Neil Young’s Film Lounge – Collateral

Published on: March 23rd, 2004

COLLATERAL

7/10

USA 2004 : Michael MANN : 120 mins

In message <—@—.com>, STEVE WINTERTON <—@—.com> writes
>Hi Neil
> Got to send them six samples of reecent clippings as well. Back tomorrow
>night late so will get right on it Thursday.
>
>Cheers
>Steve
>PS: Saw Swimming Pool – can see why you were perplexed by it. What the
>fuck was THAT all about? Also, saw Collateral which was pretty good
>(although final act a bit by the numbers). Have you seen it – as a Mann fan,
>what was your opinion?

Better than ALI. Not as good as THE INSIDER and nowhere near HEAT. Felt like a “little picture” Mann blew off in between more grandiose projects (next up is WW2 epic with Cruise, THE FEW). Very amusing to see J.S., of all people, pop up at the airport right at the start, likewise her off LADYKILLERS as the mother in the hospital scene – liked that kind of off-kilter humour and that scene maybe works best of all in the picture.

Fantastically well directed, of course – Mann’s skill with the camera / music / sound makes most directors look like hack amateurs.and I am always a total sucker for that “industrial backside of LA” stuff he loves to put in the background. Nobody does poetic “LA at night” anywhere near this good – the streetlights reflecting on the underside of the helicopter, etc.

But, impressed by these ‘grace-notes’ as I was, they did feel a bit like “pretty pictures” that didn’t add up to anything. (One day Mann should just cut loose and do a non-narrative impressionist essay-movie without dialogue or characters). Like that “coyotes on the road” bit – that felt like something that wasn’t planned, and I liked it. But it didn’t connect to anything, didn’t say anything. It was just a cool thing to show.

The script was by far the weakest aspect (Stuart Beattie is still only 32). Gimmicky in places, implausible in others, bog-standard thriller stuff too often. We’ve seen this kind of psycho-lifts-niceguy-out-of-rut before – HARRY HE’S HERE TO HELP maybe did it best. Perhaps COLLATERAL would have been better if Vincent had turned out not to exist at all, which is sort-of-implied at certain stages (including the hospital scene), though Mann is too macho-straight-arrow to risk that kind of gimmicky psychological alley.

But it’s interesting that Vincent appears on the scene at the precise moment Max replaces his “dream island” (post)card with the “dream woman” (business)card given him by Jada Pinkett-Smith. At that moment, he probably wouldn’t have the guts to call her out. But after Vincent’s input he almost certainly -would- ring her up, though of course the way things pan out he doesn’t have to. LORD OF THE RINGS is similar – the story isn’t really about getting the ring or those shenanigans: it’s all about Sam getting the courage to ask a girl out.

15th September, 2004
[seen 13th September : Odeon Newcastle-upon-Tyne : press show]

by Neil Young