Crash (2004) / Drama

MPAA Rated: R for language, sexual content, drug references and some violence
Running time: 113 min.

Cast: Don Cheadle, Matt Dillon, Terrence Howard, Chris "Ludacris" Bridges, Larenz Tate, Ryan Philippe, Thandie Newton, Michael Pena, Sandra Bullock, Brendan Fraser, Shaun Toub, Jennifer Esposito, Bahar Soomekh, Loretta Devine, William Fichtner, Keith David, Tony Danza, Nona Gaye, Bruce Kirby, Marina Sirtis
Director: Paul Haggis
Screenplay: Paul Haggis, Bobby Moresco
Review published May 6, 2005

With its large cast and interweaving storylines of tragedy, the comparisons to Magnolia are probably warranted, although Paul Haggis' Crash doesn't come close to capturing the inspiration and artistic heights of the film it emulates.  Still, the good does outweigh the bad, offering some solid performances and choice food for thought. 

At the heart of every story, there is a theme regarding race, particularly in the prejudices people have based solely on ones appearance or country of origin.  There are too many characters to give a properly storyline summation, but I'll stick to the gist of it.  Anthony (Ludacris, 2 Fast 2 Furious) and Peter (Tate, A Man Apart) are two Black carjackers whose latest snatch happens to have been owned by the District Attorney Rick (Fraser, The Quiet American) and his uptight wife Jean (Bullock, Two Weeks Notice).  Meanwhile, Cameron (Howard, Hart's War) and Christine (Newton, Shade) are an affluent Black couple who are pulled over and harassed by a prejudiced cop, Officer Ryan (Dillon, There's Something About Mary), and his disapproving partner, Officer Hanson (Phillippe, The I Inside).  Meanwhile, Graham (Cheadle, Hotel Rwanda) is a police detective who has been struggling with personal problems stemming from his junkie mother, missing brother, and the interracial relationship he's been carrying on with his Hispanic partner, Ria (Esposito, The Master of Disguise).  Lastly, Daniel (Pena, Million Dollar Baby) is a Hispanic locksmith gets blamed after a Middle Eastern family's business is robbed, causing the proud father (Toub, Broken Arrow) to seek justice.  All of their stories collide throughout the course of the film, sometimes in poignant ways, sometimes in tragic ones.

On occasion, Haggis' ambitious tale does overplay its hand by being all too obvious, and the tone frequently indulges in manipulative preaching that doesn't always ring true to the characters.  However, with such an impressive ensemble of actors, and with writing that never paints any one particular character as wholly good or bad, the message is still felt that anyone can feel prejudiced against other kinds of people anytime, anywhere, in all walks of life.  Racial friction is all around us, bubbling just under the surface, rearing its ugly head whenever tempers flare.  The excellent acting and multifaceted characters strengthen what could have been a phony film into something that always arrests the attention.

At under two hours, Crash doesn't really resolve many of the conflicts that occur within the framework of the movie, instead trying to strike a chord within us as viewers, and let us make what we will of it all on our own terms.  While a certain predictability to the drama is evident, the manner in which the characters speak to each other is refreshing and insightful, while the tense situations are quite riveting and provocative to keep the story lively.  The chance meetings and convenient coincidences can be a bit much to swallow, but suspension of disbelief will reap rewards for those who are moved by the resonance of the themes of the movie rather than the believability of the story structure.  Haggis delivers something for the head, the heart, and the guts, and even if he has to cheat a little in the narrative to get his message across, so be it.  The message is what it's all about.   

Qwipster's rating:

2005 Vince Leo