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Crash (2004)

  Directed by: Paul Haggis
Written by: Paul Haggis, Robert Moresco
Starring: Sandra Bullock, Don Cheadle, Matt Dillon, Jennifer Esposito, William Fichtner, Brendan Fraser, Terrence Howard, Ludacris, Thandie Newton, Michael Pena, Ryan Phillippe, Larenz Tate, Shaun Toub
Links: Crash on the IMDb, Official site, Buy the Soundtrack
Genre: Drama

This movie gets: 7.50 (2 ratings)
nofreelist.com Ranking: Ranked equal 81st of 187 movies (2 ratings minimum; see full chart)

"Caution: requires seatbelt" - a review by pearly

"It's the sense of touch. In any real city, you walk, you know? You brush past people, people bump into you. In L.A., nobody touches you. We're always behind this metal and glass. I think we miss that touch so much, that we crash into each other, just so we can feel something."

So begins Crash, with this narration-style monologue spoken by Don Cheadle as the character of Graham, the kind of wise man of the film. The film then progresses as a series of crashes of different kinds, each of which forms a tiny piece of a puzzle that slowly gets joined together until, in the end, it forms a whole.

Now, some people have been using words like "Oscar" in their reviews of this film (I'm looking at you, em_fiction). And, I mean, okay, sure. It's not a bad film, and it's structured nicely so that it all ties up into a neat little package with the ribbons snipped off to the same length, and inside the package, there's a teeny tiny icecream sundae with a cherry on top. But... I don't know, I just found that this film grated on me. And, for some of it, I guess that was the objective, but I found it really difficult to watch (in kinda the same way as Closer (2004)), and it didn't satisfy me, it just made me feel uncomfortable.

Crash opens up a number of floodgates and leaves them gushing water at you without really resolving anything. The biggest of these is racism, around which much of the film is centered. There are some downright awful characters in the film, and watching them makes you flinch. Matt Dillon's character is a perfect example of this, but some of the people he meets up with in his day-to-day work are just as unlikeable.

You really have to weigh up whether being made to feel uncomfortable for two hours (it's difficult to imagine anyone watching this film without feeling the same way) is worth what you may get out of it overall. I found some parts of the film to be worthwhile, but as a whole, and it may just have been a mood thing, I struggled with it all. I was fidgeting in my seat, and felt really weird afterwards. And, for the most part, while I found that the story was cleverly put together, it was hardly ground-breaking stuff. Some of the flip-on-their-head type conclusions even seemed to staged, and it came off to me as though the whole thing was just a vehicle for its wish to raise all these ideas, without actually being realistic in any way, shape, or form.

So, yeah, like with Closer, I came away more than a little confused, and I end up rating it with this confusion still floating around my head.

pearly gives this movie 7 out of 10.
Review created on Mon 11 Jul 2005

"Has Oscar written all over it..." - a review by em_fiction

The multiple storyline. It has been done to death. A whole heap of people weave in and out of each other's plots until (this always happens, in some way, shape or form) everything comes together in the end. Lantana (2001) and Magnolia (1999) are two obvious films that are built on this concept, and two of which I'm quite fond of. However, despite the obvious quality that the multiple storyline has been able to conjure up in the past, I was a little worried walking into Crash, uncertain about how much further they could take it before it would be begin to feel recycled.

I walked out with a big sigh of relief.

Crash is a film that focuses on the undercurrent of racism in modern-day Los Angeles; how some people's lives are turned upside-down by virtue of the colour of their skin. Like Magnolia, this film doesn't really have a "central" character, so there's no easy way of giving a plot overview without some disarray, but I'll give it a go:

  • A disillusioned black detective (Don Cheadle), out of touch with his Latino partner and wife (Jennifer Esposito), and ill mother, tries to come to terms with his personal problems while investigating a shooting involving corrupt cops.
  • A misunderstood Iranian storekeeper (Shaun Toub) and his family are faced with racist surroundings.
  • A District Attorney (Brendan Fraser) and his disgruntled wife (Sandra Bullock) are forced to reassess their own racial perspectives after they are carjacked at gunpoint.
  • An honest lower-class locksmith (Michael Pena) struggles to raise his daughter in a rough neighbourhood while having to bear with the prejudice against him.
  • A racist cop (Matt Dillon) blames the black people for his father's poor health, while his idealistic but confused partner (Ryan Phillippe) questions his behaviour.
  • Two black crooks (Ludacris and Larenz Tate) travel around Los Angeles discussing social theories while robbing white people.
  • A wife (Thandie Newton) is utterly disappointed when her black husband (Terrence Howard) succumbs to a white man during an intense racial confrontation.

