Tag Archives: D

COLLIDE

Producer: Joel Silver, Ben Pugh, Rory Aitken, Brian Kavanaugh-Jones and Daniel Hetzer
Director: Eran Creevy
Writer: F. Scott Frazier and Eran Creevy
Stars: Nicholas Hoult, Felicity Jones, Anthony Hopkins, Ben Kingsley, Marwan Kenzari, Aleksandar Jovanovic and Christina Rubeck
Studio: Open Road Films

D

If proof were needed that not even a starry cast can save a trashy script, “Collide” certainly provides it. The screenplay, by F. Scott Frazier and Eran Creevy, is like an inferior rewrite of something Luc Besson might have written (as impossible as that might seem)—“The Transporter Junior,” perhaps. Creevy’s direction, meanwhile, has the same push-and-pull combination of hysterical action and dumb sentiment that the helmers Besson favors have always exhibited.

But the talent in front of the camera is undeniably impressive. The young leads, Nicholas Hoult and Felicity Jones, are both up-and-comers, while film icons Anthony Hopkins and Ben Kingsley show up in the major supporting roles. They’re all slumming, of course, and what’s worse is that they all—especially Hopkins and Kingsley—let us know that they know they’re slumming, turning in performances that can only be described as so rotten that they approach categorization as high camp.

Hoult plays Casey, an American in Cologne working for a wildly flamboyant Turkish mob chief named Geran (Kingsley). When he meets another American, pretty Juliette (Jones), in a nightclub, though, he decides to go straight—and the two prove a happy, if poor, couple, gamboling about in the snow, until it’s revealed that Juliette is terribly ill and needs a kidney transplant. So Casey goes back to Geran to earn the cash for her treatment.

Fortunately Geran has a job in mind for Casey and his pal Matthias (Marwan Kenzari): hit Hagen Kahl (Hopkins), the smoothly vicious businessman who heads a cocaine-import racket on the side, providing Geran with the product he sells. Kahl has refused Geran’s request to be made a full partner in the operation, snidely insulting the volatile foreigner in the process. Geran wants revenge, so he enlists Casey and Matthias to highjack the Kahl company truck that’s transporting a load of golf balls filled with Chilean coke.

The heist is the final episode in the picture’s initial forty-minute arc, which has actually been pretty tedious. But what follows is an hour of high-octane mayhem, with Casey chased on foot through the narrow Cologne streets, and on the autobahn in a series of stolen cars, by Kahl and his minions, all of whom prove conspicuously poor shots, hitting just about everything but their quarry. (Bearded, steely-eyed Aleksandar Jovanovic as chief Kahl lieutenant Jonas, who stays on Casey’s trail to the very end, is the most notable of the goons.) They’re no better in hand-to-hand combat with the young fellow, who always manages to escape a dire fate by bonking them on the noggin, considerately leaving them only briefly unconscious so that they can get up and continue the pursuit with barely a pause. As for Juliette, she’s kidnapped by the odious Kahl to use as a bargaining chip.

You have to give Hoult credit for going through his role’s physical demands, even if his American accent occasionally falters. Jones is stuck in a thankless part: in the latter sections of the movie she mostly appears in gauzy hallucinations experienced by Casey after he’s crashed yet another of the cars he’s swiped to continue his flight. But the leads are eclipsed by Kingsley and Hopkins, who in this case are like two gigantic slices of thespian ham, though their approaches to scenery-chewing differ. Kingsley goes the utterly wacky route, offering an outlandishly oversized turn that makes his performance in “Sexy Beast” look positively mild by comparison. By contrast Hopkins takes a smugly supercilious tack, smiling snidely while delivering overripe dialogue that mixes sneering injunctions like “Run, run, little piggy” with quotations from Shakespeare. One trusts that both actors received large paychecks for demeaning themselves.

Of course, they also got to spend a few weeks filming in and around Cologne, an area that looks quite attractive in Ed Wild’s widescreen cinematography (the cathedral briefly glimpsed in one sequence is particularly impressive). One should also mention the action choreography, which is pretty good in the chase sequences on both foot and wheels, even if Chris Gill’s editing sometimes gets so frenetic that it’s difficult to appreciate the staging.

Overall, though, “Collide” is a would-be adrenaline rush that like so many films of its kind—remember Ethan Hawke’s “Getaway”?—runs out of gas long before it’s over (a circumstance that Casey must literally contend with in one of his pit stops). In the end the only real reason to check it out is to watch a couple of great actors trying to outdo one another in hamming it up. But be forewarned, it’s not a pleasant sight.

