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Hero and Collateral

Hero: Don't believe them when they say that it's not like Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. It is, but that's a good thing.

Collateral: Develops nicely, climax unbelievable.

Both Hero and CTHD feature gorgeous fight scenes, gorgeous music (featuring Itzhak Perlman and Yo-Yo Ma respectively), gorgeous visuals, gorgeous Zhang Ziyi, and have as a central theme the interplay between love and duty. Hero, primarily because of its overt use of colour, is more stylised than CTHD, but also in parts more visually breath-taking. The ending is just a tad too melodramatic for my tastes (as are some of the other scenes - maybe there is something to the old adage that you shouldn't have the actors cry so that the audience does), but works nevertheless.

I think I said that The Matrix Reloaded featured Frank Miller fight scenes come to life. Well, Miller would have an orgasm at the shots of thousands of arrows gliding through the air. (I realise that he probably got the inspiration for his drawings from the Hong Kong and Japanese movie tradition which have spawned both CTHD and Hero.) Some of the composition is awe-inspiring, particularly the posed tableaux at the end of certain martial arts movements.

The "twist" - that the king deserved to live because he united the country - was predictable but satisfying nonetheless. Though one review I read argued that this message was actually subversive, that the king and his court was shown to be corrupt and soulless (again via the use of colour) mainly because the director would never argue that the good of the many outweigh the needs of the one, a Communist philosophy.


There's another old adage: Use coincidences to get your hero into trouble, but don't rely on them to get them out. Collateral is a well constructed story well told, but it does tend to rely on coincidence for one major and one minor plot development.

I don't mind so much that Vincent, the Tom Cruise character (who does fine work, especially in some of the scenes where all he has to do is look and react, subtly letting some of the humanity leak through) needlessly keeps Max, the Jamie Foxx character alive. I think you can ascribe that to the quirks - or perhaps essential core - of the character.

However, when they first get pulled over by the cops for the broken windshield, I thought: How are they going to get out of that one? What rabbit can the writer pull out of the hat? Well, the rabbit was a lucky break - the cops were called away to another case at the last second. Bit disappointing, though the tension was ratchetted up effectively in the scene.

More unbelievable was that Vincent's final hit just happened to be the DA that Max befriended at the start of the movie. Yes, there was some double talk about Vincent casing her office as she was being dropped off, but the odds were still monumentally against such synchronicity. That link of course set up a fairly standard "reluctant hero comes good" action sequence.

(It also occured to me that Vincent, a consumate professional, should really be someone who memorised the case files of his hits well before the day of the hit. But anyway...)

Still, all in all, I enjoyed the movie, especially the early parts. It reinforced some lessons about wasting time well in a script. As I read somewhere: Why do complications happen in a script? So that the show isn't over in five minutes.

Hence... the DA walks out of the cab and out of Max's life... but then turns around and gives him her card. Max doesn't respond to Vincent's hail... but then calls him back. There were a few other incidents like that - minor reversals, perhaps "unneccessary" plot complications - that nonetheless built tension, revealed character and wasted time effectively.

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This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on November 10, 2004 1:58 PM.

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