Apparently, everything that people think
about in L.A. these days revolves around race.
At least, that is the case in "Crash", a new
film by Paul Haggis that revolves around about a dozen characters
during a two-day stretch in Los Angeles. There's Detective
Graham (Don Cheadle), who is dealing with a crime involving the
fatal shooting of an undercover black officer by a fellow white
officer; there's Peter (Larenz Tate) and Anthony (Ludacris), two
black carjackers that only steal cars from white people in white
neighborhoods; there's a Persian shopkeeper (Shaun Toub) who is sick
of white people thinking that he is Arab and upset at a Latino
locksmith (Michael Pena) for a problem with his locks; and there's
the all-world racist Jean, the wife of the DA (Brendan Fraser) that
seems to be suspicious of damn near everybody that isn't white.
From the word go, "Crash" takes the base
level of racism in this country and throws it into overdrive, as it
drives the people and the plot of the film all the way to its
completion. This can be a shock to the system if you don't
know that it is coming; it feels heavy-handed to have all of the
storylines intertwine in this way--it's a world that is
better suited to the L.A. of the early 90s/Rodney King era--but it
certainly makes for an intense film experience. The Persian
shopkeeper is trying to purchase a handgun for protection of his
odds-and-ends store downtown and, in the process, is berated by the
gun merchant with lines like
"Get the fuck out of my store, Saddam!"
and other such predictable tirades.
Okay, it's a movie, and therefore I guess we need to have the film
take everything to an extreme, but then I dialed it back a bit and
imagined that some people--hmm, maybe even lots of people--really do
have this kind of hatred for people that don't look like themselves
all over this country. I typically think that I am oblivious
to this, even as a self-proclaimed Equal Opportunity Racist...but,
even I will admit that there are plenty of people I have met that
would prefer to have no business dealing with a black man, even if I
am about as threatening as a bowl of peas.
And when you watch "Crash", if you are
open-minded anyway, you are still going to be entertained by the
diversity of the actors in this film (from Thandie Newton of
to Tony Danza, for cryin' out loud) and the level of intensity they
bring to the table in even the most basic of scenes. Maybe my
favorite character was Cameron (Terrence Howard), a black TV
director that is forced to deal with a whole bunch of issues in just
one day, from his wife, to the cops, to stereotypes on his show to
his own people...Howard is always great (I think I first saw him in
"Dead Presidents", all those years ago), but here he just ignites a
couple of times...but, in an exchange with his producer (Danza), he
gives in to a situation in such a way that you just shake your head
at the guy (how can you do that, bro?) but you can see where any
director of color might face the same pressure from the suits
upstairs. It also reminded me of the only audition I have ever
been on, for a movie-review show in San Francisco; during one
taping, one of the producers actually wanted me to act "blacker", at
which point I said "See ya!" and realized that playing up a black
stereotype was something I would never do.
The performances are great, and they carry
"Crash" to its completion, but the movie still felt gratuitous to me
in terms of its extreme storytelling and way even the good people of
the film are pretty much all racists as well. It helps the
film achieve its goal by the end--I'm guessing that was for all of
us to take a step back and think about the kind of hurt we are
putting on each other by not opening our minds to a "can't we all
just get along?" medium. But, I would have preferred to have
even two characters be able to sort through an argument without
resorting to racial taunting to get by. Not here.
"Crash" is definitely a film you should see, though...it is quite
powerful at times and certainly will get a rise out of you when you
want to talk to your friends about the flick later.
Rating: $9.50 Show
Comments? Drop me a line at
Bellview Rating System:
"Opening Weekend": This is
the highest rating a movie can receive. Reserved for movies that
exhibit the highest level of acting, plot, character development,
setting...or Salma Hayek. Not necessarily in that order.
"$X.XX Show": This price
changes each year due to the inflation of movie prices; currently,
it is the $9.50 Show. While not technically perfect, this is a
movie that will still entertain you at a very high level.
"Undercover Brother" falls into this category; it's no "Casablanca",
but you'll have a great time watching. The $9.50 Show won't win any
Oscars, but you'll be quoting lines from the thing for ages (see
"Matinee": An average movie
that merits no more than a $6.50 viewing at your local theater.
Seeing it for less than $9.50 will make you feel a lot better about
yourself. A movie like "Blue Crush" fits this category; you leave
the theater saying "That wasn't too bad...man, did you see that
Lakers game last night?"
"Rental": This rating
indicates a movie that you see in the previews and say to your
friend, "I'll be sure to miss that one." Mostly forgettable, you
couldn't lose too much by going to Hollywood Video and paying $3 to
watch it with your sig other, but you would only do that if the
video store was out of copies of "Ronin." If you can, see this
movie for free. This is what your TV Guide would give "one and a
"Hard Vice": This rating is
the bottom of the barrel. A movie that only six other human beings
have witnessed, this is the worst movie I have ever seen. A Shannon
Tweed "thriller," it is so bad as to be funny during almost every
one of its 84 minutes, and includes the worst ending ever put into a
movie. Marginally worse than "Cabin Boy", "The Avengers" or
"Leonard, Part 6", this rating means that you should avoid this
movie at all costs, or no costs, EVEN IF YOU CAN SEE IT FOR FREE!
(Warning: strong profanity will be used in all reviews of "Hard