Dir: David Mamet
The title is correct. David Mamet’s kidnapping thriller is pared down to its essence,
with dialog and a plot that doesn’t wait for the stupid people in the audience to catch up. So many thrillers and action films tell you something three times just in case you get it. Mamet will have none of that.
Val Kilmer isn’t my favorite actor, but he’s well cast a Scott, and Special Ops Navy Seal (I think, I don’t pay particular attention to thing like that), a guy who just gets the (bloody) job done with maximum efficiency and never asks questions.
“Spartan” then sets up Scott in a situation where he must question his elders, as others are dying around him. I went into this film knowing nothing except for Mamet’s name and the fact that the film came and went. I can see why it did–most people couldn’t catch up with the film, despite being in a safe Hollywood genre. I also don’t want to discuss the plot too much as I found many of the twists unexpected. The trailer, however, is made for the mouthbreathers and tells you most of the film.
Mamet’s vision of modern politics is of a ruthless and efficient engine that chews up those far and near. And the gulf that separates the soldiers from those that give orders is wide when it comes to morals.


Dir: Michael Mann
Shot on 80% DV, Michael Mann’s latest captures the airless nighttime of Los Angeles,
and is fairly truthful to the city’s geography (Thom Anderson would approve). When a hitman played by a grizzled-by-GQ hitman enters the cab of tktk (Jamie Foxx) for the first time, they have a small discussion about Los Angeles. Cruise finds it empty and cold; to Foxx it’s his city, and he knows it inside and out. L.A. is the kind of city where a man can die on the Metro line and nobody will notice him for six hours, says the hitman.
He may be right. Certainly there are times in Collateral where major things happen in the streets and nobody is around to witness them. A car hits a road block, flips upside down, and two survivors crawl out, one running off. Because this happens in the Bunker Hill area of downtown, Mann convincingly stages it right in the middle of the road. Nobody passes by. If you’ve ever driven around there at 3 a.m. you can bet Mann’s crew didn’t have to have much security for the shot.
As Foxx and Cruise make their afterhours journey (hitman has a list of five targets, the cabbie is forced to chauffer), Los Angeles unveils itself as a series of tribal encampments that only the in-the-know can visit. Two apartment complexes–one lower class, the other with a view of the city–three clubs, a jazz club, a Mexican dance club, and Korean nightclub out in the middle of nowhere. Mann gets the ethnic make-up and dispersement of L.A. correct here too, even though it’s used for a backdrop.
There’s also something to the fact that Collateral is about a black man unwillingly chauffering around a well-paid white guy as he knocks off people of color. After the first murder, Cruise throws Foxx’s moral panic back in his face: “tens of thousands killed in one day in Rwanda, and did you shed a tear? Did you join Amnesty International? So what’s one dead Angelino?” (I’m paraphrasing, but it’s close). The hitman is a bit of a moral relativist. The cabbie is not. Anyway, I don’t know if there’s much to be made of this or not, but we are made to feel empathy for the victim who is African-American (the club owner) whereas the rest are just cyphers. And of course, the last on the list is none other than the African-American prosecutor that Foxx has in his cab at the beginning of the film. In one way you could see Cruise’s hitman as the white elite coming down into a city of mixed race he has chosen not to understand, and the cabbie’s progression towards someone who will staunchly defend the city for all its problems. The film ends on a different mode of transport–the Metro line, method of transport for those who can’t afford cars.
Am I reading more into this film or not? Your comments welcome.

Dumbass Daniel

How wonderful is this? 2,000 years ago, Romans had to throw Christians to the lions. Now they go willingly!

MSNBC – Man tries to convert lions to Jesus, gets bitten
TAIPEI, Taiwan – A man leaped into a lion’s den at the Taipei Zoo on Wednesday to try to convert the king of beasts to Christianity, but was bitten in the leg for his efforts.
“Jesus will save you!” shouted the 46-year-old man at two African lions lounging under a tree a few meters away.