I kind of had an idea that I wouldn’t love this movie. I kinda knew all of the hype surrounding Jamie Foxx (who, by the way, sports the name of what sounds like a porn actress) was just the Academy searching in vain for one African American role in a Hollywood film that didn’t involve prison, gangs or vampires. It is sad that good roles for black actors seem to either be bio pics (playing other famous black entertainers) or some lawyer role that completely denies ethnicity all together; a role that could just as well have been played by Jimmy Smits or Kevin Spacey. But let us leave all that out of it.
I didn’t see Ray (and really am not interested) but Foxx’s performance in this film was just as blah as it was good. It was certainly not Oscar worthy. I swear he made some of the same faces here as he did playing that ugly woman character on In Living Color. It’s as if he studied film of Jim Carrey–who was also, coincidently, on In Living Color— playing the earnest, downtrodden guy. He essentially pouts and doe-eyes his way through the movie, and is actually kind of annoying in doing so.
Cruise, on the other hand, hams it up as the professional assassin who is, honestly, pretty shitty at his job. Generally assassins like to attract as little attention to themselves as possible and make as little noise and mess as they can. Cruise’s character is loud and messy and anything but stealthy. He leaves the bodies of non-targets all over, and for some reason loads the body of his first victim in the trunk of Foxx’s cab and rides around with it in there rather than dumping it somewhere.
Cruise is amazingly adept at the physical stuff, though, as he draws his gun, throws punches and avoids bullets. He looks good in the role, but unlike some of his other characters, seems to almost be missing that swagger he normally has. I know I just contradicted myself, but in his crazy robotic motions he seemed to convey a strange reluctance and insecurity. Maybe that was intentional, but maybe it was Cruise thinking, “What would L. Ron do?” Could we have seen the unraveling of Cruise before our very eyes? Most likely not–I’m just projecting. It could be the gray hair, which was very distracting.
Otherwise, nothing much happens in the movie. They essentially drive around, kill some folks and Foxx looks scared and tries to get out of it and Cruise threatens him with a gun. Six Feet Under did an episode where one of the characters gets kidnapped and is forced to drive around by a psycho who alternately pretends to be his friend and then scares the crap out of him while he commits crimes, buys drugs, etc. That was actually a more interesting narrative than this one. I see what the filmmakers were trying for here, but the movie is too predictable and relatively boring. I mean, the minute Foxx picks up Jada Pinkett in his cab in the beginning of the movie, you know exactly what’s going to happen. It’s like an episode of Law & Order in which someone you actually recognize shows up at in the “Law” part; you know they’re in some way involved and will make a dubious entrance in the “Order” section.
The Mark Ruffalo and Peter Berg cop characters were also really bad throw-aways. They add nothing to the film, and are just annoying stereotypes of L.A. undercovers. What this plot needed was a really cool twist (there was one that was so obvious, I could tell you it here and not blow anything) to justify the meandering regular-ness that went on and on for two hours. It could have been tight. It could have been riveting. It could have been a contender. It wasn’t.