Foxx and Cruise's performances were widely praised, with Foxx being nominated for the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor. The film's editors, Jim Miller and Paul Rubell, were also nominated for the Academy Award for Best Film Editing.
Max Durocher (Jamie Foxx), a meticulous Los Angeles cab driver, is working to earn enough to start his own limousine business. One of the evening's fares is U.S. Justice Department prosecutor Annie Farrell (Jada Pinkett Smith). On the drive to her office, they strike up a conversation and Annie gives Max her business card.
Max's next fare is Vincent (Tom Cruise). Impressed by Max's skill at navigating L.A., Vincent offers Max $600 to drive him for the night, against regulations, which Max reluctantly accepts. As Max waits at the first stop, a corpse falls onto his car. Vincent reveals himself as a hitman, and the corpse is one of his five targets. He forces Max to hide the body in the trunk and continue driving.
At the second stop, Vincent ties Max to the steering wheel. Max attracts the attention of a group of young men and asks them for help, but two of them rob him and take Vincent's briefcase. Vincent returns and shoots both men, killing them. Vincent then offers to buy Max a drink at a jazz club he likes. At the club, Vincent engages the owner Daniel (Barry Shabaka Henley) in conversation, then unexpectedly kills him in front of Max. Max tells Vincent to let him go, but Vincent threatens to kill him if he refuses to obey.
Max's boss, who has been hectoring him over the radio, informs Max that his mother Ida (Irma P. Hall) is trying to reach him. Learning of Max's nightly visits to his hospitalized mother, Vincent insists that Max does not break his routine. At the hospital, Ida proudly tells Vincent that Max has his own limousine company, revealing that Max has been lying to her.
Overwhelmed, Max leaves, taking Vincent's briefcase containing files on his targets, and tosses it onto a freeway. Vincent forces Max to meet drug lord Felix Reyes-Torrena (Javier Bardem) to obtain information on his last two marks, threatening to murder Ida otherwise. Max, posing as Vincent, successfully acquires the information, but Felix orders his men to kill "Vincent" if he does not complete the job. Max heads with Vincent to the next target, Peter Lim, who is at a nightclub.
Meanwhile, LAPD Detective Ray Fanning (Mark Ruffalo) uncovers the connection between the three victims and reports his finding to FBI Special Agent Frank Pedrosa (Bruce McGill). Frank identifies the victims as witnesses in a federal grand jury indicting Felix the following day. Pedrosa assembles a force to secure Lim. At the nightclub Vincent manages to kill all of Felix's hitmen, Lim's bodyguards and Lim himself, then leaves the club. Fanning rescues Max and smuggles him outside, but is killed by Vincent, who beckons Max back into the cab.
Following their getaway, the two trade insulting psychological summaries of each other's life. Vincent mocks Max for his lack of ambition, while Max berates Vincent for his inability to understand other people. Aware that Vincent intends to kill him, Max deliberately crashes the cab, but both survive and Vincent escapes. A police officer arrives to help, but sees Ayala's corpse in the trunk and starts to arrest Max. During the arrest, Max sees Vincent's open laptop, which reveals that Annie is his final target. He overpowers the police officer, takes his gun, and heads toward Annie's office building.
Max calls Annie to warn her of Vincent's approach. She is initially incredulous, until Max reveals details about the witnesses Vincent has already killed, and Max urges her to call 911. Vincent is already in the building, and Max enters in pursuit; Vincent uses a fire ax to cut the power and telephone lines on the floor Annie is on.
A tense hunt in the dark ensues. Vincent finally finds Annie, aims at her, but is shot and wounded by Max, who escapes with Annie on foot. Vincent pursues the pair onto a metro rail train. Finally cornered at one end of the train, Max and Vincent engage in a shootout. Vincent, fatally wounded, slumps into a seat as Max and Annie look on. He repeats a remark that he had previously made about a man dying unnoticed on a Metro train, before dying himself.
Max and Annie get off at the next station, in the dawn of a new day.
