'Collide': Film Review

Crash and burn is more like it.

Nicholas Hoult and Felicity Jones star in this car chase-driven thriller, which also features Anthony Hopkins and Ben Kingsley as rival gangsters.

Where would distinguished Academy Award-winning actors be in their dotage years if not for B-movies? Fortunately, there are plenty of them to go around — B-movies, I mean — guaranteeing lucrative paychecks and international location travel for the likes of Anthony Hopkins and Ben Kingsley, who compete in Collide to see which one can better chew the scenery.

Not that they’re the stars of this low-rent thriller directed by Eran Creevy. That dubious distinction belongs to British thespians Nicholas Hoult and Felicity Jones, here both playing Americans. That Jones’ star has so recently risen with Rogue One: A Star Wars Story might account for the current release of this long-delayed entry, which opened without being screened for critics.

The attractive young leads play Casey and Juliette, star-crossed lovers who begin a whirlwind romance after meeting in a crowded nightclub in Cologne, Germany. But first, Casey must promise that he’ll give up his lucrative job working for Turkish gangster Geran (Kingsley). The eccentric Geran makes his first appearance in the story surrounded by supine, half-naked women while he’s watching the Jamie Lee Curtis-John Travolta movie Perfect, and that turns out to be one of his more endearing moments.

Enjoying the sort of carefree, happy life signaled by such odd choices as taking off their clothes and lying down in the snow, the two lovers face a crisis when Juliette is suddenly diagnosed with a life-threatening disease requiring a kidney transplant costing $200,000. So Casey is forced to go back to his old employer, who hires him to hijack a truck filled with cocaine.

Said truck belongs to Hagen Kahl (Hopkins), an upstanding businessman who also happens to be Germany’s biggest drug kingpin. There’s bad blood between him and his criminal associate Geran, ever since the latter asked for a full partnership in their illicit business, only to be refused and insulted to his face.

The heist proves successful, but Casey soon finds himself relentlessly pursued by Kahl and his minions in a series of high-speed auto chases that inevitably result in Casey’s car getting totaled. Incredibly, he always manages to steal another one almost immediately, each invariably proving snazzier than the last. The stakes get raised even further when Kahl kidnaps Juliette and dangles her as bait.

Director Creevy (Welcome to the Punch) and co-screenwriter F. Scott Frazier attempt to infuse the proceedings with amusing, campy touches, such as Geran constantly referring to Casey as “Burt Reynolds,” at one point rhapsodizing about Reynold’s fit body in Deliverance. Hopkins is also given drolly amusing dialogue, which the actor delivers with his trademark vocal flair. But the dark humor feels forced and artificial, especially when tied to the utterly ludicrous plot machinations in which Casey evades capture at every turn, whether from the most inept torturer in movie history or endless policemen who somehow fail to guard the back door of the bar they’ve surrounded.

The vehicular mayhem is generally well-staged, and the film moves along at a brisk pace during its fat-free, 99-minute running time. But Hoult and Jones are unable to breathe much life into their bland characters, and it’s ultimately sad to watch the former Hannibal Lecter and Gandhi reduced to playing silly, tough-guy caricatures.

Production companies: 42, Automatik Entertainment, DMG Entertainment, Hands-On Producers, IM Global Film Fund, Silver Pictures
Distributor: Open Road Films
Cast: Nicholas Hoult, Felicity Jones, Anthony Hopkins, Ben Kingsley, Marwan Kenzari, Aleksandar Jovanovic, Christina Rubeck
Director: Eran Creevy
Screenwriters: F. Scott Frazier, Eran Creevy
Producers: Joel Silvers, Ben Pugh, Rory Aitken, Brian Kavanaugh-Jones, Daniel Hetzer
Executive producers: Stuart Ford, Matt Jackson, Steve Squillante, Miguel A. Palos, Jr., Kay Niessen, Hermann Joha, Steve Richards, Alistair Cook, Rick Jackson, Ben Nearn, Tom Rice, Dan Mintz, Wu Bing, Peter Xiao, Chris Fenton, Chris Cowles, Hu Guo, Albert Chen, Steve Soffer
Director of photography: Ed Wild
Production designer: Joel Collins
Costume designer: Sharon Gilham
Music: Ilan Eshkeri
Editor: Chris Gill
Casting: Sasha Robertson

Rated PG-13, 99 minutes