Monday, 7 April 2014



To Live & Die In L.A.


(Our new 'Favourite Film' series reviews classic films that are among our nearest and dearest best)

120 Minutes. Starring: Tom Cruise, Jamie Foxx, Mark Ruffalo & Jada Pinkett Smith. Director: Michael Mann.

TAXI! All hail one of modern movies greatest gems! As clinically incredible as it is criminally underrated, Michael Mann's sensationally stylish tense and taught thriller gives the legendary director 'Heat' like shootout scenes of amazing action that birthed his recent 'Public Enemies' and 'Miami Vice' but that 'Insider' like inspired influence of dramatic dialogue that made some of these no bullets and all brain scenes the talk of the town. The iconic 'The Last of the Mohicans' and 'Ali' director thankfully will return to his favourite chair for the first time in over a half decade next year for the 'Cyber' thriller with hot 'Thor' and 'Rush' man of the moment Chris Hemsworth for a long and welcome reunion with the celluoid he redefined with his digital capturing of cinema in a crisp, cool and classic way before HD, before Blu Ray. The depth and detail in the formidable filming of this dark and dynamic action-flick is boldly beautiful, but this film is more than its amazing and atmospheric aesthetic. A fond film for this writer it's hard to fathom that this came out a decade ago. A decade that saw this man California dream like the Mama's and Papa's only to visit the city of angels, Los Angeles not two years later thanks to this film epic view of the city and his own love for the Basketball franchise the Los Angeles Lakers and it's star Kobe Bryant. Two year later where the vivid imaginations of this film became the realest reality to this then young, 21 year old writer who had dreams of penning the same sort of inspiration. A writer who told his friends that this was the Tom Cruise film where he showed just how good an actor he was-albeit looking a bit grey and like Richard Gere in 'Pretty Woman'. A writer who told his friends that this singer/comedian from 'Any Given Sunday' and a real and raw ringside performance in Mann and Will Smith's 'Ali', Jamie Foxx was going to be something. Before the 'Ray' Oscar (and this 'Collateral' nomination that should have seen him become the first actor to win a 'Best Actor' and 'Supporting' award in the same year), before 'Django', now Electro and soon Martin Luther King Jnr for what could possibly be one of todays best actors greatest ever roles.

A writer who can't thank Tom Cruise and Jamie Foxx enough for the love and appreciation on Twitter and in turn gives them this in this digital age. A digital age that began with Mann, one of the greatest directors of our generation and all time who we really need to see more from. His films are even better than they look in their tone and texture and their haunting and harrowing feel that evokes the senses with any set-piece. Even the late, great Syd Field referenced the script of this film for his maginficent manual on how to write a selling screenplay that belongs on the bedside of every would be writer, whether they have a Hollywood paycheque next to it or a McDonalds one. From the "shimmers of chrome to the flashes of silver", the electric night and lights of an epic and futuristic city scape haven't been laid out in all it's epic loneliness and cold isolation since the reading between the lines of Michael Jackson's 'Human Nature' classic and it's the human side of this fantastic films feel, from the way it looks to the way it strikes that really captures you. From Jamie driving round his friend Will Smith's wife Jada in his Taxi to the tune of Groove Armada's smooth and smouldering classic 'Hands of Time' to the turning of more classic records from Miles Davis, The Roots and Mann's favourite Green Car Motel this film looks, feels and sounds the part. Oh and Mann used Paul Oakenfold's 'Ready Steady Go' before everyone else did-like that years score off the '12 Years A Slave' trailer-for a Korean club, chaotic round of bullets that could even gun down Pacino and De Niro's epic street, shootout bank heist in 'Heat'. A magnificent mark that Mann's mainstream 'Public Enemies' with Johnny Depp and 'Miami Vice' (again with his favourite Foxx and Colin Farrell) could not top. Perhaps the God of Thunder and Formula One racing will do in this 'Cyber' age of 'Black Hat'.

This is a director who puts his Hollywood stars through the perfect paces to produce puncuated performances, from Cruise's gun control training (see the legacy that left in 'Jack Reacher' and more) and his hilarious posing as an UPS delivery man round downtown L.A., to Foxx's fast and furious race-track training and riding round with cabbies. Still, this film is more than the big-three of Cruise, Foxx and Mann. There's a classic cast. From Jada Pinkett Smith to another Mann long-term friend and accosiate Barry Shabaka Henley's jazz stylings to the score of 'Spanish Key'. There's also Peter Berg, Richard T. Jones an almosy unrecognisable (see Jon Voight, 'Ali' for further information) Javier Bardem in this 'No Country For Old Men' from the legendary sinister 'Skyfall' villain who is evern more serious here and a cool cameo from Jason Statham. Still it's the Hulk himself Mark Ruffalo armed with a detectives badge and a moustache that cops the highest praise from his heart filled and breaking performance. Slicker than his Brylcreem backed hair, after watching this film you'll all want to be a lone-wolf cop stalking the city of L.A., trying to solve the crimes the corrupt force refuses like any good cop in a bad world would. It's a hallmark role that led him to more detective work in the likes of 'Zodiac', 'Shutter Island', his best work and a 'By The Book' pilot script I'd love to land on his desk. With that being said however, in this city of American dreams, the real haunting nature of the life between Hollywood and the 'hood shows the underbelly of the great city of L.A. that still holds somethings that is hard to swallow and keep down. This is all captured perfectly by the two major players in this piece, Foxx and Cruise from their behind the wheel realtionship that starts with some classical music and a fanful fo dollars, to reality crashing down on Foxx cab drivers hood in the form of a dead body and more in the trunk then he ever imagined.

From Foxx eating his sub lunch in his clinicaly clean, but cheap cab, whilst looking through the 'unrivalled' Mercedes Benz catalogue for his limo-driving dream, to Foxx and Cruise watching a lone wolf cross a quiet, dark palm-tree adorned street at night as their calm before the club storm capturing (to the soundtrack of Audioslave's 'Shadow Of The Sun'), this film is full of little moments that make it engrossingly epic. Just like the middle of the graveyard shift shit where Foxx's driver goes on vacation, zoning out on a drop down mirror, picture perfect, postcard of his favourite Maldives Islands spot. Judging from the amount of photos from trips adorning this aspiring writers room I got the inspiration too. Still it's the exciting action that truly makes this more entertaining from the hands on the trigger to the feet on the accelerator. Still for all the bullets and bodies, nothing quite captures the complexities and classic characterization of terrific thrillers than the talk of the talk and it's the claustraphobic, conflict scenes in the cab confines that really open this outstanding feature up just like Foxx's dramatic turn of character in the face of life or death that was this actors career turn. As Cruise forces Foxx to drive him round the city as he knocks off his hitman victims one-by-one without paying a fare or leaving a tip, their back and forth is nothing short of brillaint and why they talk about murder and rip each others personal lives to shreds this is the kick up the backside maddening, motivation that could cause anyone watching to get up and go after their this waiter turned writer who will always have a lump in his throat as Cruise chides Foxx for not following his dream or even calling "that girl". "I'm full of s###? You're a monument of it"! "Someday my dream will come, one day you wake up and you are old, it never happened and it was never going to happen because you weren't going to do it anyway"! "Don't talk to me about murder"! "What the f### you still doing driving a cab" he asks. WOW! I guess it's not just the Twitter follow I have to thank Cruise and Foxx for because from asking out the love of my life to following my writing dream this film is so much more than just another one of my favourites. This is one late night, passenger seat cab ride confessional chat you'll never forget. It's time to stick your thumb up! Catch it while you can. TIM DAVID HARVEY.

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