Movie Review: Collide
By Matthew Huntley
March 6, 2017
For most of its runtime, Collide faithfully lives up to the label of “silly car chase movie” and I suppose we tolerate it on that level, maybe even admire some of its craftsmanship, but all in all it never becomes anything worth writing home about. In fact, once the movie enters its final act, it crosses a certain threshold of stupidity and absurdity that it no longer functions as a mindless action picture we can stand, but an obnoxious one we must bear.
The movie stars Nicholas Hoult and Felicity Jones, two British actors who do a good job of disguising their accents and play two likable Americans who hook us into an otherwise perfunctory plot. Casey (Hoult) and Juliette (Jones) are a pair of twenty-somethings living in Cologne, Germany because the United States has given them “nothing to go back to,” and if you think the movie is a reflection of our current times, I wouldn't give it that much credit.
When they meet for the first time at a nightclub, Casey is a runner for a Turkish drug dealer named Geran (a very annoying and grossly miscast Ben Kingsley) and Juliette is a bartender. They exchange looks across the room, after which Casey tests out a pickup line on Juliette, but she says she'll only go out with him if he completely gives up his chosen profession.
And just like that, he does, much to the disappointment of Geran. Soon enough, a month goes by and Casey and Juliette have moved in together, and though they're struggling financially, they're happily in love, which the movie pushes as “the only thing that matters.” But then Juliette falls ill and we learn she needs a kidney transplant to live, which costs $200,000. Casey has no choice but to go back to Geran in order to make some “real money” so he can save Juliette's life.
Things have changed, however, because now Geran wants to steal from his own boss, Hagen Kahl (Anthony Hopkins), who uses his corporate empire as a front for his even larger operation as “Germany's biggest drug supplier.” We get a whole summary of how Hagen smuggles cocaine in from Chile via golf balls, distributes it, and then sends the money back in luxury cars. Geran doesn't feel Hagen respects him enough and therefore Geran wants to hijack Hagen's latest shipment, or rather, he wants Casey to do it, and because Casey's fee will all but assure he can pay for Juliette's new kidney, Casey agrees.
Once Casey and his friend Matthias' (Marwan Kenzari) plan to intercept Hagen's product gets underway, Collide essentially becomes one extended chase sequence, with Casey constantly dodging, wrestling, and speeding away from (in a variety of different sports cars) Hagen's monosyllabic, bearded goons. The movie has no shortage of stock car chases, including ones down narrow European streets, where lots of tables, fruit stands, baking carts, etc. line the pebbles and gravel, which makes them prime objects for the cars to destroy. There are also several races down turnpikes, complete with cars flipping over, massive pile-ups, and the usual run-ins with construction sites. You know the drill. And of course, Casey walks away from each of these collisions relatively unscathed. He's driven by love, you see, and continues running and/or driving until the inevitable three-way confrontation between himself, Hagen and Geran, with Juliette functioning as the kidnapped damsel in distress.
One notable quality about Collide is Hopkins' performance, which is no surprises given he's so good in any role he undertakes. He provides Hagen more personality than is probably written on the half-baked screenplay and he's a pleasure to watch. But even so, Collide doesn't really give us anything we feel we can invest in or that remotely justifies the price of admission. Some of the chase scenes are exciting and convincing, as they seem to have been performed with real cars instead of digital ones, but in all honesty, we've seen this kind of stuff time and again and it's not any more special or distinct here.
Where the movie is distinct, and not in a good way, is with the awful performance from Ben Kingsley as Geran. It's hard to see any actor play dumb, especially one as smart and classy as Kingsley (yes, the same actor who played Gandhi), but that's exactly what he does. The Geran character is so cartoonish and stereotypical that Kingsley has little room to be creative and so he resorts to playing a buffoon. His phony, un-funny accent is accompanied by even lamer dialogue, and instead of seeing Geran as any kind of legitimate villain, we see him as an abhorrent caricature whom we can't wait to die already. Why would Kingsley choose to participate in Collide, in any capacity? Who's to say, but my theory is that he must have been under contract or lost a bet, because I can't imagine he saw any real value toward lending his name or talents to this project completely voluntarily. It was when Geran starts talking about Casey's resemblance to Burt Reynolds that I grew angry and all but checked out.
Not that I was ever really checked in. Given how sophisticated movies are these days, particularly those of the action variety, it's somewhat amazing that those like Collide still get green-lit, with its lame title and stale execution. The filmmakers behind it need to remember there's a difference between mindless and lazy. Mindless may not require our highest level of thinking, but it can still bring new, challenging, innovative or funny qualities to the table. Collide doesn't bring much of anything, other than a dumbed down plot, routine chase sequences and archetypal heroes and villains. It starts off hollow and pointless and eventually adds frustrating and irritating to the mix. That's not a good combination.