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Film / Collateral

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"Since when is any of this negotiable?"

Okay, look, here's the deal. Man, you were gonna drive me around tonight, never be the wiser, but El Gordo got in front of a window, did his high dive, we're into Plan B. Still breathing? Now we gotta make the best of it, improvise, adapt to the environment, Darwin, shit happens, I Ching, whatever man, we gotta roll with it.

Max Durocher (Jamie Foxx) is a cabbie living in L.A. with big dreams of opening his own limo company and catering to rich, important clients at some point. But without the motivation to take the risk and leave his job, he's just drifting through life. He can't even find the courage to call the attractive attorney, a fare, who flirted with him and gave him her card. He's stagnant. Until he picks up one fare that will change his life.

Enter Vincent (Tom Cruise), who commandeers Max's taxi. He is the chaotic counterpart to Max's carefully structured world. A jazz aficionado, he preaches Darwinism and improvisation. He's jaded by the city, hates the overpopulation and the filth. Oh yeah, and he also happens to be a hitman with a list of five people he's been hired to kill that night. And during that night, the cabbie and the assassin find themselves inescapably bound together.

A 2004 thriller from director Michael Mann, Collateral features Tom Cruise in his most chillingly evil villain role since Lestat de Lioncourt.

This movie provides examples of:

  • Alas, Poor Villain: For all of his evilness, Vincent himself in the end.
  • All There in the Manual: If you listen to the DVD commentary and the bonus features, you'll find out more about Vincent's background, including where he grew up and the significance of jazz to his character.
  • Artistic License – Economics: The film portrays Max's attempts to get his fares to their location as quickly as possible as an altruistic move that costs him money. In reality, cab drivers earn more from mileage than time, so they get more money by completing fares quickly and then getting more fares. Getting stuck in traffic costs them money.
  • Asshole Victim: The muggers who get killed by Vincent after they threaten Max who tried to call them for help and steal Vincent's briefcase. It's hard to feel sorry for them even if the episode displays Vincent's cold-blooded lethality.
  • Ballroom Blitz: Dragged out rather ridiculously when Max starts shooting in a nightclub to cause a diversion. It works, everyone starts running for the exits... and five minutes later, they're still running. Best hope there's never a fire in that place...
  • Bavarian Fire Drill: When Max is being hounded by his boss Lenny to pay for the damages to his cab out of his own paycheck, Vincent gets Lenny to back off by claiming to be a federal prosecutor and will take him to court for trying to extort one of his employees.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Max and Annie survive the night and Vincent is defeated. However, Max's cab is totaled and many people (including Fanning, who saved Max) were killed throughout the film, and Vincent himself dies a rather tragic death.
  • Bloodless Carnage: The briefcase shootout scene.
  • Bluffing the Authorities: One of Vincent's victims falls out of a window onto Max's taxi, causing significant damage. The pair are later pulled over by two officers suspicious of the damage, and Vincent threatens to kill the policemen if Max is unable to talk his way out of the situation. He claims that the damage came from hitting a deer and though the policemen appear skeptical, they receive another call and let him off with a warning.
  • Bookends: At the beginning of the film, after Vincent gets into Max's cab, he remarks that he hates LA, and then relates a story about how a normal guy got on the MTA, had a heart attack and died, and then rode the train the rest of the day with no one noticing. At the end, Vincent, mortally wounded, sits down on the MTA and asks Max if anyone will notice his death before dying.
  • Boom, Headshot!: Combined with Double Tap for Vincent's Signature Move: The Mozambique (or "Failure to Stop") Drill.
  • Can't Kill You, Still Need You: After the hospital scene, Max takes the assassin Vincent's briefcase with the target names and throws it off of a bridge in hopes of stopping him for killing anyone else. Instead of killing him, Vincent thinks of another way to use him to get a backup copy of the target names.
  • Car Cushion: This is how Max is introduced to the fact that Vincent is a hitman. One of the targets has the bad grace to fall out of the window and onto the roof of his taxi.
  • The Cartel: Felix Reyes Torrena, Vincent's employer.
