Tom Cruise’s Collateral was the actor’s best and only horror film

A well-dressed man glides through crowds of dancers into a crowded nightclub, while Paul Oakenfold’s rhythmic, electronic drone “Ready Set Go” bounces off every surface. The fascinated crowd is completely lost in the music, ignoring the dark presence that moves between them like a shadow. The figure going to the back of the room is not there to dance or socialize. He is there for the sole awful purpose of stalking and killing another victim, and nothing will stop him. Some guards wait, hidden among the crowd, to protect the intended target, but are quickly sent into a wild frenzy of broken limbs and blows. Loud music and a throbbing crowd hide the violent scene from the detection. The brutal killer is not bothered by the physical quarrel and now one step closer to completing his horrible mission.

This premonitory sequence looks like a horror movie, but it’s actually Michael Mann’s 2004 thriller Warranty. Inhabited by Tom Cruise, the character, Vincent, is rare among previous images of the image-aware superstar, allowing him to play an emotionally distant and ruthlessly violent force of destruction. While it’s not his only bad role, it’s definitely his most creepy role. Combined with Mann’s use of sudden force, Warranty stands out as the closest thing to a slasher movie ever made by Tom Cruise.

The word “slasher” probably evokes images of unstoppable knife-wielding maniacs at a summer camp or university. But the kind of horror slasher is broad and consists of just a few basic elements: a non-stop killer, unintentional victims (trying but failing to escape the killer’s rage) and a leaf to stand up to the madman’s rage. Warranty Cruz may not have a mask and a chainsaw waving, but he undoubtedly has all those other necessary pieces in front and in the center – they’re just covered in the window of a noir thriller.

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Its plot Warranty finds Vincent arriving in Los Angeles for a night’s murder spree, in order to stop a federal indictment before moving on. To help him in his task of touring the city, he tricks a taxi driver, Max (Jamie Foxx), into driving him, promising him a lot of cash for an easy night job. In these early moments of the film, Vincent does not seem so unique compared to other Cruise performances. He is charming but focused, and in addition to having a vibrant, gray hairstyle that matches his flawless costume, Vincent feels like an actor based on the qualities that made him a star. That all changes quickly when Vincent’s first blow is slightly crooked and the victim’s body makes a two-story belly-flop at the top of Max’s cab. The body that hits the roof of the car not only breaks part of the taxi sign there, but also the lies that Vincent told Max about the overnight agenda.

Tom Cruise, after a murder, in Collateral.

Image: Paramount Pictures / DreamWork Pictures

Before Max can even fully process what happened, Vincent makes it clear that nothing has changed about Max’s situation: Vincent still needs a ferry to his destinations, and Max is responsible for that. A deal is a deal. This is the first time the audience, and Max, have seen the charming mask that Vincent hides behind him fall to reveal the sociopath below. Vincent is revealed to be a leading predator in this jungle of concrete and glass — an indifferent force ready to shoot anything between him and what he seeks.

As the couple traverses the expansive and isolated landscape of LA, Max tries to understand the situation in which he finds himself. He does it the way many of Michael Mann’s notable protagonists do, through conversation. Trapped in a taxi and isolated in the empty urban sprawl, he challenges his captive passenger, but Vincent gives no answers that would bring clarity or consolation. He is, in his own words, simply “indifferent” to the death he leaves behind – leaving him not far from other truly monstrous characters of horror fiction, like another well-dressed, charismatic sociopath: American psychopathPatrick Bateman. The biggest difference between the two is education and purpose, but murder is still murder, even if done regularly.

Tom Cruise in the back of the cab at Collateral.

Image: DreamWorks Pictures / Paramount Pictures

Mann grabs horror trophies for alternative use Warranty to reinforce Vincent as a malicious force. In a separate scene in the middle of the night, Vincent’s behavior returns to normal when he tells Max that he is ahead of schedule and will buy him a drink at a nearby jazz club. The film then cuts the couple off with their drinks, watching the club’s owner, Daniel (Barry Shabaka Henley), masterfully play the trumpet for the audience that night. Vincent explains to Max his appreciation for the improvisational nature of the music and even invites Daniel to sit down with them for a drink.

