Tactical Shooting: Collateral

Yo, Homie!

– Vincent in Collateral (2004)

Michael Mann’s Collateral (2004) is an excellent film, even though the premise of the story is a bit forced: A professional hit man, Vincent, is hired by a Colombian drug cartel to kill a whole bunch of witnesses on one night-long cab ride in Los Angeles. Despite the plot holes, the film features excellent photography, music, and of course the acting performance by the two leads, Tom Cruise as Vincent and Jamie Foxx as the cabbie Max Durocher.

Shooting Dice_2_Tactical Shooting_Collateral

Collateral was an important inspiration for GURPS Tactical Shooting, since Mann paid particular attention to the gun handling, as always. There is the use of the integrally suppressed .22-calibre Ruger MK II pistol (GURPS High-Tech, p. 100) in the jazz bar, the all-against-all shootout on the dance floor of Club Fever, the final duel on the metro train … Perhaps the most famous scene, at least among shooting enthusiasts, is the alleyway scene. This has been analysed by several shooting instructors, including Dom Raso and Larry Vickers. I have broken down other shootouts as they would play out in GURPS before, for example in my article “Famous Wild West Gunfights” (Pyramid #3/74, pp. 31-35). Below is the alleyway scene in GURPS terms. Watch just the scene here (the action starts at 1:13).

Stop reading if you want to avoid SPOILERS.

Round per Round

Prelude: Bad Guy #1 closes in on Vincent and threatens him with a .380-calibre SIG-Sauer P232SL pistol, gangsta-style (Tactical Shooting, pp. 32-33). Vincent is an assassin (GURPS Action 1: Heroes, p. 7) adept in the Modern Pistol shooting style (Tactical Shooting, pp. 48-49). He is in Triggered mode (Tactical Shooting, p. 34) and raises his hands to fool the Bad Guys into staying Unaware (Tactical Shooting, p. 33). Note how he raises the hands only partially, which actually positions them in a defensive stance that does not look defensive. This is typical of a martial artists trained in a combat style such as Krav Maga (GURPS Martial Arts, p. 183) or Nagasu Do, the style of Collateral’s fight coordinator Michael Gould that is based on Jujutsu (Martial Arts, pp. 166-167). The alleyway is dimly lit, for -3 to Vision (Tactical Shooting, p. 18).

1st Second: Vincent and the Bad Guys roll for Initiative (p. B393). Vincent clearly has Combat Reflexes and wins. The Bad Guys are mentally stunned (p. B393) and forced to take Do Nothing manoeuvres. Vincent takes an All-Out Attack (Determined) manoeuvre to knock Bad Guy #1’s weapon away with his left hand; +4 (All-Out Attack) -4 (off-hand) (Martial Arts, p. 124) -3 (darkness) = -3 to Karate. Vincent probably has the Off-Hand Weapon Training perk (Martial Arts, p. 50) to pay off the -4 penalty, as most styles train both sides equally. He succeeds and Bad Guy #1 fails his defence; -4 (mentally stunned) (p. B420) to Dodge. Vincent hits. Vincent and Bad Guy #1 enter a Quick Contest between DX and DX. Bad Guy #1 obviously lacks the Retain Weapon (Pistol) technique (Tactical Shooting, p. 45). Vincent wins, and the P232SL flies to Vincent’s left.

2nd Second: Vincent takes a Ready manoeuvre to draw his .45-calibre H&K USP pistol (High-Tech, p. 102) with his right hand from a custom-made inside-the-waistband kydex holster behind his right hip; -1 (undercover holster) (High-Tech, p. 154) to Fast-Draw (Pistol) skill. He succeeds, meaning he draws his pistol in this turn and can still perform a combat manoeuvre (p. B194). Since the USP is a double-action (High-Tech, p. 82) and Vincent always carries it with a chambered round, as we have seen only shortly before, he doesn’t need to do anything else to Ready it. Vincent then takes an Attack manoeuvre and fires two unsighted (Tactical Shooting, p. 13) hip-shots (Tactical Shooting, p. 11) at the sternum of Bad Guy #1; +0 (Range) +0 (torso hit location) -3 (darkness) = -3 to Guns (Pistol). He needs to succeed by a margin of 3 to hit with both shots, and he does. Bad Guy #1 fails his defence; -4 (mentally stunned) to Dodge. Bad Guy #1 is knocked down (p. B420) and most likely at -1×HP due to two 2d pi+ hits. Bad Guy #2 makes his IQ roll to overcome the surprise (p. B393) and takes a Ready manoeuvre to get at his own handgun tucked into his waistband.

3rd Second: Bad Guy #2 takes a Ready manoeuvre, still trying to draw his weapon from under his shirt. Vincent now grips his pistol with both hands and changes to a more aggressive Isoceles shooting stance (Tactical Shooting, pp. 11-12). This would ordinarily require a Ready manoeuvre, but Vincent has the Grip Mastery (Pistol) perk (Tactical Shooting, p. 39), which allows him to do this as a free action. He then takes an All-Out-Attack (Determined) manoeuvre, swivelling about 70° to his right front facing (p. B385) and executing a Mozambique Drill (Tactical Shooting, pp. 15-16) on Bad Guy #2; this plays out as a Ranged Rapid Strike (Tactical Shooting, p. 18) with two distinct attacks using two-handed sighted shots (Tactical Shooting, p. 13); +1 (All-Out Attack (Determined)) -6 (Ranged Rapid Strike) +0 (range) +0 (torso hit location) -3 (darkness) = -8 to Guns (Pistol) for the double-tap (Tactical Shooting, p. 15) to the sternum. He needs to succeed by a margin of 3 to hit with both shots, which we later learn he does ‒ and the bullet holes are “a couple of millimetres apart.” The headshot is at +1 (All-Out Attack (Determined)) -6 (Ranged Rapid Strike) +0 (range) -7 (skull hit location) -3 (darkness) = -15 to Guns (Pistol). Bad Guy #2 fails his Dodge rolls. Bad Guy #2 is knocked down and almost certainly instantly dead from the skull hit, which quadruples the 2d pi+ damage after penetration (p. B399). Vincent’s flawless execution of the drill suggests that he has the Quick-Shot (Pistol) and Targeted Attack (Pistol/Skull) techniques (Tactical Shooting, p. 45) to bring down the total penalties, most likely as a Trademark Move (Tactical Shooting, p. 41).


Vincent takes down two opponents in three turns, from an unreadied position. The time elapsed between the first and the fifth shot is just 1.39 seconds, a perfect score by anyone’s reckoning.

Note that Vincent always fires the third shot of the Mozambique Drill without checking for effect, which is against doctrine (Tactical Shooting, p. 16) but not uncommon. This becomes painfully obvious in the train scene when he fires three shots despite being unable to even see his target, let alone whether his double-tap took effect.