The best film soundtracks play like your favorite mixtape (ahem, CD ahem, iPod mix) — well-crafted yet vibrant, with selections strategically positioned to ensure the right elements of surprise. Themes are cohesive and cannot trail off as a result of laziness. Artists, though allowed to appear twice, may not do so in succession. A potent blend of older and newer tracks is encouraged. If done right, the mix inhabits your musical format of choice for years to come.
Evidently, Michael Mann and the folks at Universal must have read a whole book on making a proper mix (and there are some out there), because Collateral has a stomp-ass soundtrack to complement a movie that’s equally boot-shining.
Using the streets of Los Angeles nightlife as a backdrop, Collateral centers on hitman Tom Cruise and his cabbie-for-hire Jamie Foxx as they make murderous pit stops across the town. Jada Pinkett Smith has a small but integral role as a “no-time-for-small-talk” lawyer whom Foxx picks up before encountering Cruise. Their exchange, though brief, makes for the soundtrack’s best inclusion: Groove Armada’s artificially soulful “Hands of Time,” a moment that inspires Foxx to ask, “Oh, you like the classics?” (The song was released in 2002.)
But what gives Collateral muscle is its representation of the L.A. culture. The Roots clock in with “The Seed,” an oozing dose of urban rock ‘n’ soul, while Latin-flavored tracks like Calexico’s “Guero Canelo” and the Green Car Motel’s “Destino de Abril” offer nods to the city’s growing Hispanic population (as does the sly addition of Miles Davis’s “Spanish Key”). Tom Rothrock’s “Rollin’ Crumblin’ ” and Oakenfold’s “Ready Steady Go” remix make for sweat-soaked heart-racers, providing a nice counterpoint to the Klazz Brothers & Cuba Percussion’s soothing rendition of Bach’s “Air.” Finish off with a dash of original score pieces that reflect the film’s more pivotal scenes and you’ve got the perfect mixtape recipe. Serve fresh until gone.
Put this one up there with Garden State and Fahrenheit 9/11 as one of the year’s best marriages of music and film.