  • Celebrity Cameo: Jason Statham pops up to deliver the workups on Vincent's targets.
  • Chekhov's Gun: Annie's business card and Vincent's first hit that crashes on the cab.
  • Chekhov's Gunman: Annie herself.
  • Clock King: Applies to both Vincent and Max. Max knows the city so well he can tell you exactly how long it takes to get from one point to another, and plans his routes to save time and his passengers money. Vincent checks his watch so often it almost seems compulsive. It's clear he plans his hits carefully, keeps to a precise timetable, and is visibly pleased when he's ahead of schedule. Vincent represents chaos and Max exemplifies order, but it's oddly something they both have in common.
    Vincent: But hey. Good news. We're ahead of schedule.
  • Confiscated Phone: Max grabs a random pedestrian's cell phone to call Annie and warn her about Vincent.
  • Contrived Coincidence: Down to sharing the elevator, Fanning visits the hospital at the same time Vincent and Max visit choose to.
  • Cue the Sun: Plays out over the course of one night - though the sky lightens noticeably at the end.
  • Cut Apart: Vincent is looking for Annie, while she gets a phone call warning her about him. We see him bursting into her office, only to cut and see that she's several floors above.
  • Cut Phone Lines: Vincent cuts the power and phone line of Annie's building, leaving Annie in the dark and without a way to reach out for help.
  • Darkened Building Shootout: At the office building after Vincent cut the power line.
  • Deadpan Snarker:
    • Vincent.
    "No, I shot him. Bullets and the fall killed him."
    What? I should only kill people after I get to know them?
    You no longer have the cleanest cab in La-La Land. You gotta live with that. Focus on the job. Drive.
    • Detective Fanning:
    Sure. He's depressed so he jumps four stories out of a window onto his head. "Wow, that feels better." Picks himself up. "Now I think I'll go on with the rest of my day."
  • Death by Irony:
    • Vincent, for all his talk of adapting, I Ching, Darwin — acting as Chaos personified — exclusively uses the Mozambique Drill technique to eliminate his targets. In the climax, he gets into a blind shoot-out with Max. Vincent's shooting only hits the middle of the carriage doors, but Max's inexperienced, random shots manage to go through the window and hit Vincent. And for bonus points, Max uses Vincent's own gun. He almost literally lived and died by his sword.
    • Vincent spends the entire film heckling Max for his stagnation and lack of proactivity. When Max finally decides to take a stand, he sets off a chain of events that ends with him killing Vincent.
  • Deconstructed Character Archetype: The film deconstructs the "loner hitman as cool existential hero" trope, pointing out how sociopathic and hollow such a character would seem when seen from any point of view but his own.
  • The Dog Bites Back: After spending the entire film mocking and tormenting Max, Vincent finds out that there is a lot more to the humble cab driver than he anticipated.
  • Dramatic Irony: It's suggested that Vincent's M.O. is to procure a cabbie's services, have them unwittingly ferry him to the haunts and domiciles of his intended victims, and then pin the deaths on the murdered driver as part of his exit strategy. Detective Fanning is aware of this. Max is not.
  • The Dulcinea Effect: Max's ordeal was just about over, and then he saw that Vincent's last target was Annie. He immediately goes to her rescue.
  • Dying Truce: During the climactic gunfight on the train, Max gets off a lucky shot that hits Vincent in the chest. Vincent staggers and takes a seat, and a shocked Max sits across from him, trying to reassure Vincent that the train is almost at the next stop. Vincent smiles and repeats an anecdote he shared earlier in the movie.
    Vincent: Hey, Max. Guy gets on the MTA here in LA, dies. Think anybody will notice?
  • Evil Cannot Comprehend Good: During his "The Reason You Suck" Speech, Max states that Vincent lacks something that other people have and simply doesn't understand why normal people do things. The Rule of Symbolism scene in which the two men watch a pair of coyotes cross the street also seems to underscore the difference between them.
  • Expecting Someone Taller: When meeting Max, posing as Vincent, Felix greets him with the words, "I thought you'd be taller."
  • Extremely Short Timespan: The film takes place over one night.
