Collision Course is not the Deep Police Brutality Film Its Pretending to Be

September 6, 2022

In September 2016, I was picked up from my university apartment in Enugu by members of the now “defunct” Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) with a gun pointed at my face. My crime? I lived in the same building as an alleged cultist. That Saturday was one of the scariest moments of my life, only to be rivalled by the time gun-wielding police officers chased me during the #EndSARS protests

Going into Bolanle Austen-Peters’ new Netflix film, Collision Course, I knew I would be triggered. The film’s promotional narrative sold it as a story attempting to hold a mirror to society, with a heavy focus on police brutality and its impact on Nigerians like me. And yes, I did get triggered watching Collision Course, but not for the reasons you’d expect. 

Collision Course introduces its protagonist, Mide  (Daniel Etim Effiong), with a situation that feels all too familiar to young Nigerians. On a night ride, Mide is kidnapped by the film’s version of SARS (TARZ), beaten and extorted. The events of that night leave him traumatised until another encounter with a local police officer (Kelechi Udegbe) changes his life forever. 

While Collision Course starts on the right, albeit traumatic foot, the film quickly turns away from Mide’s life to focus on the police officer who kills him, Corporal  Magnus. If trenches were to be captured on film, Magnus’ house and family life would do it justice. From a dilapidated structure and bowls of garri  to a “nagging” wife, Collision Course tries to convince us that Magnus is really going through it and is a victim  of his circumstance. The pity party for Magnus is so intense that by the time Mide dies, you’re supposed to pity both the murderer and the murdered.. 

This pity party for Corporal Magnus is one of Collision Course’s biggest flaws. 

Despite a rousing effort by Daniel Ettim Effiong to make Mide feel real, the film’s script works as an opp. Corporal Magnus gets a well-rounded story arc to get the audience to understand his motives, but Mide doesn’t feel like a real person. What millennial performs dead rap music with an Afro wig at Quilox in the year of our lord, 2022? 

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There’s no gainsaying Nigeria is messed up. We all live here. But Collision Course’s attempt to all-lives-matter one of Nigeria’s most unfortunate social problems with rogue law enforcement makes it a copaganda project. It’s not trying to hold the police system accountable, it’s a contrived attempt to get people to “understand” their side, and that’s just fucked up.

Two other things stick out like sore thumbs in Collision Course. In the film’s climax, Corporal Magnus kills Mide by accidental discharge, a move by the film itself to avoid accountability. If Corporal Magnus had let Mide go, perhaps Nigerians would’ve called the film out for not being true to reality. But if he had taken a clean shot at Mide, it would’ve been an outright call out of the Nigerian Police Force. So Collision Course took the easy — too easy — way out: an accidental discharge which still leaves Corporal Magnus as a victim even though he called his friends at TARZ to finish up the job. 

The other upsetting part of Collision Course is the team’s decision to slap scenes from real #EndSARS protests at the end of the film. Why use actual footage of a real situation when you’re clearly not on the side of the movement? 

In Collision Course, police officers and citizens are the same, equals even. After all, we’re all being fucked over by a corrupt system. But how can I be equal with someone holding an assault rifle? How is the power dynamic balanced when a police man can shoot me and walk away scot free? 

Once you have a gun, it doesn’t matter who our mutual oppressor is, we’re not on the same side level. 

We’ve been asked to applaud Collision Course for making an “effort”. But as someone who’s suffered at the hands of men like Corporal Magnus and TARZ, I think I’ll save my applause. I don’t get the concept of approaching a topic if you’re not ready to have a real conversation. No one is asking for a perfect story, but we also don’t deserve to have our trauma harvested and used for profit without us getting anything in return. 

There’s an ongoing conversation about how Collision Course tries but fails actually to say anything, but I think that’s false. Collision Course says a lot, it just happens to be saying all the wrong things, and that’s even worse than saying nothing at all. 

ALSO READ: Nollywood Needs to Go Back to Making Films About Juju

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