Watching Collide – the action thriller that debuted on roughly 2,000 screens this weekend – will, more likely than not, leave audiences wondering how indeed the film made it to the big screen. Its warmed-over love story, the one-last-job premise that fuels the plot and the parade of cliches it happily checks out of its cinematic bucket list don’t exactly scream “wide theatrical release.” So what then can we attribute the film’s major release to? Certainly, that answers boils down to the four acclaimed stars that frontline Eran Creevy’s third directorial effort.
Nicholas Hoult stars as Casey, a low-level criminal who gives up his life of delinquency when he falls in love with Juliette (Felicity Jones). However, in order for them to live happily ever after, Casey must resume working for drug dealer Geran (Ben Kingsley) on a task that puts both him and Juliette in the crosshairs of notorious kingpin Hagen Kahl (Anthony Hopkins). Now Casey must fight to untangle himself from the life he once knew to ensure a future with the woman he loves. Stop us if you’ve heard this one before. If you’ve seen any subpar action film in the past few decades, we’re guessing you know what we’re getting at.
Essentially, it’s a pretty basic action movie story at hand in Collide, but like so many films these days, it’s the execution rather than the plot that decides whether the film succeeds at presenting a compelling bit of entertainment. Sadly, the script – co-written by Creevy and screenwriter F. Scott Frazier (xXx: Return of Xander Cage) – fails to rise above the boilerplate of its premise, offering neither the over-the-top action nor the multilayered characters that might have otherwise helped it transcend its direct-to-video feel. There’s a distinct lack of vision in place throughout Collide, and the choppy editing – complete with way too many fades to black, a blatant attempt to falsely inflate the drama – and underdeveloped plot points certainly don’t instil much faith in where things are headed early on.
Though Collide doesn’t succeed overall, there are a few flickers of the movie that might have been buried beneath the surface. As Hoult and Jones play it charmingly safe as the undercooked leads, Sirs Kingsley and Hopkins relish the chance to play such morally bereft characters. The Oscar-winning actors clearly recognize that Collide is not high art and play their roles so broadly that they almost wind up fun to watch. Perpetually high and sporting an exaggerated Turkish accent, Kingsley may not have had this much fun since playing a similarly themed role in Iron Man 3.
Meanwhile, Hopkins channels his long gone Hannibal Lecter days as the kind of cooly calm, half-whispering/half-shouting villain that ironically calls his prisoners “bro” and breaks out a Sylvester Stallone impression on a whim (yes, really). Hopkins’ performance is loaded with the kind of bonkers decisions that might have made Collide a blast if the film surrounding it supported such an off-the-wall tenor, but the unambitious script and undercurrent of melodrama that bog down Collide cannot be elevated no matter how much prestige Hopkins and Kingsley lend to the project.
The Fast and Furious series so fantastically captures the devil-may-care feel that would have worked gangbusters for Collide, and the film’s title and marketing campaign definitely play up the possibility of vehicular mayhem. Even on this level, moviegoers expecting some truly memorable chase scenes are likely to be underwhelmed and disappointed when the stakes finally heat up halfway through the film, despite some decent camera work and solid directing on Creevy’s part. In an age when action movies like John Wick (which reportedly cost about the same as Collide, by the way) prove how much can be done for so little, there’s little to blame Collide‘s failings on but lack of creativity.
There’s a mindless, fun B-movie lurking somewhere here, one in which its final-act twist might have seemed like a bit of well-placed misdirection rather than a cop out. Yet, mired by its own self-seriousness, the film never truly uncovers it. Hoult and Jones deliver capable performances as lovers-in-peril Casey and Juliette (yup, there’s a Shakespeare reference in there regarding the latter’s name), but these two are so much better than the material they’re faced with in Collide. Instead of embracing absurdity to wring some fun out of the film (as Kingsley and Hopkins do), they’re left in the ocean of meh that the film leaves in its wake.
A cast of reliable performers slum it in this by-the-numbers action thriller.