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Demolition Derby

Felicity Jones
Felicity Jones
Open Road Films
 99 Minutes
Rated: PG-13
Directed by: Eran Creevy
Starring: Nicholas Hoult, Felicity Jones

Within the last three years, Nicholas Hoult has appeared in two X-Men films and Mad Max: Fury Road, while Felicity Jones has made a Spider-Man movie, a Ron Howard/Dan Brown adaptation, and the Star Wars prequel Rogue One. So, they should know a thing or two by now about good action films. On the other end of the spectrum, Anthony Hopkins and Ben Kingsley have an Oscar apiece and appearances in dozens of the best movies of the last several decades. So, they know far more than a thing or two about quality films. Having said that, I am at a loss to explain what any of them saw, other than a middling paycheck, in the new film Collide, a movie that’s not even close to a good action film or a quality project in any way. The only thing that I’m not at a loss to understand is how the film could sit on the shelf for nearly three years before bombing on arrival.


Collide has aspirations of being a tricky heist thriller studded with numerous action set pieces. However, the only thing tricky about it is the casting of four British actors as two Americans, a German, and a Turk in a movie set and made in Germany. Casey (Hoult) is an American expatriate driver for a drug dealer who is quite good at making sure he can avoid cops and would-be thieves in delivering his cargo. But, when he meets fellow American Juliette (Jones), it’s love at first sight, as long as he swears off his present line of work. He does so, and the couple has an idyllic ten minutes or so of screentime before Juliette learns that she’s going to need a kidney transplant in the near future and, being an American, she doesn’t qualify for national healthcare and will have to cough up big bucks.


So, Casey has no choice but to go back to his former boss, a Turk named Garan (Kingsley) to find work. Garan comes up with a scheme to get even with his business associate, the upper class drug lord Hagen Kahl (Hopkins), a wealthy industrialist who uses his legitimate businesses to occasionally smuggle in major drug shipments that Garan sells on the street for him. When Kahl refuses to make Garan his partner, and insults him to boot, Gran decides to hijack the latest shipment. Casey is tipped off to the route and attempts to steal the drugs while en route, but things don’t go too well. From that point on, Casey more or less improvises things as he goes, even more so when Kahl kidnaps Juliette.


Improvising as they go seems to perfectly describe the acting of Hopkins and Kingsley in this movie. They only have a few scenes in total (and just two with each other), and they seem to be playing a game of attempting to continually trying to out-ham the other. The results are a hoot to watch. Hopkins plays the icy calm sociopath who talks people into putting down their weapons so he can shoot them in cold blood. All the while, he quoties classic poetry and occasionally loses his temper. Kingsley on the other hand, is a complete extroverted degenerate, sort of a Turkish Bluto Blutarski given to dress like a pimp with the worst taste in the world and surround himself with women who would likely be found in the company of the pimp with the best taste in the world. His Garan is a great film buff, extolling the virtues of early Burt Reynolds.


Collide was directed by Eran Creevy, whose forte seems to be directing music videos, and co-written by Creevy and F. Scott Frazier, whose most notable previous credit was last month’s xXx: Return of Xander Cage. Based on the comparative resumes of Creevy and Frazier on the one hand and Hopkins and Kingsley on the other, I strongly suspect that Creevy merely pointed a camera at the two Oscar-winners and turned them loose.


Sadly, Hopkins and Kingsley, between them, are only onscreen for about thirty minutes, leaving the rest of Collide a mess. Creevy does Hoult no favors, shooting a lot of closeups of the actor clenching his lips in the numerous chase scenes, while the vibrant Jones is reduced to a mere damsel in distress, and an ailing one at that. For a movie with a distinct direct-to-video vibe, their roles almost seem written for direct-to-video acting talent.


The plot of Collide manages to be both needlessly complicated and overly simplistic at the same time. On the one hand, the script creates an overly elaborate smuggling scheme that takes several minutes to describe, but then completely ignores all its intricacies in setting up a robbery that’s quite basic. And, quite basic also describes the romance between Casey and Juliette rather well. Of course, with nearly an hour of set pieces, there’s little time for human interaction, and Hopkins and Kingsley hog a lot of that for themselves.


Further, director Creevy displays little flair for action, as evidenced in the scene shown below. He substitutes lots of close-ups of Hoult for depictions of actual action and manages to miss a lot of key moments during each chase. While viewers may get caught up in the pace at first, with so many chase sequences, they quickly pick up on the fact that they aren’t seeing chases but scenes of irrelevant detail made to look like actual chases. The only thing that does seem real is the carnage as most of the film’s $20 million budget seems to have been spent on buying vehicles to be totaled during the course of the various chases.


Collide is a near complete mess of a film enlivened only by two of our finest actors overplaying stock villainous roles and making them something truly bizarre. But they are at cross-purposes with the rest of the movie, which consists of painfully dull drama, ineptly staged action scenes, and attempts at sophistication (including a final twist that doesn’t work) that never come together. After what appears to be an almost non-existent stay in theatres, it’s possible Collide may find a better reception on home video (where, other than the cast resumes, it undoubtedly belongs), where viewers can fast forward to “the good stuff.” In the meantime, the disparate elements of the film continually collide, resulting in a complete mess. Collide is the cinematic equivalent of a 20-car pileup on the expressway during rush hour; something hopefully to be avoided as much as possible. 


In this scene, Nicholas Hoult is able to escape from a tight situation.

Read other reviews of Collide:


Collide (2016) on IMDb