Film Theory: Collateral Is A Grand Theft Auto Movie

The best video game movie ever?

The Grand Theft Auto franchise is a pop-culture monolith beyond compare, but the impossibly successful video game series also owes a great debt to entertainment itself, especially Hollywood.

The series has always worn its biggest influences on its sleeve: Vice City was of course heavily inspired by Scarface and Miami Vice, while San Andreas tipped the hat to both Menace II Society and Boyz N The Hood, and GTA V's Michael was a not-so-subtle stand-in for The Sopranos' Tony Soprano.

It would also be criminal to ignore the clear impact that director Michael Mann has had on Rockstar's crime franchise, especially with Vice City being influenced by the TV show he executive-produced and later adapted to the big screen, Miami Vice, not to forget his crime masterpiece Heat, which inspired several distinctive heist missions in both GTA IV and GTA V.

But with Mann's 2004 crime thriller Collateral, the inspiration seemed to venture in the other direction, and while the film is in no way an official collaboration with Rockstar, it nevertheless feels like Mann's own off-the-record love letter to the GTA franchise.

Collateral could effortlessly slot into the continuity and aesthetic of the GTA games, especially when it comes to San Andreas and GTA V, which of course feature a fictionalised version of Los Angeles - Los Santos.

Mann's film also includes what could be interpreted as stylistic nods to the earlier top-down GTA games, yet for the sake of this theory, Mann's intent ultimately doesn't really matter.

Without any fudged logic whatsoever, Collateral is the GTA movie everyone wanted, and it's been hiding in plain sight for the last 15 years...


Stay at home dad who spends as much time teaching his kids the merits of Martin Scorsese as possible (against the missus' wishes). General video game, TV and film nut. Occasional sports fan. Full time loon.