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COLLATERAL

"Collateral," as this filmís press material explains, refers to the extraneous targets a hit man may eliminate in the course of fulfilling his contract. Here itís Michael Mannís flair for the extraneous that elevates what might have been a standard and contrived crime thriller into an exciting and artful homage to the genre.

He has a gift for actors, as well. Why canít Tom Cruise always play a scumbag? As Vincent, the hired killer who pops into the cab driven by Max (Jamie Foxx) one LA night, heís nihilistic, lethal, and ruefully charming. And is that a trace of vulnerability I see beneath his gray suit and brush cut? He looks like the tormented empath played by William Petersen in Mannís Manhunter. With a gait halfway between a rooster and the Terminator, Vincent is all business, but heíll take the time to let an old man relate how he once played horn alongside with Miles Davis. So maybe Vincent is looking for a connection as well as transportation when he presses, at gunpoint, Max (Foxx is terrific too) into service as his chauffeur as he moves from target to target to a conclusion predestined from the cabbyís first fare. The route may be familiar (and allusions to Taxi Driver and Rear Window donít help) and nerve-rattling, but the sights and the people along the way make the trip worthwhile. LA from dawn to dusk fills the cabís shattered windshield, and like Max and Vincent when they spot a couple of coyotes crossing the highway, sometimes you just have to stop and look. (119 minutes)

BY PETER KEOUGH

Issue Date: August 6 - 12, 2004
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