Movie Review - Collide (2017)

Ever since the success of The Fast and the Furious franchise, action movies have tried to craft themselves around car chases. Mad Max: Fury Road represents the pinnacle or the extreme case. Many action films though going back to the 1960's have featured at least one car chase. Some are more spectacular than others. Yet, there are action films that lean heavily on one kind of genre, whether it's martial arts or gunfire. This one does lean on its car chases. So much so, the screenplay makes excuses, perhaps silly excuses to keep the camera focused on the moving vehicles. One of the co-writers is F. Scott Frazier who wrote XXX: Return of Zander Cage, another dumb action flick starring Vin Diesel, the star of The Fast and the Furious franchise, so there is some connective tissue somewhat between those Vin Diesel films and this one.

Nicholas Hoult who was also in Mad Max: Fury Road stars as Casey Stein, a 20-something American who has taken refuge in Germany and has basically become a low-level thug for a Turkish drug dealer and slight kingpin. He's only been involved for six months. He's not into drugs himself and he's not that beholden. He's not in too deep in other words.

Felicity Jones (The Theory of Everything and Rogue One) co-stars as Juliette Marne, another 20-something American who has also taken refuge in Germany for her own reasons. She's currently working as a bartender at a nightclub that is either owned or frequented by the Turkish gangster. She's charmed by Casey but doesn't want any more association with that gangster. Otherwise, she's a smart and lovely girl.

A quick montage establishes the romance between Casey and Juliette. It allows the narrative to get to its premise faster, which is Casey learns Juliette needs a kidney transplant but neither can afford it. Casey left the Turkish gangster for Juliette's initial affection. Now, he decides to go back to a life of crime in order to raise money for Juliette's transplant. What follows is an adrenaline-fueled, rubber-burning version of Dog Day Afternoon.

Ben Kingsley (Gandhi and Sexy Beast) also co-stars as Geran, the aforementioned Turkish gangster who despite being a brutal maniac is the film's comic relief. He's forgetful of people's names. He calls Casey by Burt Reynolds because the Turk thinks Casey resembles Burt Reynolds. Geran is also into John Travolta films as well as his own harems. He's frequently surrounded by nude, or nearly nude women.

Anthony Hopkins (The Silence of the Lambs and Nixon) also co-stars as Hagen Kohl, a German gangster who is more of a kingpin than Geran. They seem like contemporaries, but clearly Hagen has more money and power. Hagen is in fact running a high-tech, high-end and intricate operation that mirrors a multinational business. He has warehouses and semi-trailer trucks running all over Germany with drugs and illegal cash.

Both Kingsley and Hopkins are two, Oscar-winning actors. I'm not sure if they've worked together before, but it's great to see these two great actors on screen. Hopkins is exercising and flexing muscles that are familiar, and he is exuding this cool, calm gravitas that's similar to his, iconic Hannibal Lecter. It's well-played opposite Kingsley's character, which is the other side of the same coin, though a tad more quirky.

Their screen time might be too short in terms of their shared, scenes, but I wasn't bothered by Nicholas Hoult's dominance in the frame for the majority of the running time. Hoult like many young British actors has proven himself a genuine talent. He's probably best known as playing a young Hank McCoy in X-Men: First Class (2011). He was a geeky kid a little uncomfortable in his skin, which juxtaposes against his biggest TV role in BBC America's Skins. His best role though was in A Single Man (2009), but this one provides some range that Vin Diesel perhaps didn't get or else couldn't pull off.

While Diesel has delivered great performances in films like Saving Private Ryan (1998) and Find Me Guilty (2006), he's no better than Arnold Schwarzenegger in a lot of action films, but Hoult here conveys so many emotions believably. It perhaps helps that Hoult possesses two of the most gorgeous pair of blue eyes ever captured on film. Hoult himself is a very gorgeous, young man top to bottom. He's attractive and charming as Hell. He's total eye-candy, but there's such a spirit to him that's so engaging. You feel for him. His character could in fact be a young Burt Reynolds, but realistically he's like a younger and more talented Paul Walker from The Fast and the Furious.

Directed and co-written by Eran Creevy, there's much that is imperfect here. This is Creevy's third feature. All three have been crime dramas. Creevy was nominated for a BAFTA for his debut, Shifty, which depicts a day in the life of a drug dealer who cleverly escapes other criminals more powerful than him by pitting them against each other. The DNA of that, which Creevy apparently enjoys, is ever-present here. In Shifty, he didn't have to contrive insane, action scenes. He does so here and they can't help but feel contrived. All of the car chases are literally unnecessary if one thinks about it all the intelligence available.

As such, the million or so chases can seem like too much, but Creevy is able to sprinkle in moments that allow his actors to shine, which breaks up the monotony of the chases in a good way. A moment at a gas station is particularly memorable. It's heartening, as it is scary and darkly humorous. Allowing Kingsley and Hopkins to shine and allowing for close-ups of Hoult's gorgeous baby-blues saves the film or at least distracts from its logic gaps.

Creevy's better film still stands as Shifty, mainly for its better drawing of characters and environment. There was more authenticity in almost every aspect. This film is more cartoonish, but Hoult is sexy and the momentum is fun.

Rated PG-13 for violence, frenetic action, some sexuality, language and drug material.
Running Time: 1 hr. and 39 mins.


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