Collateral:UGO's Screenwriters Voice has up the first review of the Collateral script, which stars Jamie Foxx and Tom Cruise. Directed by Michael Mann, the film is scheduled to hit theaters on August 6th.

Collateral follows a New York cab driver named Max, a bit of a dark horse among the city's cabbies, who keeps his ride spotless and his business honest. The story takes place in a single night, which starts early on with the perfect fare - a beautiful young attorney who almost turns out to be the first date Max has likely had in a very long time. But Max is a cab driver, and these encounters, good or bad, don't last very long. No sooner is the beautiful young woman walking out of his life when the next fare comes along. But this passenger will be Max's last for the night, a businessman who's already running late, on a tight schedule, and willing to pay his cab driver a lot of money to take him everywhere he needs to be for the next six or so hours. It doesn't take long, however, for Max to learn that the man in the back seat of his tax, Vincent, is a hitman, and once his work starts, there's no turning back. Max spends the rest of the night driving around a hired assassin, trying to escape before he becomes an innocent victim of circumstance, in the wrong place at the wrong time... "Collateral."

As is the case with a lot of stories that take place in a short time span, a single night, this is a fairly short script at just over 90 pages. The draft under review is a few years old now, after the purchase by DreamWorks but before Michael Mann signed to direct the picture, so it is quite possible there have been rewrites to beef up the story. Mann does seem like to make longer films. That's not necessarily a great idea, however. This story works quite well told quickly, has a similar feel to Phone Booth and goes everywhere it needs to go in order to unfold. Beattie uses a minimal of characters, writes in some turning points that are truly unexpected, but not overblown "twists"; and he truly manages to create an interesting tone. The action is quite intimate, the story takes place on a small scale. It was a nice choice to set the action in New York City, despite the isolated plot that really follows just these two characters. The action for the film, however, has apparently been moved to Los Angeles, though the overall effect should essentially be the same. Through the entire story, Max is trying to escape or at least get somebody's attention, here he is in one of the largest city in the United States, and there's nobody to help. A the late hour the action takes place, the typically busy streets of the city are virtually deserted during many of the scenes, and those who do cross Max's path are too apathetic or preoccupied to pay him any attention. Hopefully this is an aspect of the script that hasn't been lost in rewrites and production. Much of the script isn't overly-realistic. It's a film. It's a film plot - quite unlikely but plausible with some suspension of disbelief; it's film dialogue - not really the way people talk, but the way they would if they were always on the ball and masters of concise conversation. And it's pretty damned good, a very easy and interesting read, entertaining and fairly original.

For the most part, any of the script's potential weaknesses are covered nicely. There are a few surprises, one in particular in the third act, that seem just a little too contrived, but it and most of the disagreeable moments in the story are quickly explained quite satisfactorily. A little additional directorial flare will ensure this to be quite an original film. But, there is one line of dialogue at the climax of the film that just absolutely has to go. One of those lines that is so bad it pretty much discredits the rest of the otherwise smart and original script. Without giving too much away, let's just say it's something involving the title of the film that one could easily imagine Arnold Schwarzenegger spouting at the end of some horrible action sequel. It's surely gone by now, but if by some cruel twist of fate it actually ends up on the screen, you'll know it immediately.

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Cinemark Movie Club
Brian B.