Review: The Collective Makes a Great Case for a Bad Action Movie

As you may have gleaned from my star rating, The Collective is not a good film. But that doesn’t stop it from being fascinating in the ways it is bad. For example, I happen to really like most of the actors in this movie, including lead Lucas Till (TV’s MacGyver; Havok in a couple of the more recent X-Men movies), who plays Sam Alexander, a recent recruit of a private group of non-government-sanctioned assassins. Led by Don Johnson’s Liam, he’s trained and immediately thrown into the deep end against a highly sophisticated human trafficking ring, led by a network of seemingly untouchable billionaires. Because Sam is so new to The Collective, his name isn’t in their system, which has recently been hacked, exposing the identities of the entire organization.

The traffickers have recently captured a whistleblower who threatened to expose the group, and now they plan on selling him to the highest bidder to do with as they want (he’s likely going to be killed in an elaborate way), and Sam is sent in with veteran Collective member Hugo (Tyrese Gibson) to get the whistleblower back. His captors include the traffickers’ leader Miro (Paul Ben-Victor), his right-hand Daisy (Ruby Rose), and button woman Nikita (Mercedes Varnado, aka wrestler Sasha Banks, The Mandalorian). A decent cast all the way around, yet they can’t quite pull it together in the directing hands of Tom DeNucci (Johnny & Clyde, Vault), who lets the low-grade production value show through in every frame and doesn’t do anything to make the more disturbing elements of a human trafficking story seem believable.

The captives are made to crawl around on their hands and knees like dogs (complete with leash). The climactic auction is laughable, with the billionaire clients strutting into a janky warehouse where they are served high-end food and drinks, while bidding on humans. While I certainly have no trouble believing that human trafficking exists, I don’t believe it’s done in an environment like this (I assume it’s all online these days). It seems deliberately overcooked, outrageous in its execution, bordering on attempted humor. The usually reliable Ben-Victor is given very little to work with here, and the results turn him into a clown.

The banter between Sam and Hugo fares a bit better, as they get to know each other and figure out how they are going to rescue the whistleblower. I was less impressed with how little the filmmakers gave two of the most interesting action stars today, Rose and Varnado, to do. Nikita at least gets in one big fight before she’s dispensed with in the story, but Rose seems like she’s just there to look cool, intelligent and vaguely menacing. We don’t really get to see her cut loose like we know she can. 

The sets look slapped together with duct tape and Elmer’s Glue; the action and gunplay is fairly standard-issue; and the dialogue is often shockingly idiotic. Basically, if the traffickers didn’t spend so much time being flashy, they would never have been discovered by The Collective. It’s a dopey movie and an exercise in watching normally interesting performers find something to add to the bottom of their filmographies. This one is bad, but it does seem like a perfect example of how not to make an action movie and waste the talents of good actors.

The film is now playing in theaters, and is available via VOD and Digital.

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Steve Prokopy
Steve Prokopy

Steve Prokopy is chief film critic for the Chicago-based arts outlet
Third Coast Review. For nearly 20 years, he was the Chicago editor for
Ain’t It Cool News, where he contributed film reviews and
filmmaker/actor interviews under the name “Capone.” Currently, he’s a
frequent contributor at /Film ( and Backstory Magazine.
He is also the public relations director for Chicago's independently
owned Music Box Theatre, and holds the position of Vice President for
the Chicago Film Critics Association. In addition, he is a programmer
for the Chicago Critics Film Festival, which has been one of the
city's most anticipated festivals since 2013.