When it was released in Germany back in 2014, director & co-writer Eran Creevy’s uninspired but bullet-riddled crime thriller “Collide” (** OUT OF ****) went by the title “Autobahn” since segments of this saga careened around on those high-speed highways. Indeed, the most exciting scenes in “Collide” take place on the highway, when our resilient but reckless hero smashes and crashes several cars. “xXx: Return of Zander Cage” scenarist F. Scott Frazier collaborated on the script with Creevy, best known for an earlier thriller “Welcome to the Punch” (2013), co-starring James McAvoy, Mark Strong, and David Morrissey. Frazier and Creevy have assembled all the usual clichés in a story reminiscent of Quentin Tarantino’s script for Tony Scott’s classic 1993 movie “True Romance,” with Christian Slater and Patricia Arquette. “Collide” interweaves a love story with vehicular mayhem. Naturally, collision qualifies as a recurring theme. Two twentysomething Americans living abroad run into each other during a rave and become romantically inseparable. Initially, she refuses to have anything to do with him unless he stops selling narcotics for a psychotic Turkish drug dealer. Eventually, he discovers that she needs a kidney transplant. Meantime, our troubled hero agrees to participate in a multi-million-dollar narcotics hijacking to pay for her transplant with his cut of the loot. Our hero is far from prepared for the consequences when things go sideways. British actor Nicholas Hoult and British actress Felicity Jones are adequately cast as two woebegone Americans who lock horns with an affluent German millionaire and his army of predatory gunmen. The millionaire wants them because our hero stole a truckload of cocaine from him. Scores of pistol-packing Germans scramble after him both in cars as well as on foot. Mind you, the adrenaline-laced, pedal-to-the-metal chase scenes are gripping, but the hero and heroine qualify as thinly-etched characters, with little to distinguish them apart from their chemistry with each other. Oscar-winning actors Anthony Hopkins and Ben Kingsley garner considerably less screen time as rival villains, but they deliver scene-stealing performances that should distract you from Hoult and Jones. “Collide” literally amounts to a collision not only between the hero and heroine, but everybody else involved in this derivative, run-of-the-mill, PG-13 rated melodrama that inserts at least one surprise during its sinewy, 99-minute running time.
Casey Stein (Nicholas Hoult of “Mad Max: Fury Road”) has fled from America because he jacked one too many vehicles. Now, he works as a henchman for Geran (Ben Kingsley of “Iron Man 3”) who operates a racetrack as well as a bordello. Meantime, when Casey isn’t running Geran’s errands, he samples the night life around Cologne, Germany. One evening, he encounters an attractive barkeep, Juliette Marne (Felicity Jones of “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story”), and they discuss the metaphysics of fate governing their lives. Predictably, the two hit it off and shack up, but not before Casey renounces all ties to Geran at Juliette’s insistence. Our two love-birds experience a momentary setback when Casey discovers that Juliette hasn’t been entirely honest about herself. After mysteriously collapsing, she winds up at a local hospital, must undergo dialysis, and learns that she needs a $200-thousand-dollar kidney transplant since she isn’t a German citizen. Afterward, we see our sympathetic heroine attached to a dialysis machine, as this far-fetched, B-movie thriller veers momentarily into reality. Frustrated with his grueling, junk yard job and unable to pay for Juliette’s transplant, Casey goes back to Geran. Geran, Casey, and Geran’s other henchman Matthias (Marwan Kenzari of the recent “Ben-Hur” remake) concoct a daring plan to steal a tractor-trailer load of drugs that belong to a legitimate but larcenous businessman, Hagen Kahl (Anthony Hopkins of “Silence of the Lambs”), who traffics in thousands of golf balls filled with cocaine. Naturally, Juliette knows nothing about Casey’s recidivism. Once he has gone back into business with Geran, Casey refuses to inform on to Kahl after his henchmen capture him. Casey’s love for Juliette is such that he refuses to give up despite the overwhelming odds against him. Meantime, Kahl and Geran have worked together in the past, but the ambitious Geran wants to be his partner rather than merely an accomplice. Geran demands more than Kahl is willing to concede, and Kahl’s reluctance prompts Geran to rob him, with Casey and Matthias performing the deed.
“Collide” doesn’t look like a big screen movie despite its abundance of talent and action. Legendary action producer Joel Silver, who produced cinematic blockbusters for Sylvester Stallone, Bruce Willis, and Mel Gibson back in the halcyon 1990s, provided the financing for the careening, runaway auto chases that degenerate into dizzy demolition derbies. Nevertheless, despite its muscular $21 million budget, “Collide” resembles an average, low-octane, straight-to-video thriller release. Fortunately, Frazier and Creevy keep our hero jumping through one metaphorical flaming hoop after another without let-up so he is sufficiently challenged. Sadly, whatever momentum the film occasionally generates is undercut by the wholly predictable nature of the action. Not long after the villains capture Casey, they learn about his relationship with Juliette, and she becomes a traditional damsel-in-distress who cannot defend herself. According to his voice-over narration, Casey insists that his deep love for Juliette justifies one crime after another that he resorts to for her benefit. As a shrewd strategy to grab audiences, Creevy and Frazier kick-start “Collide” with a bracing car chase and crash on the autobahn and then plunge viewers into a flashback that continues until everything comes full circle. As well-intentioned as Casey Stein is as a hero, he isn’t a particularly admirable character, and he cannot drive worth a diddly squat. Not surprisingly, our hero and heroine live happily ever after, and the bad guys get their comeuppance, but little about “Collide” is groundbreaking. As a double-dyed villain, Anthony Hopkins enlivens every scene, and Ben Kingsley is just as entertaining as his antagonist. You won’t miss anything if you wait for this routine thriller to show up as a streaming Netflix rental.