Michael Mann’s 2004 movie Collateral is a fantastic little thriller and one I find myself returning to time and time again. I love the set-up and the two lead performances by Jamie Foxx and Tom Cruise as well as Mann’s gorgeous aesthetic. It’s a movie that’s always moving forward and constantly rewarding the audience for keeping up. The balance between character and action is so perfectly pitched that a scene of two characters talking can be just as exhilirating as two of them shooting at each other.
The big set-piece of Collateral unfolds in a thumping LA nightclub as cold-blooded hitman Vincent (Tom Cruise) expertly navigates himself and cab-driver Max (Jamie Foxx) through a dancing crowd while stealthily taking out a mob of gunmen and avoiding detection from the LAPD while trying to assassinate a witness. The sequence’s heartbeat is provided by a korean version of Paul Oakenfield’s pumping dance-track Ready Steady Go which makes the whole thing that little bit cooler. What’s so great about this entire scene is how Mann keeps so many separate strands running simultaneously and conveys a sense of total hysteria without ever causing any confusion about who’s who and where they are. It’s really the film’s turning point as all the characters converge and we get to see just how ruthless and skilled a killer Vincent really is.
I love all the little touches Mann and Cruise add into the bone-crunching violence like how Vincent cooly blends right back into the crowd after achieving his goal. The way Mann contrasts the steely drive of Cruise with the panic of Jamie Foxx is also really effective. The design of the nightclub itself is classic Mann, with sleek TV screens flashing vibrant neon imagery while people are murdered left right and centre. It’s a fantastic combination of sound and image and one of Collateral‘s many highlights while also being one of Michael Mann’s most accomplished action sequences.