get ahead in life but obviously taking a long time to get there, just like most people.
What's refreshing about this film is that it doesn't scatter the character development over too many players. The lack of comedic lines also reinforces the grittiness of the script. Michael Mann has produced a mostly believable thriller, that makes the competition look like cartoons for adults. Sure, there are stretches in the storyline but so long as you're prepared to gloss over them, this is a fine film. Collateral is also much better than Cruise's last film, the pretentiously bloated The Last Samurai. Anyone looking for a non-stop action film or a "Lethal Weapon"-type film should look elsewhere.