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The worst backseat driver, ever

While most action movies exist for the sole purpose of providing a framework to showcase the newest and most impressive computer generated effects, Michael Mann (Heat) seems to believe the opposite is true. His latest film, Collateral, epitomizes this difference. Any time the lead character is a professional hitman, there is bound to be spots of action. However, in between the contract killing, Mann makes sure to devote plenty of time for his characters to converse. It's a formula that has worked for him in the past, and does once again.

In a bit of a surprise role, Tom Cruise forsakes his usual heartthrob persona, concealing his good looks with ample gray hair dye, and steps into the role of Vincent, a ruthless and calculating assassin. With a laundry list of people to knock off in just one night, he hires cab driver Max Durocher (Jamie Foxx) to cart him to various locations around Los Angeles.

Early on, it's made very clear that Vincent is as proficient a killer as money can buy, and after seeing him in action it is obvious why. He routinely uses his martial expertise to disarm multiple attackers twice his size without elevating his heart rate one tick. On the other hand, as his original plan wanders astray, Vincent continually makes mistakes in his maneuvering. He terms it improvisation, but from the outside it appears to be either arrogance or stupidity. At times, his actions skirt believability as they are inconsistent with both his goals and professionalism.

Ultimately though, the action sequences aren't what carries the film, though a couple scenes are notable. Rather, it is the clever banter between the characters. In between murders, Vincent finds time to wax philosophical on the ethics of murder. He even takes time to lend Max some advice on his occupational difficulties and straighten out a misunderstanding with Max's boss. The dialogue between the characters is consistently witty, and it has to be since most of their time is spent within the confines of a Yellow Cab.