' ' Cinema Romantico: Shout-Out to the Extra: Collateral Version

Wednesday, October 20, 2021

Shout-Out to the Extra: Collateral Version

Shout-Out to the Extra is a sporadic series in which Cinema Romantico shouts out the extras, the background actors, the bit part players, the almost out of your sight line performers who expertly round out our movies with epic blink & you’ll miss it care.

Michael Mann’s “Collateral” begins with a hitman, Vincent (Tom Cruise), climbing into the back of a Los Angeles taxi driven by Max (Jamie Foxx) and proceeding to regale the cabbie with his thoughts on the disconnected urban sprawl of the City of Angels, laid out over the cool jazz on the soundtrack, making him sound like a disgruntled late night dee jay expounding for an audience of one. Of course, the movie to come, in which Max squires his gun-toting fare all over the city to carry out various assassinations related to a big court case, disproves the hitman’s theory, rendering L.A. as more interconnected than he ever would have dreamed, a violent evocation of that old semi-parable, it’s a small world after all. It’s a noisy one too; noisy, violent, and chaotic, which Max, as a cabbie, knows better than anyone. And one of Mann’s myriad sensational touches is how Max seals himself off from such noise, never more evocatively than his opening scene, when he enters his cab, closes the door, and, suddenly, all the cacophony of the garage cuts out on the soundtrack. For a second, Mann just lingers there, a second that feels like an eternity, giving Max space to indulge in this blissful moment of inner peace to steel himself against so many loudmouthed fares to come. It is not, however, merely Max who possesses this gift. 

Let us now flash ahead to the middle of the movie, after various machinations have caused Vincent to accompany Max on his nightly vigil to his mother’s hospital room, Max, sensing an opportunity to blow everything up, seizes Vincent’s all-important briefcase and flees down the corridor.

Naturally, Vincent gives chase.

But as he does, his path down the same corridor is briefly interrupted, forcing him to cut like a football running back to his left in order to...

...evade this hospital janitor wheeling a giant mop bucket down the hall. The janitor, however, is not bothered nor confused. Rather he makes his own evasive maneuver, tilting to his own left to allow Vincent, this man in a clear fit of rage, the space to get around. 

Then the janitor continues down the hall without so much as looking back.

The extra could have played this moment as most extras would, reacting, overreacting, trying to make a moment to sell on that reel, at least ensuring his face gets seen. This extra, however, locks in with Mann’s groove, deciding that his character would not react but remain indifferent, if not bravely oblivious, to the world’s noise. 

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