It is sometimes true that opposites attract, but that is only usually applicable to people and magnets. When it comes to film, you can’t just throw several opposing forces together and hope that it can be fixed in post-production. Collide is the embodiment of European house music. It has several great moving parts that individually would fare well, but together they crash and burn.
Collide is your typical love story set in the underbelly of a crime syndicate. You know what’s going to happen, you know who is going to get hurt, and you can ultimately guess the outcome. The only fun to be had with these types of films is everything that happens in between, like the car chases and fight choreography. The film’s pacing is fast, and it speeds on from one scene to the next, to the next. It gives the film a rushed feeling, which isn’t uncommon in action films with a focus on car chases, but this film does it even more deliberately than that. Director Eran Creevy no longer uses the steady, contemplative pacing from his first film Shifty, but instead seems to prefer the fast-and-loose approach he used on his second film, Welcome to the Punch. Ideally, for his third film, he would have married the successful aspects of each film to create something stronger. Unfortunately, Collide continuously clashes more often than it coalesces.
Like in Welcome to the Punch, the speedy pacing in Collide is meant to mask just how little material is actually there. There is no character development aside from the ever-common feelings of love being the main motivator, which would be great if the film actually took the time to get us emotionally invested in their relationship or any relationship for that matter. The only things we know for sure are that Casey (Nicholas Hoult) loves Juliette (Felicity Jones), he has a shady past as a car thief, he needs to get money to save Juliette, but his methods will likely get them both killed. There are some nice visual elements that accentuate their relationship, but they are not enough to give their romance definition.The film spends so much time with visual cues to remind the audience why Casey is doing all of this for that it turns from endearing to nagging. Collide needed to rein in the romance and more fully embrace the spectacle of the car chase aspect, even to the degree the Fast & Furious franchise. This is where it could have stood out, but instead ends up playing it safe and predictable on that front as well.
The single biggest flaw in this film is the tone. I can forgive a bad movie if it has enough foresight to be self-aware and play into the joke instead of unintentionally becoming it. One example that also came out this year was screenwriter F. Scott Frazier’s previous film, xXx: Return of Xander Cage. At no point does that Vin Diesel film takes itself seriously, which gives the actors the freedom to play up each of their performances. It’s complete irreverence and absurdity are openly acknowledged, which makes the entire experience less like a losing battle and more like the joke equivalent of a pun. If only Frazier applied the same humorous scope to the screenplay for Collide, the entire film would have been raised from derivative schlock to self-aware shitfest.
The performances prove to be one of the best parts of Collide because you can tell every character is embracing the mediocrity and trying to have fun with their archetypal roles. Nicholas Hoult plays the reluctant hero who shows us that his greatest strength might not be in shoot-outs and fist fights, but in running (or driving) away. Not really the Vin Diesel-like hero the film ended up needing, but Hoult plays the role of tormented lover perfectly. The film’s real MVP comes in the form of a tie between Anthony Hopkins and Ben Kingsley, who both ham up their characters and bring us the only joy to be had in Collide with their unrestrained performances. The biggest disappointment in the film was how little the character of Juliette (Felicity Jones) was actually used. Jones just had two strong performances a couple of months ago in A Monster Calls and Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, so seeing her treated as a shallowly defined damsel in distress put me in distress. Jones deserves much better, but then again so does all the other talent involved in this film.
Collide reminds me of the aftermath from a multiple car pile up on the expressway. Each different car is forced together in a disorienting, tragic pile. While it is sometimes hard to look away from, you know nothing good will come from continuing to watch it. It is upsetting to see all the unused potential involved in this incident (like Hoult, Jones, Hopkins and Kingsley), and just by experiencing it, you’re instantly made a victim of this disaster too.