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Collision movie review: This South African thriller about race and power is a drab affair

Directed and co-written by Fabien Martorell, Collision is an underwhelming film that lacks a clearly-defined premise and a gripping narrative for the chosen subject matter.

2rating
  • Swaroop Kodur

Last Updated: 06.06 AM, Jun 17, 2022

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Collision movie review: This South African thriller about race and power is a drab affair
Collision on Netflix

Story:

In the course of three days, multiple lives in the mega city of Johannesburg are intertwined as a notorious gangster kidnaps the daughter of a wealthy but racist army veteran. While the latter and his wife try to track their daughter down, the same eventful night sees tensions between the locals and migrants blow out of proportion and result in intense civil unrest on the streets. With greed, power, and racism simmering under the surface, will the collision prove to be a catastrophe for everyone? Or become a rite of passage instead?

Review:

South African cinema has been on a consistent rise in the post-apartheid era. Films made over the last couple of decades have stemmed from distinct voices that have confronted the nation’s controversial past and wobbly present in equal measure, and the action-thriller genre has become the go-to choice for the new-age filmmakers. Netflix alone boasts of at least a dozen worthwhile titles in this regard (along with consistent additions to the drama and comedy categories) and the latest offering comes in the form of Collision, a seemingly edge-of-the-seat thriller/drama that comprises an ensemble cast and a complex plot dealing with racism, power, and the likes. As the title implies, the film is about a collision, of both literal and metaphorical kinds with the former being the starting and culminating point of the narrative and the latter representing the harsh reality of the racially segregated Johannesburg. And just as with any collision on a big scale, this one too threatens to be fatal for the many characters involved, except that they all have a slim chance to redeem themselves. But, despite the promising setup and a vast social arena for the story to unfold, Collision is a film that’s all over the place and rigged with issues like bad writing and even worse on-screen performances. It is indeed a collision of many vibrant ideas that leaves a big confused mess behind for a movie.

Johan Greser (played by Langley Kirkwood) has his eyes set on a plush CFO job at the very firm he works for as the chief security officer. His days in the military have left him blunt, stern, and racist – much to his dismay, his rebellious daughter Nicki loves hip-hop music and is even dating Cecil, a black guy from the ghetto. And yet, Johan’s compelled to have ties with a black gang lord named Bra Sol (Vuyo Dabula) so as to amplify the business of his firm but things go sour pretty soon when he breaches their deal. Bra Sol, aided by his lust for power and greed, gets Nicki kidnapped and threatens Johan to send her away as part of a human trafficking export, unless his demand for half a million rand is met. The film also employs a sub-plot wherein a modest store owner is triggered when a hard-working Nigerian, new to the neighborhood, beats him to acquire a supermarket space that he had his eyes on for a very long time. Although the main and subplots never really meet but only “collide” in the climax, the film, to its credit, intends on establishing the racial hierarchy that exists within the same society – whites hate on blacks, blacks hate on migrants like Nigerians and Zimbabweans, etc. Characters are heard speaking not one but multiple languages – English, Zulu, Afrikaans, Tswana, etc. – to further reveal the multiethnic world of South Africa.

But the film is a drab affair and there’s no overlooking that despite all its thematic merits. Director Fabien Martorell’s (also co-writer with Sean Cameron Michael) direction lacks the intent or the skill to lend his intricate story world any edge or originality, and the pacing too seems all over the place. We see people from all walks of life throughout the film – corporate businessmen, musicians, thieves, gangsters, pimps, human traffickers, etc. – but the gaze is all over the place which doesn’t allow the viewer to empathize with any character, let alone the entire cast. The over-the-top performances and cliched dialogue don’t help the cause either, thus making the film feel borrowed and rehashed in terms of sensibility and tone. There are a few interesting moments for sure, especially the ones involving Johan Greser and his simmering hatred for the indigenous groups, but they occur sporadically and even when they do, there is no significant bearing on the plot.

Verdict:

Collision is an underwhelming film that lacks a clearly-defined premise and a gripping narrative for the chosen subject matter. Also, there is very little the film offers in terms of originality, and comes across as a diluted version of the likes of Crash, Traffic, and others. Watch the film only to understand the multi-hyphenated world and culture of South Africa and how, despite the end of the apartheid, many such societies are still rigged with racial tensions.

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