When Hunter (Ryan Phillippe of Shooter 2016-18) settles into his chair for a blind date with the beautiful Tamira (Kat Graham of Love in the Villa 2022) he sits on a ticking time bomb. No really, there’s a bomb under his chair! This is how we are introduced to one of the three essential pairs of people in this gripping drama: Hunter and Tamira, Lily (Aisha Dee) and Zee (Dylan Flashner), and Angie (Drea de Matteo of the The Sopranos 1999-2007) and Mikey (David Cade). Actually, this last duo is really a trio including Peter, played with angst by the usually affable Jim Gaffigan. The movie is compressed in time and space, unfolding across a few hours and almost entirely inside a chic restaurant called Collision. Unbeknownst to the other groupings, or the employees and diners of the restaurant, each couple or trio is involved in a perilous situation that could too easily become deadly.
Angie is engaged in an illicit affair with Mikey, the shady manager of Collision who happens to be skimming from the restaurant’s profits and terrorizing the staff, seemingly for his amusement. He’s in the process of convincing Angie to invest in a new restaurant venture, on the same street and their amorous scheming is on full display. Angie thinks she’s outsmarted her grief-stricken husband who has hired a private detective and found definitive proof of his wife’s betrayal. However, not only is Peter on to Angie’s adulterous ways, but he’s parked outside the restaurant with a gun in his car, watching her obviously romantic interactions with the sleazy Mikey.
Lily and Zee are more hopeful, but also impossibly naïve. You see, Zee – Collision’s young white dishwasher – has stumbled upon an unclaimed stash of cocaine and has surmised a plan to sell it to some local drug dealers. He’s hidden it in one of the restaurant freezers and the transaction is imminent. A kingpin drug dealer is on the way with his henchmen and a briefcase full of cash. The timing couldn’t be better, or worse. You see, Lily, Zee’s black girlfriend a waitress at Collision, is pregnant. When she tells him her news, she is obviously nervous and unclear on what his reaction will be. The good news? It’s joy! The bad news, he tells her of his plans for the sale of the cocaine stash and the impending cash as their ticket to a new life: him, Lily, and baby makes three. More bad news? With her childlike optimism, Lily reveals Zee’s plans to his brother who shows up in the restaurant, fresh out of jail, and clearly looking for trouble. Trouble here means laying claim to the cocaine stash and disrupting the impending sale.
The third grouping, Hunter and Tamira, have the power to take out everyone in the restaurant, literally. As the fateful blind date unfolds, we learn that this encounter is no accident. Tamira, a black South African woman, has orchestrated the meeting with Hunter, the white South African son of the people on whose vineyard Tamira’s family once laboured. Hunter’s father, a government operative for the racist South African regime was once paid to terrorize and kill enemies of the state and many such people were black and people of colour South Africans who were simply trying to live their lives. Two such people were Tamira’s parents who were, we soon learn, victims of one of these hits. The memory of her parents’ deaths was scorched into a young Tamira’s mind since, not only did her parents lose their lives, but she also lost a foot during the attack. Tamira’s well-placed, pressure-sensitive bomb beneath Hunter’s restaurant chair ensures that he can’t escape his reckoning. If he stands up, the bomb will go off, killing him, Tamira, and others in the restaurant. He must stay, and, for the first time in his privileged white life, listen to the litany of harms that he and his family have inflicted on others. Hunter has been lured to the restaurant to atone for his family’s lethal sins and it is only with Tamira’s unrelenting narrative that he admits to his role in their racist crimes.
Collide is part psychological thriller, part drama. But while the premise is extremely promising, its emotionally taught narrative is not completely fulfilled. The lack of developed back stories and clearly articulated connections between characters make it hard to care deeply about the people who may soon be dead. For instance, while Tamira’s story is harrowing, like Hunter, the first and only time we see her is in the restaurant and the audience must imagine the nature of her childhood suffering only from her impassioned descriptions and a grainy photograph. There are no flashbacks to fill in the gaps for any character’s story. Therefore, we are given no backstory to understand how Angie’s and Peter’s marriage has devolved to this state and when Zee’s brother shows up, we are given no information on their prior relationship. Also missing is any type of musical score that could help to build and sustain the audience’s emotional connection.
Collide is about the collision of connected and unconnected lives through random and deliberate meetings. But while the basis of the plot is sound, the execution is lacking, leading to a dramatic but somehow, disappointing climax. When the collisions finally occur, not everyone survives, but one pair does stumble off into a new life with that briefcase full of cash.