Sir Ben Kingsley has never been shy about hamming it up in low-rent garbage (check out 2015’s “Self / Less” to watch him dye his skin orange and play a bald-headed version of Trump), but his latest performance takes things to another level entirely. The kind of low-rent action movie that only exists because everybody involved knew that nobody in the Western world would ever see it, Eran Creevy’s “Collide” stars Nicholas Hoult as a reformed car thief and Felicity Jones as the dying girlfriend whose kidney failure inspires him to do one last job.
But they’re both really boring. You know who’s not boring? Geran, the Turkish drug kingpin who lives in a gold-plated trailer with four prostitutes, suffers from short-term memory loss, and likes to spend his free time watching the 1985 John Travolta classic, “Perfect” (that’s the one where Travolta goes undercover in a Los Angeles fitness club). Kingsley, who spends the whole movie hiding behind a pair of inarguably awesome blue-tinted sunglasses, brings the character to life with an accent that goes from 0-60 in less than three syllables, and it’s almost worth the price of admission just to hear him apply it to his climactic monologue about how hot Burt Reynolds was in “Deliverance.”
Very, very few actors could get away with this kind of performance. In fact, on an internationally funded production of this size, only a royally knighted Oscar winner could even attempt something so insane without causing the financiers to pull the plug. Enter Sir Anthony Hopkins.
Playing Hagen Kahl, a deceptively genteel businessman who smuggles golf balls filled with cocaine and is so generally sociopathic that it’s hard to imagine how he puts on his turquoise suit pants every morning, Hopkins goes toe-to-toe with Kingsley every step of the way (nevermind that the character, supposedly a criminal mastermind, can’t figure out that Geran obviously hired Hoult’s slack-jawed lead to steal from him).
Kahl doesn’t have an accent, but he shouts every third word just so you know he’s seen some really dark shit in his day. The master thespians only share two scenes together, but both of them manage to overcome some absurdly generic dialogue and blossom into absolute corkers. Remember the Pacino/De Niro restaurant scene from “Heat”? Imagine that, but nothing matters, the writing is terrible, and both characters are completely nuts.
If only they were on screen for more than a few minutes of this soulless dreck, then maybe “Collide” could have been something worth seeing. As it stands, Creevy’s film is every bit as forgettable as its title. Opening with some numbingly banal voiceover from Hoult that does a good job of setting the tone for what’s to come (“Reasons. We all have our reasons to do crazy, reckless things in life”), the movie races out of the gate with the credibility of a soap opera and the creativity of a car commercial.
Jones, leaning into playing a contemporary woman who isn’t burdened by having to save a galaxy or stay faithful to Stephen Hawking, manages to add some zest to her damsel in distress, even if she’s incapable of saving the laughable scene where she first falls ill (it involves her rolling around the snow in her underwear). Hoult isn’t quite so fortunate — spending most of the movie sitting behind the wheel of a sports car and staring blankly down the lens of the camera, the actor seems as depressed by the material as viewers will be. Watching him speed through the film’s European locations is a stultifying bore, especially because Creevy can’t seem to keep up with the action.
“Collide” is a bit more competent when it slows down, as it does for a mid-movie chase sequence through a rustic German village (brace for the obligatory light parkour), but the vehicular carnage is much too messy to justify destroying so many perfectly good cars. Never quite sure where to put his cameras, Creevy attempts to compensate by placing them everywhere, and cutting between them as if at random. He even manages to waste a chase sequence on the Autobahn, an unforgivable offense in the age of “The Fast and the Furious.” Now if only Vin Diesel could be convinced to cast Ben Kingsley and Anthony Hopkins as Charlize Theron’s two dads in “Furious 9,” then “Collide” might be worth something. Until then, this bargain-bin disaster deserves a one-way trip to the junkyard.
“Collide” is now playing in theaters.