When he was 17 years old, Australian writer Stuart Beattie took a cab home from Sydney airport, and had the idea of a homicidal maniac sitting in the back of a cab with the driver nonchalantly conversing with him, trusting his passenger implicitly. Beattie drafted his idea into a two-page treatment entitled "The Last Domino," then later began writing the screenplay. The original story centered around an African-American female cop who witnesses a hit, and the romance between the cab driver and his then librarian girlfriend. The film has limited resemblance to the original treatment.
Beattie was waiting tables when he ran into friend Julie Richardson, whom he had met on a UCLA Screenwriting Extension course. Richardson had become a producer, and was searching for projects for Edge City, Frank Darabont, Rob Fried and Chuck Russell's company created to make low budget genre movies for HBO. Beattie later pitched her his idea of "The Last Domino." Richardson pitched the idea to Frank Darabont, who brought the team in for a meeting, including Beattie, and set up the project under Edge City. After two drafts, HBO passed on the project. At a general meeting at DreamWorks, with executive Marc Haimes, Beattie mentioned the script. Marc Haimes immediately contacted Richardson, read the script overnight, and DreamWorks put in an offer the following day.
Collateral sat on DreamWorks' development books for three years. Mimi Leder was initially attached to direct, it then passed on to Janusz Kamiński. It wasn't until Russell Crowe became interested in playing Vincent that the project started generating any heat. Crowe brought Michael Mann on board, but the constant delays meant that Crowe left the project. Mann immediately went to Tom Cruise with the idea of him playing the hitman and Adam Sandler as the cab driver. Sandler later dropped out (due to his work on a comedy) and was replaced by Jamie Foxx.
Beattie wanted the studio to cast Robert De Niro as Max (once again making him a taxi driver, though the exact opposite of Travis Bickle). However, the studio refused, insisting they wanted a younger actor in the role.
Mann chose to use the Viper FilmStream High-Definition Camera to film many of Collateral's scenes, the first such use in a major motion picture. There are many scenes in the film where the use of a digital camera is evident, in particular, scenes where the Los Angeles skyline or landscape is visible in the background. One event of note was the filming of the coyotes running across the road; the low-light capability allowed Mann to spontaneously film the animals that just happened to pass, without having to set up lighting for the shot. Mann had previously used the format for portions of Ali and for his CBS drama Robbery Homicide Division and would later employ the same camera for the filming of Miami Vice. The sequence in the nightclub was shot in 35 mm.
Early drafts of Collateral's script set the film in New York City. However, later revisions of the script moved the film's setting to Los Angeles.
James Newton Howard Composed The Score For The Film. The Collateral soundtrack was released on August 3, 2004, by Hip-O Records.
The soundtrack also features the song "Iguazú" written by Gustavo Santaolalla.
The film received positive reviews, with particular praise going to Tom Cruise and Jamie Foxx's performances. On the review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes, 86% of critics gave the film positive reviews, based on 226 reviews. The critical consensus states that "Driven by director Michael Mann's trademark visuals and a lean, villainous performance from Tom Cruise, Collateral is a stylish and compelling noir thriller." On Metacritic, the film had an average score of 71 out of 100, based on 41 reviews. Tom Cruise went on to garner critical acclaim, while Foxx received several award nominations. Richard Roeper placed Collateral as his 10th favorite film of 2004. The film was voted as the 9th best film set in Los Angeles in the last 25 years by a group of Los Angeles Times writers and editors with two criteria: "The movie had to communicate some inherent truth about the L.A. experience, and only one film per director was allowed on the list".
The film opened on August 6, 2004, in 3,188 theaters in the United States and Canada and grossed approximately $24.7 million on its opening weekend, ranking #1 at the box office. It remained in theaters for 14 weeks and eventually grossed $101,005,703 in the U.S. and Canada. In other countries it grossed a total of $116,758,588 for a total worldwide gross of $217,764,291.
"Collateral" got a VHS and DVD release on December 14, 2004.