A CURE FOR WELLNESS

Producer: Arnon Milchan, Gore Verbinski and David Crockett
Director: Gore Verbinski
Writer: Justin Haythe
Stars: Jason Isaacs, Dane DeHaan, Mia Goth, Celia Imrie, Adrian Schiller, Harry Groener, Johannes Krisch, Magnus Krepper, Ivo Nandi, Tomas Norstrom, Ashok Mandanna, Lisa Banes, David Bishins and Carl Lumbly
Studio: 20th Century Fox

D

In Hollywood’s seemingly endless crusade to transform old B-movie genres into A-list material, Gore Verbinski, who was instrumental in reviving the pirate picture, resurrects the mad scientist template in “A Cure for Wellness”—particularly the one about the guy who will do anything to bring his wife or fiancée back from the dead (e.g., “The Brain That Wouldn’t Die”). In the process, however, he and writer Justin Haythe have concocted a tale so absurd, presented with such ludicrous solemnity, that it becomes an unintentional spoof—unlike “Pirates of the Caribbean,” which was designed to be funny. The picture is, however, loaded with chilly, elegant visuals—so much that they weigh things down even more.

Beginning with a distinct “Shutter Island” vibe, the film introduces a highly flawed hero named Lockhart (Dane DeHaan), an ambitious young shark at a Wall Street financial firm, with some rule-skirting in his background. He’s called upon by the Board to travel to Europe in order to retrieve the company’s CEO, one Pembroke (Harry Groener), who refuses to return from an Alpine spa but is needed to sign off on documents that will speed through a much-needed merger.

The spa turns out to be housed in an aged mountaintop mansion built on the grounds of a castle that, it is eventually revealed in lethargic fashion, was burned down by angry locals when the last baron was found to be involved in something unspeakable with his beloved sister. Now the place is filled with elderly, white-robed, invariably rich residents who spend their days playing croquet, doing crossword puzzles, eating lavish meals and—more importantly—drinking glass after glass of the supposedly restorative waters prescribed by the establishment’s punctilious, creepily solicitous head, Dr. Volmer (Jason Isaacs).

Lockhart plans to grab Pembroke and depart quickly, but a car crash involving a deer—a sequence Verbinski, cinematographer Bojan Bazelli and editors Lance Pereira and Pete Beaudrea choreograph with typical attention to every detail, as DeHaan is buffeted about—leaves the young man with his leg in a cast, confined to the clinic himself. He does make contact with Pembroke, but the man is determined to stay, muttering about the illness that has long been eating away at him and the efficacy of Volmer’s treatments. Lockhart also encounters an ethereal young girl, Hannah (Mia Goth), of whom Volmer is extraordinarily protective and whom Lockhart comes to believe he must save from the doctor’s obsessive clutches.

It takes Verbinski nearly two-and-a-half hours to reveal the secret of the spa, which involves the fate of the baron and his sister, those curative waters, hordes of swarming eels, the odd nature of Volmer’s medical procedures, and little blue vials of liquid “vitamins” from which he—and others on his staff—regularly place drops on their tongues. As he hobbles about the hallways or into the nearby village in the course of his investigations, poor Lockhart suffers terribly—he’s beaten up so often one loses count, and in addition to the initial car crash will be hurled over the hood of another vehicle while riding a bike. He’ll also be put at the mercy of Volmer’s infernal machines, which at one point submerge him in a tub of water and at another will force-feed him with something else The poor fellow is also tormented by nightmare flashbacks to his unhappy life, particularly his father’s suicide and his mother’s death.

All that will slowly lead to a final confrontation between him and the sinister doctor, in which the latter’s unholy plans are finally unmasked as his happily hooded patients dance wildly in the ballroom to the strains of a waltz by composer Benjamin Wallfisch (who elsewhere contributes a moody repeated theme) that sounds suspiciously similar to the one by Shostakovich that Kubrick used in “Eyes Wide Shut.” The entire final sequence, indeed, seems like a nod to that film, though the denouement also exhibits strong links to “The Phantom of the Opera.”

Throughout DeHaan suffers majestically, at least after the first reel when he’s playing the grinning Wall Street master of the universe. Isaacs appears to be channeling a Nazi stereotype—something accentuated by a scene lifted from “Marathon Man,” yet another of the obvious influences here. Goth is a pretty but blank presence, but Groener and Celia Imrie have a few moments each as the patients we get to know best.

“A Cure for Wellness” looks great, with lots of individually cool shots that take advantage of Eve Stewart’s lavish production design, many of them featuring its water motif (though those showing a car speeding along a cliff-side Alpine road, reminiscent the similar moments from “The Shining,” have a vertiginous impact). But the dank, gray color palette eventually has a numbing effect, as ultimately does the film as a whole. The sheer goofiness of the final reel will doubtlessly wake you up, but before then the slow drip of revelations will probably lull you to near-slumber.

Even with its myriad flaws, however, it must be admitted that the picture is an improvement on Verbinski’s last, “The Lone Ranger.” That observation is what might be referred to as damning with the faintest of praise.