Tom Cruise the hitman. Jamie Foxx the cabdriver. One night of mayhem. Along with Cruise’s excellent turn as a villain and Jamie Foxx’s Oscar-nominated performance, director Michael Mann gives us a visually stunning and intense crime thriller. However, despite a positive response from audience and critics, as well as a stunning box-office, there’s just one thing that’s never fit: the third act.
The Plot in a Nutshell (spoilers!)
Max (Foxx), an ambitious cabdriver who’s never lived up to his dreams, drops off Annie (Jada Pinkett Smith), a lawyer, after a brief yet intimate cab drive. Shortly after, Vincent (Cruise), a vicious hitman, kidnaps Max and uses him to drive around town to his targets. With the cops on their tail, the two fight and bond as each of their lives and minds are put to the test. In the end, Max finally stands up for himself, saves Annie, and miraculously guns down Vincent.
The movie is incredibly intense, well-paced, well-acted, and visually stunning. Beat by beat, we empathize with the characters as they are forced to examine themselves and each other. Throughout the story Max is shown to be a dreamer but also a liar in self-denial. He’s never lived up to his ambitions despite telling everyone otherwise. Vincent, although more honest about who he is, is still haunted from his own past and has never fully accepted that he’s a sociopath. What a couple?!
Although the characters develop, the third act is where the story loses its plausibility. Max slowly gains confidence in himself and deliberately crashes the taxi cab after a massive shootout with the cops. After Vincent escapes from the wrecked cab, Max sees on Vincent’s computer that his next target is Annie. Max escapes from police custody, saves Annie by shooting Vincent in the face, is then chased by Vincent, and finally shoots Vincent again in a one-on-one showdown.
None of this works because Max suddenly becomes more of an expert marksman than a veteran hitman who’s killed people all over town. How can Vincent take down an entire police unit and several gangsters but get killed by a cabdriver who shoots with his eyes closed? All the character development is thrown out for a predictable and unconvincing ending.
The movie should have ended at the cab wreck. Instead of going for a typical chase scene in which everyone is out of character, the movie should’ve ended on a much more dramatic and original note. By Max crashing the cab it already shows that he’s unafraid and stronger than Vincent. With that, the once invincible Vincent would crawl out of the cab only to be face-to-face with the cops. Max, barely conscious, would watch Vincent through the broken window. As Vincent is unable to swallow his pride and surrender, Max would see Annie on Vincent’s computer and realize that he coincidentally saved the girl he likes. There, in a bloody moment of glory, Max would watch Vincent be gunned down. As Max is escorted by an ambulance, Annie would be working late in her office a few blocks away. She would look out the window for a moment, see the wreck in the distance, then return to her work without thinking much of it.
Not only is this a more original and surprising ending, it also helps each character’s arc come into full circle. Vincent, unable to accept his circumstances and loss of power, refuses to change and is punished for it. Max rises to the circumstances, puts aside his own fears and failures, and finally does something worthy with his life. They each have their moment to change and we see the consequences of their actions. With this ending each character develops without losing their credibility or hurting the plot.
Thank you all for reading and I look forward to re-imagining another movie with you next week.