Wednesday, March 1, 2017

In Theaters: COLLIDE (2016)

(US/UK/Germany/China - 2016; US release 2017)

Directed by Eran Creevy. Written by F. Scott Frazier and Eran Creevy. Cast: Nicholas Hoult, Felicity Jones, Anthony Hopkins, Ben Kingsley, Marwan Kenzari, Alexander Jovanovic, Christian Rubeck, Erdal Yildiz, Clemens Schick, Joachim Kral. (PG-13, 99 mins)

Completed in 2014 and a casualty of Relativity's bankruptcy, COLLIDE, a four-country co-production that counts '80s and '90s action guru Joel Silver (PREDATOR, LETHAL WEAPON, DIE HARD, THE MATRIX) among its 31 credited producers, was eventually acquired by Open Road and saw its release date shuffled around multiple times over 2015 and 2016. After playing in Europe and Asia last summer under its original title AUTOBAHN, it's finally been dumped in American theaters with no publicity at all, where it promptly tanked and currently holds the distinction having the sixth worst US opening ever for a movie on over 2000 screens, nestled comfortably between 2015's ROCK THE KASBAH and 2016's RULES DON'T APPLY. There's no denying COLLIDE is a dumb movie, but it's not any dumber than a dozen other action/car chase movies that don't have two esteemed Oscar winners leaving their dignity at the door and hamming it up with reckless abandon. Anthony Hopkins and Ben Kingsley might be in the "Fuck it, just pay me" phases of their careers, but they're having a great time here, especially Hopkins, who's been nothing short of comatose in recent VOD clunkers like MISCONDUCT, SOLACE, and BLACKWAY. At this stage in the game, after three years on the shelf, it's surprising that Open Road would even bother opening this thing wide, especially with zero effort put into selling it, but if you're in the mood for some mindless action with a pair of living legends in a fight to finish for the last crumb of scenery to chew on, you can do a lot worse than COLLIDE.

In Cologne, Germany, American expat and former car thief Casey Stein (Nicholas Hoult) works as a low-level drug dealer and collector for gregarious Turkish crime lord Geran (Kingsley). When Casey meets fellow American Juliette Marne (Felicity Jones) at a rave, it's love at first sight but she knows what kind of work he does and wants no part of it. Walking away from Geran and his life of crime and getting a legit job at a scrapyard, Casey proves he's serious and the pair quickly fall in love and move in together. But when Juliette is diagnosed with a rare kidney disease, her status as an American visitor doesn't get her a spot on the transplant list, so Casey is forced to come up with a lot of cash quickly in order to expedite the process. Of course, this means he goes crawling back to Geran for the proverbial One Last Job: stealing a shipment of Chilean cocaine hidden in a massive shipment of golf balls being taken by truck from Rotterdam to Cologne. The coke and the truck belong to Hagen Kahl (Hopkins), a billionaire industrialist and pillar of the German economic community but also the country's leading drug trafficker, and Geran's supplier. Geran wanted his partnership with Kahl to be 50/50 but Kahl refused, prompting a dissed Geran to plot the clandestine hijacking. What follows are mishaps, double-crosses, and one spectacular car chase after another as Kahl's goons figure out Casey and his buddy Matthias (Marwan Kenzari) took the truck, but while Marwan got away, Casey is held captive by Kahl, who informs him they're going after Juliette until he gives them the coke. Naturally, he manages to escape, with Kahl and his guys in pursuit as he tries to get to Juliette before they do.

COLLIDE is dumb. For being such a prominent figure in Germany, Kahl is pretty cavalier about meeting shady subordinates in restaurants and bars and killing people in public. It probably doesn't make much sense that the coke is being transported in a big rig trailer with Kahl's company logo plastered all over it (the name of the company? You guessed it: "Hagen Kahl"). Director Eran Creevy (WELCOME TO THE PUNCH), who co-wrote the script with F. Scott Frazier (XXX: THE RETURN OF XANDER CAGE), keeps things moving fast and furious (sorry) with some impressively destructive car chases and wild stunt work, and Hoult and Jones are an appealing couple. But none of that is as important as watching Hopkins and Kingsley conduct a master class in doing whatever the hell they want. Kingsley's Geran is a vulgarian who dresses like a geriatric Ali G, lives in a gold-plated trailer, waxes rhapsodic about Burt Reynolds ("The old Burt...from DELIVERANCE...not Burt now...he looks like a mannequin"), dances to Timmy Trumpet's "Freaks," and has terrible taste in movies, lamenting that John Travolta didn't get an Oscar for PERFECT. Hopkins meanwhile, holds his syllables for maximum condescension ("A partnership with you would make no senssssssse"), uses odd vocal inflections and cadences like Christopher Walken, gets randomly shouty for no reason like Whoo-aah!-era Al Pacino, uses his Hannibal Lecter purr to taunt Casey over the phone with "Run run little piggy run run run," calls Casey "bro," asks a guy named Wolfgang if he likes Mozart "because you're about to meet him," and even breaks out a not-bad Sylvester Stallone impression at one point. Hopkins and Kingsley's best days might be behind them, but somebody forgot to tell them they could get away with phoning it in because they're having an absolute blast here, bringing an almost giddy, goofy energy to COLLIDE's otherwise formulaic proceedings. This isn't a great action movie and it's total guilty pleasure material, but COLLIDE could've easily done some modest, mid-range box office if Open Road got behind it. Streaming seems to be its ultimate destination, and it'll have a long, healthy life once it hits Netflix or at least when the "Best of Hopkins and Kingsley in COLLIDE" clips turn up on YouTube. Fans of those two should consider COLLIDE required viewing.

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