Film Reviewed by Kam Williams



Director & Writer: Paul Haggis

Studio: Lions Gate Films

Sandra Bullock, Don Cheadle, Matt Dillon, Jennifer Esposito, William Fichtner, Brendan Fraser, Thandie Newton, Ryan Phillippe, Larenz Tate, Chris "Ludacris" Bridges, Terrence Dashon Howard, Nona Gaye

Rating: R for profanity, ethnic slurs, mature themes, frontal nudity, graphic sexuality, and gruesome violence.

Running time: 112 minutes

Film Review by Kam Williams  * ***(Excellent)


Subversive Sub-Cultures Collide in California Car "Crash"

            If this country is as dysfunctional, divided and downright demented as suggested by the relentlessly unsettling Crash, then Heaven help us all. Leave it to a Canadian, recent Oscar-nominee Paul Haggis (for his screenplay adaptation of Million Dollar Baby), to shed some most-chilling light on how sub-cultures inter-relate across class and color lines in present-day America. Haggis makes an impressive enough directorial debut with this thought-provoking morality play to warrant serious consideration come Oscar season.

            The picture is set in a most unappealingly presented Los Angeles, where every sub-group, whites, blacks, Latinos, Asians and Middle Easterners, find themselves separated by a freeway lifestyle which relies heavily on the insularity afforded by a heavy reliance on the automobile. Still, points of contact are unavoidable, and it is those highly-charged moments of interaction which are ever so effectively explored in Crash.

            The film is one of those serendipitous pieces where a series of strangers become irreversibly entangled by chance, ala Love Actually, Magnolia, and countless other examples of this popular new genre.  But this movie, rather than rely solely on a convenient plot contrivance which entertains via the implausibility suggested by the magic of cinematic coincidence, it simultaneously forces us to confront our every prejudice, and from a fresh perspective.

            Assembling an already very talented ensemble cast of actors, Haggis coaxes career performances out of many actors and actresses who had never exhibited such emotional depth before, including Sandra Bullock, Brendan Fraser, Terrence Howard, Thandie Newton, Matt Dillon, Larenz Tate and Ryan Phillippe. Also comprising the expanded dramatis personae are Don Cheadle, Tony Danza, Jennifer Esposito, Ludacris, William Fitchner, Keith David, Loretta Devine and Nona Gaye.

            Early in the adventure, we are introduced to Anthony (Ludacris) and Peter (Tate), a couple of young African-American men debating about whether they’d just been discriminated against while being served in a fancy restaurant. Strolling down the street, they decide to car-jack an auto owned by L.A. District Attorney Rick Cameron (Fraser) and his wife, Jean (Bullock).

            Rick’s reaction is to worry whether publicity about the robbery will affect his re-election, while Jean proceeds to have all the locks in their home changed. But when Daniel (Michael Pena), a Latino locksmith, arrives, her bigoted nature emerges when she unfairly suspects him of being a ghetto gang member.

            Daniel’s life, in turn, dovetails with that of Farhad (Shaun Toub), a Persian shopkeeper whose store has been broken into and needs a new door. Meanwhile, on another side of town, bourgeois blacks Cameron (Howard) and Christine (Newton) are at odds after she’s molested by a racist cop (Dillion) during a deliberate profile stop. She’s left clearly as enraged by her emasculated husband’s failure to protect her honor, as by the venereal violation.

            Over a score of complex characters are eventually linked as the story continues to unfold seamlessly. Expect to squirm uncomfortably in your seat throughout the duration, for this articulate and particularly poignant mood piece demands nothing of its audience, if not for some brutally honest introspection about each of our unquestioned presumptions about the human condition.

            Easily, the best film of 2005 thus far.


Related Links

Thandie Newton Interview

Terrence Dashon Howard Interview


Black Power Line

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