  • Face Death with Dignity: Vincent at the end of the film. After he and Max unload their entire magazines at each other in a blind shoot-out, Vincent attempts to reload, and drops the magazine instead. The camera pulls back to reveal why: He's been fatally shot in the gut and he's starting to bleed out. With the last of his strength, he calmly puts away his gun, adjusts his suit, and sits down on a train seat. He waits for Max to come sit across from him before delivering his Last Words, then relaxes silently into death.
    Vincent: Hey, Max. A guy gets on the MTA here in LA. Dies. Think anybody will notice?
  • Fall Guy: Although never directly stated, it's implied Vincent is planning on murdering Max to take the blame for his crimes; Fanning recalls a case from years ago when a mild-mannered cabbie apparently snapped out of the blue and killed three random people in one night before turning the gun on himself.
  • Fat Bastard: Peter Lim, who like a human Jabba doesn't move from his seat even while there's an entire gunfight going around him.
  • Film Noir: Down to Max being a decent guy pulled into crime (and for a while being quite good as Vincent's sidekick), who then struggles to get out once he gets the big picture. Also, the idea of L.A. At Night being an effective character, itself. And a healthy dose of existentialism to boot.
  • Foreshadowing:
    • Max, impersonating Vincent, threatens to take the gun away from Felix's henchman behind him and beat him with it. He does something very similar with a cop later.
    • The reason Vincent was at Annie's building at the film's outset is that he was researching his final target (Annie, the prosecuting attorney).
    • Early on, Vincent complains about how much he hates LA, and how impersonal and disconnected everyone is. He says he heard a story about a man who died on the MTA, and whose corpse went unnoticed for six hours before anyone realized he was dead. At the end of the film, he dies, alone on a train car, sitting upright and well-dressed, in the wee hours of the morning... where no one is likely to find him for hours.
    • Max says he sometimes gets lucky with the (traffic) lights. In the finale, the lights on the train go out just before he engages Vincent, which lets Max win by sheer luck.
  • For Want of a Nail: Max is zoned out when Vincent first solicits him for a ride; Max calls him back over when Vincent prepares to take another cab.
  • Freudian Excuse: Vincent was beaten by his alcoholic father, which helped turned him into the "badass sociopath" we know and love.
  • From Camouflage to Criminal: Before becoming a hitman, Vincent was a U.S. Army special operator.
  • Glasses Pull: Max does this in front of Felix, at the moment he decided to turn the tables.
  • Happy Place: Max keeps a photo of the Maldives Island in his cab. He says he dreams himself away to this place when things get heavy.
  • Hoist by His Own Petard: At the end of the film, Max ends up killing Vincent with the latter's own USP45. And, Vincent's attempt to use his signature Mozambique Drill backfires. The bullets hit the steel barrier, and Max shoots randomly and hits Vincent..
  • Hollywood Silencer: Vincent takes out the jazz club owner with a silenced gun that produces almost no noise in the large hall.
  • Hope Spot:
    • About two-thirds of the way through the film, Detective Fanning pulls Max away from a nightclub fire-fight to safety. He believes his story, looks like he's going to help solve all of Max's woes... then is gunned down by Vincent without a pause.
    • Earlier on, Max attempted to steal Vincent's briefcase and destroy it along with the contents inside like the names of his targets by throwing it to a highway where numerous vehicles run it over. He hopes that by doing this, Vincent would leave him alone and stop killing people. Unfortunately for him, it made Vincent mad enough to pin him down on a floor and considers using him to get a backup copy of his targets' names.
  • If Only You Knew: Max's mother tells Vincent that you'd have to hold a gun to Max's head to make him do anything. That's what Vincent actually did to get him there, and he gives Max an amused look when she says it.
  • I'm Standing Right Here: This happens to Max at the hospital, courtesy of his mother.
  • Instant Death Bullet: Some of the Mooks in the club shootout scene are shown going down to a quick single shot while everyone else is usually shot several times.
  • Ironic Echo:
    • Vincent's reliance on the efficient Mozambique Drill killing tactic allows Max to best him in a blind gunfight through a subway door with two windows and a solid metal center.
