Cruise Guns for Oscar Nod as a Hit Man

What a neat premise for a movie: Two guys in a cab. The guy in the back seat is a hit man with five names on his list. The guy in the front seat knows the town, knows the routes, but doesn't know much else, until a body falls on the roof of his cab.

"You killed him," says Jamie Foxx, shaking like a leaf.

"I didn't kill him," Tom Cruise half-snarls, half-explains. "I shot him."

And in some twisted, sociopathic way, Cruise actually believes bullets and the fall killed the dead man, not him.

Cruise, cast against type, is compelling and intense. Even when the cab is stopped, he's speeding. How good is this performance? You don't like him and you still can't take your eyes off him. This may be an Oscar for Tom.

About 80 percent of Collateral was shot on digital video, making it the first big-budget, big-star action movie to be shot that way. And it's not easy to do. Video is unforgiving. The actors don't look Hollywood perfect.

The action scenes look like live TV news, like somebody found them, not like take 14 on a Hollywood back lot lit and wired by 1,000 stagehands. It takes a lot of guts to give up that kind of control, but it makes Collateral a better movie. Credit the director, Michael Mann.

The obvious premise wasn't a liability for me. I love being drawn into that kind of fiction. There is one too many endings and it's way too big. We don't need the spectacular visuals, after we've been treated to two hours of spectacular acting, directing and storytelling. Grade: B+

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