Collateral (plot summary)

Max is a taxi driver, ‘temporarily’. In order to escape from reality (he has been doing this for 12 years) he dreams about two things : Maldive island and the business idea inspired by it : island limo service. Tonight, his first client is a black girl whom we, along with Max, figure out to be a prosecutor working on a big case. He offers his genuine concern (as a symbol a picture of the island) for her devastating working habits (which means that she will be available and alone when the killer comes). In return she gives him her card, ‘call me if you want to conduct an investigation on, say, fortune 500’ Well lets face it, there is little in common between them. How can then the potential romance realize? I couldn’t think of any solution. But a skillful screen writer can. To be continued.

Max’s next client is Vicent, who expressed immediately a certain loathe for the city, LA. Why? Because in spite of the dense population people don’t get to know each other and dead bodies take a long time to be discovered. Why, that should be two definite advantages for a travelling killer! Anyway in the course of conversation he developped a liking for Max and offers him 600 bucks for driving him to five locations, plus 100 to the airport.

The framework of the plot is then reconditioned to five sections, with an interlude between the third and the fourth. These five sections are in their emotional tensity comparable to five movements of a symphony (yes I know usually there are only four), as we shall see immediately.

Things went wrong only too soon. In the first location, the body fell out from the window and landed directly on the waiting taxi. The identity of the client is now exposed. So, no intention to make any suspense on that; no direct depiction of the killing.

Second location. This time Vincent seems to be doing just fine. It is Max who is having a problem. Being tied up to the wheel, he cries for help. And there comes the help : two hoodlums grab his wallet – and Vincent’s suitcase. They shouldn’t have done that. Because Vincent will be displeased. Now we get to see the violence, fully frontal, without any embellishments. Bang, bang, two guys down.

So we are going from tense to tenser. Maybe it is time for a little break. And that is what Vincent suggests. Now they are sitting in a quiet Jazz bar, enjoying their drink. It seems that Vincent is really much into Jazz. Not only did he enjoy the performance of a fat guy on trumpet, he showed a genuine interest in his story of meeting and co-performing with Miles Davis years ago. It is only when all guests are gone that we smell something burning here. We suddenly realize that Vincent has been waiting, that he has not come to this Jazz bar out of no reason! The fat guy is his next target! To put a long story short. He shots the guy because he doesnt know where Miles learnt music.

You will have to agree this part is indeed ingeniously conceived. Moreover, it is not something that is staple in Hollywood culture: if this is Tarantino, then it is understandable. Because the Miles Davis story is really very engaging. Both parties played their role so convincingly that you are starting to forget about the job.

Anyway, now the audience’s appetite has been whetted, it is no longer easy to satisfy them with any easy killing. So we are taken to the exact opposite: go to the hospital and pay a visit to your mom. And don’t forget to bring the flowers. The importance, or function, of this section is not to be underestimated. It does not contribute to the main action. But it is indispensible in the construction of characters. You never get to know a person until you meet his mom, right? No matter how cool he is in front of everybody, he just can’t be the same in front of his own mom.

In order to connect the causality (I would not care much if it is completely broken, but let’s us not forget we are in Hollywood), Max destroyes the suitcase, namely, customer information. Vincent is thus clueless to what is his next target. There is actually two holes here. For one thing, a killer always memorizes his targets without the need to consult a list at the last minute, like a cableman. Besides, he has to choose a best route among them in order to carry it out with utmost efficiency. Second, Max picked Vincent up at the same building where Annie works. What is he doing there if he is not doing some location surveying for his last victim?

But let us believe that they have to retrieve the information. In order to do this they have to go to Felix, the big boss behind all this. It is here that our timid escapist friend Max is gathering up his manhood. Perhaps he saw too many dead bodies tonight to stay in a cowardhood. Meanwhile, we become aware that FBI is closely watching the case. And we have detective Fanning hounding down from the first and second locations. It seems that all parallel lines are converging to a point. And they are going to converg at the Fever club, where the fourth guy is.

Now the big action with lots of helicopters is taking place. In a crowded place, different gangs are competing for their speed to locate the target. Vincent is the winner. He has to be. Otherwise what about the fifth victim? But Max is manly enough to confront him. He is no longer dominated by Vincent and out of nowhere he gathered the courage to fight him. Nowhere? But...yes, love. Because American people would glad to believe that in order to save girlfriend’s (or potential girlfriend) life a man is capable of anything. There is nothing more to say. The film is finished for me at this point. Despite the fact that Vincent ‘do this for a living’, he is killed in a High-Noon fashion gun fight and becomes himself a body on the metro. Max and his girl walk to the horizon, traumatized but live happily thereafter.


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