Collateral - Tom Cruise as Jazz Nerd

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The 2004 movie Collateral, in which Tom Cruise plays a hitman known as Vincent, provides a classical take on the jazz fans as nerds stereotype (with the added association of jazz clubs and violence/shady parts of tow). At this point in the film Vincent has a drink in jazz club with its owner afterhours. The owner of the jazz club, Daniel Baker (played by Barry Shabaka Henley), tells Cruise about his life surrounding jazz, including playing for Miles Davis. Next, Tom Cruise, who had thus far been joyfully listening, coyly reveals to Baker that he is a hitman who has been contracted to kill him. Vincent then tells Baker that he will ask him a jazz question and if he gets it right he will walk away, if he doesn’t, he will kill him. Baker agrees, and Tom Cruise asks, “Where did Miles learn music?” Baker replies:

I know everything there is to know about Miles. … His father was a dentist, East St. Louis, invested in agriculture, made plenty of money. He sent Miles to Juilliard School of Music, New York, 1945 (Collateral).

Vincent then shoots Baker in the head three times at point blank range, catches his head before it falls on the table, and whispers into his ear:

He dropped out of Juilliard after less than a year, tracked down Charlie Parker, on 52nd street who mentored him for the next three years (Collateral).

 The implications here are that a true jazz fan knows absolutely everything there is to know about jazz. (Personal admission: As a teenage at the Stanford Jazz Workshop I won a jazz trivia contest by knowing the brand of suits Miles Davis wore when he stated playing professionally). It is difficult to imagine this happening with another genre of music, such as country, opera, or baroque. This is especially evident when noting the frequency with which crime and drugs are associated with jazz and jazz clubs.


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