“Collide” opens, in earnest, with a preamble about reasons. The narration comes immediately. “We all have our reasons,” says protagonist Casey Stein (Nicholas Hoult), “and mine is love.”
Currently trapped inside a flipped over car — we’ll get to that later — Casey is alive right now because of love. That intangible magic he says “we all believe in.” It’s a broadly appealing sentiment with which to begin a film, but it also illuminates the script’s unending search for, ironically, reason.
I don’t subscribe to the notion that a piece of art shows its entire hand within its first ten minutes; there are plenty of quality movies with less than auspicious beginnings. However, director Eran Creevy’s third feature (following “Shifty” and “Welcome to the Punch”) doesn’t inspire a whole lot of confidence with its bland introduction.
Written by F. Scott Frazier (“xXx: Return of Xander Cage”) and Creevy, the story pivots to some 20-something flirtation between Casey and Juliette (Felicity Jones). Both are British actors playing Americans who have, for various reasons, absconded to Germany. Their accents, originating from unnamed US cities, are inconsistent at best, confusing at worst. The attraction between the two of them feels authentic enough, though.
After making prolonged eye-contact — he standing in a crowd, she behind the bar — the two engage. Eventually that leads to a surprisingly candid conversation in which Juliette presents herself as a no-BS kind of person. And Casey, she believes, is currently BS. “Collide” peaks right about here: their dialogue is delivered solemnly, but tenderly.
It’s presumptuous of Juliette to tell Casey she’s not interested in his way of life (i.e., his hidden hustle, drug smuggling for Sir Ben Kingsley) after knowing him for all of 25 minutes, but she’s smart enough to know what she wants and what she doesn’t want. She’s not interested in inviting crime or controversy into her life. So she leaves.
Skip ahead about ten minutes and Casey has severed ties with Geran (Kingsley) and is ready to date Juliette. Within a matter of moments the movie segues into a full-fledged amorous montage, despite having made no attempt to explain their respective backstories. It’s for us to deduce through behavior. After (or, rather, during) the series of shots set to Raury’s “God’s Whisper” (remember that song from 2014?) the two move in together.
Consistent with its jagged rhythm, “Collide” twists and turns into something else. What at first appears as a love story ultimately reveals itself as a tedious action film in which Casey re-enters the underground crime circuit. The reason? Yes, love again. Juliette is in need of a kidney transplant but cannot receive one as a foreigner without a boatload of money.
Creevy’s insistence on helming a low-fi thriller proves to be the film’s undoing. Without the budding chemistry of Hoult and Jones, together on screen, the film loses steam. Just as the two emerging talents were developing a rapport, Creevy cuts to a car-chase movie nobody wanted.
To inject some new life into Casey’s heist, the script throws in a subplot for Geran and his partner-in-crime, Hagen Kahl (Anthony Hopkins). Both Kingsley and Hopkins are veterans at playing villainous characters, evil, mendacious men who seem to take pleasure in making the audience squirm with their nastiness. The contrived conflict here is that after years of working together, Geran no longer finds their relationship equitable. He wants an even cut from the work they do. Hagen, in turn, says, “You could never be an equal partner with me.” Burn!
And so the story is written: Casey and company plot with Geran to get back at Hagen. What’s most disappointing about these ancillary elements is that Hopkins and Kingsley both turn in some of weakest work of their careers. Each are equally cartoonish in delivery. Imagine watching everything you enjoy about these two — Hopkins’ literary, metaphorical asides or Kingsley’s electrifying intensity — but cranked up to 100. I know their objective is to act. That’s what they were paid to do. What happened on the set of “Collide” was something else.
If you’re wondering why a film with such notable cast members is one you’ve never heard of before, this was a title that got lost in Relativity’s bankruptcy — not that it doesn’t have problems of its own. “Collide” has been sitting on the shelves for over three years; no need to get up now and see it.