Retelling each plot, one after the other, seems quite confusing, but like Lantana, the film is surprisingly easy to follow. On top of recruiting a cast of topnotch, well-known actors, writer-director Paul Haggis makes it easier for us to follow by establishing each character in ways which you cannot forget them. He uses an unconventional style of storytelling in which he gives each plot little, if any, room to estasblish itself, preferring to jump straight to the complication. In other words, he establishes each plot with the complication.

Another distinctive quality about the film is its emphasis on the climax. I understand that every film has a climax, but Crash is unusually focused on its climax (or more accurately, climaxes). It relies heavily on its string of climaxes to gather the bulk of its emotional response, as if the rest of the film was just there for the sake of it. I'm making it sound like a bad thing — it isn't. It actually works incredibly well. Haggis gets to the climax the conventional way, by gradually building tension, but the magnitude at which he lets the tension loose is quite overwhelming, almost like an emotional explosion (quite literally, in one of the stories).

One of the key strengths of Crash is its incredibly broad exploration of racism, coming from every possible angle. It doesn't just show a bunch of blatant racists being racist towards people of colour; in fact, that's probably one of the aspects it addresses the least. The film is much more focused on the subtleties of racism, and how these subtleties can impact on us just as much as strident racism. It also shows how it affects everyone equally, how the effects of racism are reciprocal, and how victims of racism aren't always non-racists themselves.

The acting in this film was generally quite good, but there were a few disappointments. First of all, Sandra Bullock. I've never really liked her very much, and although she tries to give one of those powerhouse performances in this film, it just didn't cut it for me. Secondly, Brendan Fraser. I have major problems with comical actors trying to take on serious roles. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't. With Brendan Fraser, it doesn't. It's not really his fault per se; he obviously makes an effort in this film to come across convincingly, and I commend him for that, but for such a serious film, I don't think the part was suited for him at all, so more of a casting error rather than a poor performance.

The rest of the cast was great. Don Cheadle, who is obviously now becoming a prominent actor, takes no steps backwards in this role, which is not unlike his role in Traffic (2000). Terrence Howard gives a standout performance in what was quite a demanding role, one that called for major emotional range. Thandie Newton was another well-executed performance, one that will surely be promising on her resumé. Matt Dillon is outstanding in his role, and he's a counterexample to my theory about comedy actors not being able to take on serious roles (he's probably not that much of a comedy actor, but honestly, nobody forgets There's Something About Mary (1998)). Ryan Phillippe, an actor who I actually quite like, does a great job in his role. Ludacris was an interesting one — we all know how trendy it is for rappers to get into acting, and this role does Ludacris big favours, proving that he can actually act (I've seen 2 Fast 2 Furious (2003)). William Fichtner is another actor who I find interesting, and although he only had a small part in this film, it was extremely well-suited for his informative style. The lesser known actors: Shaun Toub, Larenz Tate and Michael Pena, all give worthy performances.

One minor thing about the film that annoys me, which also happened to annoy David Stratton, is the title. Most people know that David Cronenberg has also made a film called Crash (1996) — a very different film. It's an okay title, but certainly not worth having to share if somebody's already beaten you to it. I mean, if Haggis had opted for another title, the only real difference it would've made is that every person who tries to recommend this film will be freed the task of having to tell the person that it's not the one about the couple with the sexual fetish for car accidents.

Despite its unoriginal title, Crash is a must-see.

em_fiction gives this movie 8 out of 10.
Review created on Mon 13 Jun 2005

Movie review statistics

Number of reviews: 2
Average rating: 7.50
Lowest rating: 7 (by pearly)
Highest rating: 8 (by em_fiction)
 
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Reader comments

  1. I agree. I thought Crash was a refreshing film. What made it so impressive was the way in which it focused on the intricacies of human interaction - how even the most insignificant event can escalate and bring people together.

    Rating given: 8

    A comment from Dino on Wed 15 Jun 2005 21:34 #

  2. A fantastic film: if everyone saw it, the world would be a better place.

    Rating given: 10

    A comment from Lauren on Thu 08 Sep 2005 16:26 #

  3. Great movie.

    Rating given: 9

    A comment from ahsan on Wed 12 Jul 2006 19:03 #

Those who have commented give this movie: 9.00 (3 ratings)

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