I can name this movie in one scene.
Hey, I’m a professional. I’ve been doing this for decades. You think I can’t spot a clumsy South African “Crash” knockoff in thirty seconds or less?
“Collision” is the title of this South African variation on an Oscar winning theme. It’s a slow-footed, convoluted “coincidence” riddled take on the movie in which all of LA’s problems are laid bare thanks to a traffic pileup. So it’s not like director and co-writer Fabien Martorell was hiding his cards or anything.
South Africa’s growing pains, prejudice against “foreigners” from Nigeria and Zimbabwe are brought up. Corruption and the old (Apartheid) way of doing things are confronted. Generational schisms, a gangster lying to his mama about doing good by financing a school, a white teen rebelling about “What YOUR people did to this country” to her white father, human trafficking, protection rackets, a kid trying to make his break in the music business all are connected, and rather clumsily brought together at that one fateful intersection in the film’s opening scene.
This Around the World with Netflix film is, of course, a string of flashbacks that connect every story thread to every other one as they stumble towards that pile-up and the pistols that come out after it. That story structure can make a short movie — this one’s only 93 minutes are so plus credits — play as lumbering and slow, because we know what’s coming, and everything that keeps us from getting to that finale can feel contrived.
But here are the threads that must be stitched together, or left hanging.
Bra Sol (Vuyo Sneedon) is a gangster, collecting protection money from businesses and in debt to bigger gangsters, which is why he’s counting on a deal that this Afrikaner Johan (Langley Kirkwood) might make if he gets the Big Promotion. Johan’s under a bit of pressure.
Johan’s teen daughter (Zoey Sneedon) is acting out against her parents (Tessa Jubber plays her mom) and her white privilege by sneaking around with a handsome aspiring singer, Cecil (Siphesihle Vazi).
Palesa (Samke Makhoba) is the daughter of a shopkeeper who is being shaken down by Bra Sol, but who is taking out his frustration on “foreigners.” She’s sweet on a Nigerian cook.
Thando (Mpho Sebeng) is pals with Cecil, but too-eager to get his hands on some money by any means necessary. He’d love to do a solid for Bra Sol and get in with the gangster scene.
Not every thread is resolved in that car crash, and some seem to run straight into the brick wall of the limited imagination of the screenwriters.
Guns are a favorite “end this/resolve this” solution to lazy writers.
The picture staggers and stumbles towards its climax via board meetings and mobster threats, teen sex and club singing debuts and the like.
There’s a lot here to work through and work out, and too much is left feeling unfinished or not wholly thought through.
It’s OK to copy “Crash,” one of the most controversial Best Picture winners in recent Oscar history. That formula, strangers (or connected acquaintances) pre-dates that all-star melodrama by a century. But you’d better back-engineer your story thoroughly once you’ve borrowed a time-honored framework for a thriller.
Because it’s worked before. And when it doesn’t work for you, that’s on you, not on the folks you borrowed from.
Rating: TV-MA, violence, sexual situations, profanity
Cast: Vuyo Dabula, Zoey Sneedon, Langley Kirkwood, Samke Makhoba, Siphesihle Vazi, Mpho Sebeng and Tessa Jubber
Credits: Directed by Fabien Martorell, script by Fabien Martorell and Sean Cameron Michael. A Netflix release.
Running time: 1:39