    • Vincent asks Max how long he's been doing the job, and if he gets any benefits. Max asks him the exact same thing, in reverse order, when he's about to impersonate Vincent.
  • It Began with a Twist of Fate: Max gets pulled into the plot simply by picking up the wrong passenger.
  • It's What I Do: As Vincent is chasing Max through the train, he yells, "Max! I do this for a living!"
  • Karma Houdini: Felix, since Vincent manages to kill most of the witnesses for the trial against him. However, with Max being a highly valuable witness, it's entirely possible he gets put away. What a Self-Fulfilling Prophecy.
  • Kill and Replace: Discussed. Max is providing cover for Vincent. At first the feds think Max is Vincent, and the hitman has simply picked a cab driver who looks like him, killing the original.
  • Killed Offscreen: When first see Vincent in Annie's building, he's wiping his hands and using a keyring to get through the security turnstile. When Max arrives, we see that Vincent has killed a security guard and taken his keyring and gun.
  • Last Words: Vincent's final words serve as a Meaningful Echo/Ironic Echo to an anecdote he relates earlier in the film.
    "Hey, Max, a guy gets on the MTA here in LA and dies. Think anybody will notice?"
  • Mêlée à Trois: In the nightclub during the fourth hit: Max and Vincent (with Max standing in for Vincent while Vincent follows him) vs some mafiosos (who were sent after 'Vincent' just in case the hit goes wrong) vs the LAPD (who try to both protect the victim and locate Vincent and his supposed partner-in-crime) vs the victim's bodyguards (who start firing at everyone with a gun). It helps that the room is completely cramped with panicking party-goers and the lights go on and off.
    Vincent: The only thing that didn't show up was the Polish cavalry.
  • Mugging the Monster: In one scene, a couple of thugs steal a briefcase from a ziptied-up Max. Vincent confronts the two, one of whom brandishes a pistol right at him. A few double-taps to the chest and one in the head later, Vincent has his briefcase back.
  • Multiple Gunshot Death: We can see the beginnings of Vincent's Villainous Breakdown in the fact that he empties the whole magazine of his gun (even having to reload to deliver his signature headshot Coup de Grâce) on Lin, whereas he had been pretty efficiently using the Mozambique Drill beforehand. Also how he kills Detective Fanning, to utterly puncture the Hope Spot.
  • My Beloved Smother: Max's mother, Ida.
  • Never Going Back to Prison: Daniel sold out The Cartel to the police because of this. In his words: "They said I could help them or go back inside. And I'm not going back inside."
  • Nice Job Fixing It, Villain: Vincent's constant belittling of Max's ordered, repetitive lifestyle leads to Max eventually taking Vincent's words to heart and doing everything he can to stop him.
  • Noodle Incident: We know that the cartel wants five people dead. But we are never truly told what is specifically these five have on the cartel, or what the members of the cartel are to be charged with.
  • Obligatory Earpiece Touch: At the night club, Vincent is able to spot one of the Asian security guards in the crowded room thanks to that guy having his hand on his ear.
  • Only a Flesh Wound: At the office building, Max shoots Vincent in the neck but the latter moves on like nothing happened.
  • Order Versus Chaos: Vincent is constantly talking about improvisation and spends the film adapting to new circumstances as they arise, while Max represents an almost obsessive level of order and control. In the end, a balance must be struck.
  • Pants-Positive Safety: When Vincent confronts the muggers over his briefcase, one of them has his gun stuffed into the front of his pants. Deconstructed; it gets stuck in there and he can't pull it out before Vincent guns him down.
  • Police Are Useless: All cops in the film except for Detective Fanning.
  • Private Military Contractors: It's hinted at in the movie and stated outright in the commentary that Vincent works for such a group.
  • Quick Draw: Vincent can draw a pistol from a holster high up on his hip, almost in the small of his back (which is not really conducive to a fast draw) and get off five very accurate shots in less than two seconds, killing two men. One of whom was already pointing a gun at his face. It helped that they had no idea how dangerous he was and closed within arm's reach of him, allowing Vincent to knock the gun away with one hand while simultaneously drawing his gun with the other. By the time the two jerks realized they'd messed with the wrong man, they were already dead.
