Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBBB. USA, 2004. Paramount Pictures, DreamWorks, Parkes+MacDonald Image Nation, Edge City. Screenplay by Stuart Beattie. Cinematography by Dion Beebe, Paul Cameron. Produced by Michael Mann, Julie Richardson. Music by James Newton Howard. Production Design by David Wasco. Costume Design by Jeffrey Kurland. Film Editing by Jim Miller, Paul Rubell. Academy Awards 2004. AFI Awards 2004. Golden Globe Awards 2004. Washington Film Critics Awards 2004.
Jamie Foxx is excellent as a cab driver who drops off the beginning of a promising relationship in the form of Jada Pinkett Smith (who has never been more captivating) and picks up trouble in the form of Tom Cruise. Cruise forces Foxx to drive him around Los Angeles to five different locations, with the driver being none the wiser for the reason until a stray body lands on top of his taxicab and he realizes he’s chauffeuring an assassin-for-hire. Now Foxx has to try and survive the evening while also doing his best to see if he can prevent more killings, but it doesn’t prove to be an easy task with the killer doing a very good job of keeping the two of them close together. What’s best about this film is Michael Mann’s riveting direction: a slow and steady pace that creeps towards a tighter and tighter climax until you find yourself grabbing your seat for dear life by the end. The screenplay seems to run out of ideas by its conclusion and takes a very Hollywood turn in the last third, a shame considering how marvelously jazzy the rest of it is; at the same time, recognizing this doesn’t make the film any less enjoyable. The atmosphere is captivating, with slow-burning night scenes and smoky clubs creating the feeling of a nightmarish evening that refuses to end, and Mann matches his visuals with two very strong performances in the leads. Foxx does a terrific job of toning down his bouncy personality, and Cruise is effectively creepy as the bad guy. Mann’s reputation as a director is so strong that he gets some pretty big names to show up in very minor roles here, including a cameo by Jason Statham, a terrific opening scene with Debi Mazar and wonderful performances (in far too small roles) by Mark Ruffalo, Irma P. Hall and Javier Bardem.