For an action thriller, Collateral has one of the most therapeutically soothing opening scenes I've ever experienced.

You've got the wide helicopter shots of LA, some light music, and a nice little conversation between Max, a cabbie played by Jamie Foxx,
and his passenger, Annie (Jada Pinkett Smith).

After dropping her off, Max picks up his next client, Vincent (Tom Cruise) and all goes to hell.

Vincent offers Max a fistful of cash to drive him around all night while Vincent does his rounds. Long story short, Vincent is a hitman, and
Max has no choice but to chauffeur him around town. But it is much more than just an action/chase film.

Where Collateral truly excels is in the many thoughtful, and genuinely interesting conversations between Vincent and Max.

Tom Cruise and Jamie Foxx are both excellent in this film. They create deep, conflicted characters, partly thanks to the screenplay by Stuart
Beattie, and partly through their believable performances.

Director Michael Mann also does an admirable job with his fairly simplistic style. He doesn't go over the top in the action scenes and keeps
things very steady for the character driven scenes. Mann isn't afraid to just sit back and let the actors act.

Unfortunately, Collateral doesn't work as well throughout the entire film. The side story involving Mark Ruffalo as an under-cover LAPD cop
on the trail of the murders is kind of dead in the water. Also, the last act of this movie devolves into a typically clichéd thriller. The
characters pretty much lose their personalities and the film just becomes an extended chase.

Despite these flaws, Collateral is a good movie. The acting, directing, and writing are definitely good enough to warrant a recommendation,
even if the film does have its shortcomings.

* * *
(Out of four)
Directed by: Michael Mann

Written by: Stuart Beattie

Starring: Tom Cruise, Jamie Foxx, Jada Pinkett Smith,
Mark Ruffalo

Cinematography by: Dione Beebe and Paul Cameron

Music by: James Newton Howard

Released: August 6, 2004; 125 Minutes