Release Date: May 6th, 2005 MPAA Rating: R
Director: Paul Haggis Actors: Sandra Bullock, Brendan Fraser, Don Cheadle, Jennifer Esposito, Keith David, Matt Dillon, Eddie Fernandez, William Fichtner, Terrence Howard, Thandie Newton, Chris “Ludacris” Bridges, Michael Pena, Ryan Phillippe, Marina Sirtis, Larenz Tate, Shaun Toub, Bahar Soomekh
n Los Angeles, a car crash finds a smattering of victims and casualties, with each participant quick to blame another for the incident. And with the finger-pointing comes plenty of racist remarks, as ethnicity seems to be the source of every predicament. But this scenario is actually the culmination of numerous other events, which all intersect on a bustling street at night.
The day before, off-duty cop Conklin (Martin Norseman) guns down a black man – a shooting investigated by Detective Waters (Don Cheadle) and Detective Ria (Jennifer Esposito); two young black men with guns carjack District Attorney Rick Cabot (Brendan Fraser) and his wife Jean (Sandra Bullock), an understandably bitter woman who then callously suggests that the hispanic man (Michael Pena) hired to change the locks in their house is destined to sell the keys to his gangbanger pals; Officer John Ryan (Matt Dillon) angrily deals with a healthcare situation for his elderly, sick father; and Ryan’s partner, Tommy Hansen (Ryan Phillippe), worries about the racial profiling, sexual harassment, and borderline assault that he’s forced to witness when they pull over black television executive Cameron Thayer (Terrence Howard) and his wife Christine (Thandie Newton). Meanwhile, Dorri (Bahar Soomekh) buys a gun with her father (Shaun Toub), intent on having protection against the next robbery at their convenience store. And, minutes later, the two car thieves (Chris Bridges and Larenz Tate) accidentally run down an Asian man, which turns their stolen Navigator into worthless junk.
Although Bridges and Tate have decent chemistry, their back-and-forth banter feels like it belongs in a quirky Tarantino movie more than this message-filled drama. Their debating is designed to highlight the racial inequalities of black men, but it’s far less subtle than every other sequence. It’s also alternatingly comical and overblown, only serving to decrease the potency of the words, which are by themselves insightful. Their interactions may be the weakest part of “Crash,” but they’re just one small piece of a grand ensemble picture, bringing together renowned actors and engaging plots. In many ways, the film is a collection of distinct, separated skits that all deal with the same topic – strung together for a striking finale, wherein all the unrelated happenings reveal shared components and motives and consequences. Unfortunately, some of them also feature extreme coincidences that are difficult to overlook.
In a brilliant maneuver, one of the most negligible background characters, the locksmith, has one of the most poignant of storylines – resulting in a conclusion (for this group of roles) so powerful that “Crash” mostly redeems itself for the contrivances orchestrated for the sake of its moral. In its goal to demonstrate that racism exists in every action, every conversation, every group of characters – not just white people or the privileged – the production weaves together circumstances that, while independently sensible, are incredibly overwrought when interconnected. The idea that every protagonist must eventually depend on an antagonist (sometimes even their own specific bully) for help is a bit too much to digest, even when the cast is as large and exceptional as this one. Nevertheless, the varying perspectives on corruption, injustice, molestation, extortion/persuasion, and even mere inconvenience, all influenced by biases, xenophobia, stereotypes, and general animosity, definitely have an impact. In the world of “Crash” (perhaps revealing its greatest truth), only tremendous ordeals are compelling enough to alter long-held, prejudicial beliefs.
– Mike Massie