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"Crash"

Directed by Paul Haggis (co-creator of "Walker, Texas Ranger."  I'm not making this up).
Written by Paul Haggis and Bobby Moresco.
Starring Don Cheadle, Larenz Tate, Sandra Bullock, and Ryan Philippe.
Release Year:  2005
Review Date:  5/8/05

Folks--

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 "M:I-2" 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 justin@bellviewmovies.com.

 

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 "Office Space"). 

"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 half stars." 

"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 Vice"-rated movies.)

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The "fine print":
All material by Justin Elliot Bell for SMR/Bellview/bellviewmovies.com except where noted
1999-2009 Justin Elliot Bell This site was last updated 01/08/09