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech:
    • Max levels up and delivers a blistering one to Vincent right before crashing the car. Max tells him that he couldn't connect with anyone if his life depended on it and that he's like someone who grew up institutionalized without experiencing any normal human interactions at all. Vincent's reaction shows that there's a least some truth to it.
    • Vincent then turns around and smacks Max with an equally brutal one, tearing into him for not having the courage to take any risks and make something of himself, or even call a girl he likes, even comparing Max's voluntary stagnation to "murder".
  • Rule of Symbolism: The coyote scene, possibly hinting at the fundamental differences between Vincent and Max. Max stops the car for a simple stray animal, one that couldn't even really be someone's pet, but nonetheless goes out of his way to avoid killing it, even though hitting it would have no legal or physical consequences. Vincent seems more confused then anything else that Max has stopped, and there's a moment of silence between them afterwards, as Vincent seems to finally pick up on what Max just said to him: he really is incapable of comprehending an individual's reasons for doing something. His almost awed gaze at Max's head shows that he simply cannot fathom the reason behind Max's actions.
  • Satchel Switcheroo: Deliberately done in the opening scene where Jason Statham's character swaps identical suitcases with Vincent.
  • Shaped Like Itself: When Vincent is guessing who the people he's been hired to kill are, he tells Max, "Probably some major federal indictment of somebody who majorly does not want to get indicted."
  • Screw This, I'm Outta Here: It's a blink and you'll miss it moment, but two of the would-be briefcase thieves decide to scram when they approach Max, presumably realizing something was off when his hands were tied to the steering wheel.
  • Shut Up, Hannibal!: Max does this to Vincent just before he crashes his cab.
  • Signature Move: Vincent always engages with a rapid Double Tap, sometimes followed by a headshot if his target is still alive.
  • Silver Fox: Vincent has steel-grey hair that matches his grey suit, giving him a cold, colorless aesthetic.
  • Stupid Crooks: The petty thugs who Max calls for help completly fail to notice his hands are clearly ziptied to the steering wheel of his taxi, and just keep threatening him at gunpoint to put his hands up.
  • The Taxi: Max is a taxi driver and a large chunk of the movie is just shots of him driving the cab around talking to his passengers.
  • Tempting Fate: When Vincent has Annie at his mercy, Max appears, in a Big Damn Heroes moment, Vincent stupidly asks him, "What are you gonna do about it?" only to get a bullet through his ear from his own gun.
  • Title Drop: Max mentions that he's collateral [damage] to Vincent.
  • Villainous Breakdown: Vincent progresses through one of these over the course of the film. It has it's beginning from the moment he meets Max and they start conversing. Vincent is an amoral, completely self-centered assassin who cares for no one. However, he's also incredibly isolated and walled-off from the rest of humanity, with the resultant loneliness that he'd never admit to, not even to himself. Despite how ruthless he is, it's heartbreaking to realize that Max may be the first person he's had a meaningful, introspective, and honest conversation with in his entire life. In several scenes, you can't help but feel that he's honestly trying to help Max change his life, and is very conflicted over the part of his plan that means killing Max. And after the final shootout with Max, rather than go down swinging, Vincent just gives up rather than die alone.
  • White Shirt of Death: Vincent himself at the end.
  • Wrongful Accusation Insurance: Max is forced to impersonate Vincent and ends up committing a few crimes over the course of the end of the movie trying to save the last victim, not to mention being the murder suspect of Vincent's first hit. Good thing the last victim on the list was Annie, a prosecutor whom he met earlier that night, because when this is over he's going to need all the legal help he can get.
  • Xanatos Speed Chess: Discussed. At the jazz club, Vincent compares jazz to him improvising over the course of the night.
  • You Have GOT to Be Kidding Me!: Max, when he discovered the people whom he tried to draw attention to his predicament of being tied up on the second trip are actually muggers.
  • You Must Be Cold: Max lends his jacket to Annie when they exit the subway at the end.