A Mann For All Seasons

From the director who brought you Heat, a sleek LA thriller on Cruise control

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DIRECTED BY Michael Mann

STARRING Tom Cruise, Jamie Foxx, Jada Pinkett Smith Opens September 17, Cert 15, 120 mins

Taxi driver Max (Foxx) pulls out onto Sunset and into his nightshift. His first couple of fares are nothing special. Then, when Jada Pinkett Smith gets in, we may feel the movie is about to pick up speed. In fact, it slows down for a lengthy dialogue scene.

Michael Mann is in no hurry to cut to the chase in this, his first film since the poorly received Ali. Rather, he wants to slip into the rhythm of the ride, to savour the LA nocturne ?after all, it’s his favourite tune.

What a pleasure to submerge yourself in this masterly film-maker’s vision?except that an Armani-grey Tom Cruise is about to commandeer both the cab and the movie. “Vincent”, as he calls himself, has five names on a list, a loaded gun and need of a dependable chauffeur between hits. Fasten your seatbelts, it’s going to be a bumpy night.

Highly improbable, to put it mildly, Collateral could easily have been downright laughable, save for the acumen with which Mann pulls the strings. By his own high standards, this is a cartoon caper, but judged beside what passes for thrillers these days, Collateral has the texture and gravity of an old-school classic.

The mental?or rather philosophical?duel played out between Vincent and Max is prime Mann: it echoes the battle of wits and wills in Heat (another Vincent) and Manhunter?and if Cruise looks something like William Petersen in that film, it’s surely no coincidence (guess they couldn’t afford the real thing.) Max is Joe Schmo, stuck in a dead-end job, dreaming of the better life forever round the corner. Vincent is the existential super-ego who jazzes himself taking the cabbie for a ride.

If Collateral ultimately fails to transcend its join-the-dots plotting, at least Mann gives it the allure of something crafty. He’s on home ground here; it’s a predictable winner.

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