Last week we had the misbegotten, massively budgeted Great Wall, a Sino-American co-production that is soulless, international filmmaking at its most flagrant. Now we have the equally bad Collide, a bland action flick with a fifth of the budget but no less mercenary beginnings. In comparison to The Great Wall, the best you can say about Collide is that it avoids allegations of whitewashing by dispensing with characters of color almost entirely in favor of a quick-and-dirty rehash of driving spectacles like Smokey and the Bandit, The Italian Job, and Cannonball Run. The film feels like the product of an algorithm, a form that was completed by studio executives with little artistry in mind but dollar signs in their eyes. Too bad for them, because this movie smells of box office failure.
Casey Stein (Nicholas Hoult), is an American expatriate eking out a living as a drug dealer in Germany after having gotten into unseen trouble with the law for stealing cars (he’s nicknamed Burt Reynolds, because get it?!). He meets bartender Juliette (Felicity Jones) and falls in love with her almost instantaneously and drops out of the criminal lifestyle at her behest. Their blissful love affair is cut short with the news that Juliette has a kidney disease, necessitating expensive dialysis and an organ transplant.
Against Juliette’s wishes, Casey takes a lucrative One Last Job for Eurotrash underboss, Geran (Ben Kingsley), who wants to knock over his boss’s operation after he’s shut out from a bigger piece of the pie. That boss is Hagen Kahl (Anthony Hopkins), a ruthless businessman who uses his legitimate enterprise as a cover for his cocaine dealings. Casey’s task is to abscond with an 18-wheeler containing a shipment of the drugs, a tall order considering the heavy security built into the rig. The job goes bad, and now Casey has to race to save Juliette from the criminals whose pockets he intended to pick.
So much of Collide feels generic, from its store-brand title to the blank-slate leads all the way through its by-the-numbers plot that only the absurd elements emerge as remotely interesting. Kingsley and Hopkins are far, far above this material, having won Oscars in decades past and no longer bothering to turn in good performances. Geran is frequently doped up but Kingsley himself might as well be, speaking through a garbled Turkish accent and wearing more gold than Midas. Hopkins chews both the scenery and his faux-devilish dialogue, clearly free from the restrictions of direction from Eran Creevy, a Guy Ritchie wannabe. Their limited screen time is almost fun enough to justify the boredom you’ll otherwise feel throughout the film.
Jones’s increasing popularity has long been a mystery to me, starting with her acclaimed performance in the insufferable Sundance darling, Like Crazy, from which the first act of this film borrows liberally with its shmoopy courtship scenes between the alleged lovers. Her American accent is more unhealthy than her character’s kidneys, to say nothing of her absent personality, which is intended to be papered over by her party-girl platinum locks and pastel fingernail polish. Other than the fact that she’s pretty, we are given no justification for the mutual love between her and Casey, whom Hoult plays with an equally shaky street-wise American lilt. Casey’s motivations are served up to us via narration, a tell-not-show method that is completely unconvincing. “It’s all about love, man, just go with it” does not make for quality storytelling.
Collide‘s dubious narrative isn’t even enough to support the few energetic car chases that momentarily lift you from daydreams about Mad Max: Fury Road, a movie about vehicular mayhem that makes actual good use of Hoult. The film’s original title in other countries — where it received a release as many as eight months ago — was Autobahn, the setting of one of the aforementioned action scenes (because if you’re shooting in Germany, why not?). It’s possible that Creevy was on set during the production of these scenes, as they are shot with the sort of in-the-car immediacy that you get from a film like Nightcrawler. Using some sneaky editing techniques, Creevy gives the sense that we’re watching a continuous shot of Hoult operating his snazzy sportsters, even as they’re assaulted by gun-wielding thugs. The other scenes of close combat are chopped up all to hell when they’re not lensed in wobble-vision, but the automotive bits have some life to them.
It doesn’t say much about your movie when the most interesting thing onscreen is a minor character’s beard, the owner of which is German star Aleksandar Jovanovic, who would not be out of place behind the bar at a Brooklyn coffee shop. Collide has so little going for it that I’m surprised the film ended up with a release in the U.S. at all, let alone theatrical distribution. One of the producers is Joel Silver, who backed action classics like Lethal Weapon, Die Hard, and The Matrix. The fact that he is reduced to charmless products like Collide is another indication that globalization leads to the death of the middle, where movies with medium-sized budgets are doomed to fail by their lack of imagination. Straight to Redbox with ye.
Action | Open Road Films