‘Collateral’ (2004) stars Tom Cruise and Jamie Foxx in the roles of a hitman and a cab driver, respectively. Max had been on his usual night shift, picking up strangers and dropping them off at their intended destinations. However, things take a dark turn when he picks up Vincent, who turns out to be on a tight schedule, which involves killing at least five people that night. Max is forced to go on with Vincent’s plan while the cops pick up the trail of dead bodies left behind by them. While there are a lot of interesting things about ‘Collateral’, one of the scenes that stands out is the one that takes place at the beginning, when Vincent is introduced to us. We see him bump into another man, played by Jason Statham, and the nature of their interaction raises a few questions.
Statham’s ‘The Transporter’ came out in 2002, two years before the release of ‘Collateral’. The comparatively close proximity of the two films and the overlapping themes of men in good suits in the profession of committing crimes, no questions asked, is what makes one wonder if Statham’s brief appearance in ‘Collateral’ means that the two films belong in the same universe. Is Jason Statham’s character in ‘Collateral’ Frank Martin from ‘The Transporter’? Let’s find out.
Jason Statham’s The Transporter’s Connection to Collateral, Explained
While actors are known for having a brief, and often blink-and-you’ll-miss, cameos in random films, Jason Statham’s appearance in ‘Collateral’ makes one stop and think whether it actually means something. In general, when a star of Statham’s stature appears in a film, it is either because the role itself is very powerful, even if brief. Or, there is some connection between the actors and directors, having previously worked together or being friends in real life. The role that Statham plays in ‘Collateral’ is only for a few seconds and would have probably been forgotten if not for the actor himself. Also, no strong connection, at least publicly, appears between Statham or Cruise or Michael Mann, or anyone else connected with the two films. Then why did Statham agree to do this role?
Speaking of the role itself, it is credited as Airport Man on the film’s IMDb page. In the brief interaction that happens between the Airport Man and Vincent, this mysterious man exchanges a briefcase with Cruise’s character. It looks like his only job is to deliver the package to Vincent. The job profile of Airport Man fits another character played by Statham: Frank Martin. In ‘The Transporter’, Martin is a freelance driver who is hired by criminals to make all sorts of deliveries. The job simply requires him to stick to the deal, not to exchange names, and never to open the package. We get the same vibe from Airport Man. He barely speaks to Vincent, but some very important stuff exchanges hands between them.
It looks like Airport Man was hired to deliver the briefcase to Vincent, and once that’s done, he moves on without looking back. Does this mean that Airport Man is actually Frank Martin? A positive answer to this question does well to quell that nagging feeling in one’s mind about why Statham chose to do this role when any other forgettable actor could have done it. Was it simply because he wanted to share the screen with Tom Cruise or be directed by Michael Mann, even if for a few minutes? The only logical explanation is that he was reprising his role from ‘The Transporter’ which means that ‘Collateral’ takes place in the same cinematic universe.
With the advent of Marvel, the idea of cameos has taken a more significant meaning regarding shared universes, but back in 2004, it wasn’t that big of a deal. Moreover, there was no point in setting up this shared universe thing because, after this, we never got to see ‘The Transporter’, which had two more films in the series, show any connection to Cruise’s character or the people that he works for or even LA for that matter. Setting up such a connection and never doing anything about it seems rather pointless on the part of the filmmakers. On top of that, no one from ‘Collateral’ or ‘The Transporter’ series has ever confirmed or, for that matter, even denied this connection. So, why then? Why is Jason Statham in ‘Collateral’?
One of the most important things about the introduction of a character like Vincent is that the audience should immediately know that they are not a usual person. For mercenaries, it is usually done by showing them on a job where they kill someone, exhibiting the range of their skills. One has to know that this character is dangerous and should be kept an eye out for. ‘Collateral’ takes place over the course of a day, and the restriction of the timeline doesn’t allow it to give the audience a well-orchestrated action scene. Moreover, Vincent is supposed to be so good at his job that he slips in and out of it without anyone noticing. He wears forgettable clothes and has a common appearance, which doesn’t make anyone look twice at him. His introduction is supposed to lay down this facet of his character, but it’s also supposed to tell us that there’s something shady about him, and that’s where the Airport Man comes in.
Had any unknown actor or a first-timer been cast for it, the audience wouldn’t have paid any attention to him, especially when Tom Cruise is next to him. The story needs us to look carefully at the Airport Man so that we know that he is shady too and that a shady exchange is taking place between him and Vincent. To make the audience look at Airport Man, the filmmakers needed someone who would surprise the audience enough to make them stop and think. They needed someone who is already a well-known actor, preferably famous in the action genre, and Statham fit the bill.
As intended, his presence in the scene still makes viewers wonder why he is there and what his cameo means, which is precisely why you are reading this article even after all these years of the film’s release. Considering this, one can say that the filmmakers succeeded in their task; the audience drawing a connection between ‘Collateral’ and ‘The Transporter’ is simply an unintended, but rather interesting, byproduct of their decision to cast Statham.
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