El Bicho's Hive

A Collection of Reviews Covering the Worlds of Art and Entertainment alongside other Snobbish Ramblings.

Monday, August 23, 2004


Directed by Michael Mann
Written by Stuart Beattie

It is a typical night in Los Angeles until Vincent gets into the backseat of Max’s cab. Vincent is in town overnight on a business deal. Before his flight leaves at dawn, he has five destinations that he needs to visit in order to finalize everything. He doesn’t have the time to wait for a cab at each stop, so he wants to reserve Max’s services for the night. Max declines because it’s against the cab company’s rules, but when Vincent shows him he can make more money than he does most evenings, Max is persuaded.

At the first stop while Max waits in the cab for Vincent, he reads a brochure about luxury cars. Driving cabs is only a temporary gig for him; he is only doing it until he can get everything in order to start up his limousine service. Max’s “plan” has been on going for 12 years. He is violently interrupted from his daydreams by a body falling onto his car, which damages the windshield. Vincent rushes out and Max guesses that Vincent killed the man. Vincent corrects him by telling him that he “only shot him. It was the bullet and the fall that killed him.”

Vincent takes charge immediately. After putting the body in the cab’s trunk, Max offers Vincent the cab, but Vincent doesn’t let Max off that easy, so he has to drive Vincent around the rest of the night. Vincent attempts to calm Max down by telling him that these are bad people he is going to kill tonight. The truth of the matter is that Vincent is a contract killer, whose assignment is eliminating all those involved in a case against a Mexican drug cartel.

The first victim was actually an informant for an undercover police detective, who arrives at the house to find the aftermath. The police want to rule it as a suicide, but the detective knows there has to be more going on. He talks about a recent case in Seattle where a cabbie drove around one night killing people and took his own life; however, the detective on that case believed there was someone else involved.

The night grows more intriguing as bodies continue to pile up and larger investigations are revealed, culminating in a fantastic action scene as everyone, the FBI, LAPD, a Mexican gang, converges as Vincent goes after a high profile Korean gang leader.

As good as the action scenes are the real crux of this thriller is watching Max and Vincent throughout the night. Beattie has created compelling characters that form an unusual bond. The dialogue between the men is interesting and reveals information about who they are and their views on the world. They understand each other more than they comprehend themselves. In a twist on Joseph Campbell’s Hero’s Journey, a villain like Vincent is Max’s mentor.

The film was well written for the first two thirds. Unfortunately, the third act becomes standard Hollywood fare, a bit predictable and a slight disappointment because it’s not as strong as what we’ve previously seen. No more character or dialogue. It’s all chase and shoot. The film had been moving along so nicely that I was hoping this film would be different, but once Vincent found the power supply for the floor and a large item to destroy it with, I knew the end would disappoint me.

My major beef with the ending is regarding the identity of the last victim, who was both a surprise yet not a surprise. If you’ve seen enough movies, you can guess who the last victim is especially after the first four have been dealt with. My confusion comes from the fact that Vincent was in the same area as the fifth victim, so why not kill this person first? Why the coincidence of crossing paths? Vincent goes back to find this person in an office building, working at a ridiculous hour in the morning. Vincent had been given files on all his victims, but I don’t know how anyone would have known the victim’s schedule for that particular day. The twist that was desired is so contrived that it falls flat.

It’s a good thriller that had to potential to be great, so you might like it. Mann’s direction is very good for the most part other than letting the story come off the rails. The photography is fantastic. I can’t remember the last time I’ve seen LA look so good in a film. It could be a coffee table book. I don’t know if it was intentional, but I liked the allusion to The Lady from Shanghai in the office building. The performances of Cruise and Foxx, who certainly held his own in this dramatic role, were very good. I was just frustrated because my expectations were raised and the film didn’t follow through with the promise it showed in the beginning.