Daniel enchants them with the stories of the legendary jazz musician Miles Davis, even in these fleeting moments. Cruise’s natural charisma shines and Vincent looks like any other fan, excited about what he loves. At one point, his behavior returns to a frozen post when it becomes clear that Daniel is actually another target on his to-do list. Max and Daniel beg Vincent to make an exception and let Daniel go. Vincent offers an obvious compromise, if Daniel can answer a question about Miles Davis correctly, he is free to go. Of course, this was never a possibility. Daniel answers the question and Vincent continues to shoot him coldly with a silent pistol. Vincent rationalizes it with a technique, but it is clear that Daniel had no hope of survival. The whole situation just serves to show the public and Max that he is at the mercy of a person who simply has no use for the concept.

Another moment that was strongly informed by the kind of horror comes when a narrative thread from earlier in the film is tied in a shocking way. After a sloppy analysis of the first murder, we learn that a detective (Mark Raffaello) is looking for Vincent and realizes that Max is nothing more than a prisoner living on loan. The story is built in such a way that the public is led to think that this lone policeman will help Max and act as the mastermind for Cruz’s steel killer., acting as Dr. Lumis to the well-dressed Michael Myers of Vincent.

Tom Cruise holds a gun at Collateral.

Image: DreamWorks Pictures / Paramount Pictures

Immediately after a constant fight between Michael Mann in a crowded nightclub where he sees Vincent brutally killing many police officers on his way to eliminate his penultimate target, Max is grabbed by Rafalos’ lone policeman and escapes. scene. Through the chaos, Max is reassured that this is the help he has been so desperate for throughout history. However, as they leave the building, Ruffalo’s character is shot by an already-waiting Vincent. This whole series from the moment they entered the club until the shocking murder of the heroic detective looks like a reversal of a similar scene in the classic science fiction of 1984 The Terminator (“Come with me if you want to live.”). Instead of a brave confrontation with the non-emotional killing machine that ultimately leads to her defeat, Ruffalo’s Kyle Reese stand-up disappears without making any real difference in the story. This undermining of public expectations is a reinforcement of a trope we often see with horror — you may think you are escaping, but the killer is always one step ahead and waiting to strike when it matters. There is no security.

As Warranty enters its final act, the film fully embraces the horror aesthetic with which it has played throughout its screening. After he finally revolts and crashes the car that took them both, Max learns that the last name on Vincent’s list is (with the kind of coincidence only found in the movies), Annie (Janda Pinkett-Smith), a defense attorney. which Max had shared. a romantic moment briefly at the beginning of the film. Chasing Vincent on foot, he tries to call and warn Annie with a stolen cell phone that unfortunately has a low battery, creating a moment very familiar to horror fans. Annie works until late, alone in the high-rise building of her law firm, unaware that a killer is lurking a few minutes away from finding her. Max tries to warn her while he is forced to watch helplessly from the street down as Vincent closes inside.

Tom Cruise looks threateningly at the Los Angeles skyline at Collateral.

Image: DreamWorks Pictures / Paramount Pictures

At this point, Cruz embodies Vincent as a neo-slasher character. Bloody and bruised from the car accident, he can no longer hide the darkness behind a clear exterior, and Cruz seems to be enjoying the opportunity to be tormented and desperate on screen. There is even a moment when he handles a fire ax to cut off the electricity in the building. At the moment, the whole serial killer of his character hovers on the surface and becomes completely what the public believes as a horror movie villain.

In a sequence that uses Mann’s flawless eye for physical activity to create a strong sense of dread, Vincent slowly chases a sullen Annie through the dark multi-storey building – with only the distant light of the surrounding buildings shedding light on their cat. and play with the mouse. Just as it seems that Vincent is going to succeed in killing Annie, at the last possible moment he is stopped by Max who intervenes. Cruz’s decisive physicality is used to project a clear threat in these tense moments and are some of the best physical interpretations of his career. Vincent turns from measured and ready to strike in utter rage as he breaks the glass of the plate to chase the escaping couple.

Eventually, Annie and Max get on a public transportation train and what they think is safety, but with a little stubborn determination that would make Jason Voorhees or Leatherface proud, Vincent follows them for one last showdown (remember, there is no security ).

Of course, he ends up with Max finally stopping Vincent and completely saving himself and Annie. At that point, the story ends with the two of them entering the dawn of a new day, forever changed by the darkness they faced, like any remarkable survivor of a horror movie.

Tom Cruise has done nothing as dark as his role here since WarrantyIts release, almost 18 years ago, although it received strong reviews and the film itself was a huge box office success. Maybe as he enters his final years and his time as an action star begins to shorten, he will once again take on a role that is so diametrically opposed to his typical on-screen persona. If it does not, however, at least there is this misinterpretation of all time for the public to enjoy.

Warranty is available for monitoring HBO Max.

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