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Posted to Movies at 11:42 AM on Feb 24, 2005

2004. Dreamworks/Paramount Pictures. Directed by Michael Mann. Starring Tom Cruise, Jamie Foxx, and Mark Ruffalo.

Worst. Ending. Ever. Spoilers ahead.

Collateral is a wonderful, faced-paced film. But it has the worst ending. It's so highly cliched and formulaic that it very nearly ruined the rest of the film. Approximately one hour and a half of this film is brilliant. Very dark, random, violent, and gritty. Full of wonderful cinematography and great dialogue and action that sucks you right in.

The other half hour or so? Feels like the real ending was rejected by a particularly dumb test audience and replaced by the one you see now.

Max (Jamie Foxx) is having the worst night of his life. He's a cab driver who has inadvertedly picked up an assassin who's dragging him along on his jobs. Tom Cruise plays the assassin. I've decided that amoral psychos are Cruise's forte. He's at his most compelling when he's playing a villain. The only problem with Cruise playing villains is that he tends to waaaay overdo them. They start out good, but end up wild-eyed and hysterical, like Lestat in Interview With the Vampire. By the end of Collateral, his performance is very nearly comical.

Along the way, a resourceful police officer (Mark Ruffalo) begins to suspect that the random shootings attributed to Max are actually the work of a professional. Mark's part is way too small. I love Ruffalo. He has such expressiveness in his face and his voice. He was also in 13 Going on 30 and turned a character that might have been fairly forgettable and one-dimensional into a loveable, effective part of the film.

I guess what I object to is this: for such a dark, random film, the ending is very tidy. It's so full of coincidence and is tied up so nicely. Max is kind of a tragic hero; a nice guy who makes a split-second bad decision and ends up nearly ruining his whole life. What happens to Max at the end doesn't follow with what's gone on for the previous ninety minutes. It's just too happy; too neat. After a cat-and-mouse pursuit in a L.A. subway car, he rides off into the sunset with the fare he picks up at the very beginning of the film, (Jada Pinkett Smith, who normally makes my teeth itch but has a mercifully small part so she's okay) who, woouldn't ya know it, is the last of Cruise's targets. I don't expect that the writers were implying that Max and Lawyer Girl are going to run away to Bermuda together; I just don't think a badass psycho like Cruise is going to run out of ammo, slink down into a chair, and die without taking someone with him.

Lots of movies take place in Los Angeles and use the city as part of the story (Speed, among others), but director Michael Mann has a real eye for detail and atmosphere (check out the excellent The Insider). He somehow makes L.A. look like the dirtiest, nastiest, most dangerous hellhole on the planet. I mean, it looks really nasty. And that's a compliment to Mann.


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