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Movie Review: Crash (2005) 
20th-Feb-2006 01:26 am
saint
I promise, this isn't a rebuttal review. Even though Roger Ebert is gonna be PISSED at me.

Crash (2005)

Starring: Sandra Bullock, Don Cheadle, Matt Dillon, Jennifer Esposito, William Fichtner, Brendan Fraser, Terrence Howard, Ludacris, Thandie Newton, Michael Peña, Ryan Phillippe, Larenz Tate, Shaun Toub

Directed by: Paul Haggis

Having seen the other four Best Picture nominees in theatre, my wife and I decided we should rent the one we missed on Friday, completing our traditional Oscar viewing with weeks to spare (we'll have to fill in other catagories now). Even though I don't really accept the Academy Awards as a relevant source for quality in film, I like to watch the nominated pictures as a way to stay tuned into the pop culture grid, and as a way to catch some great pictures I may have otherwise missed (if for no other reason than the fact that Oscar-buzz usually helps a movie stay in the local theatres longer). Nominations helped me see fantastic movies like Capote, Brokeback Mountain, and Good Night, and Good Luck. Unfortunately, nominations also forced me into seeing Crash.

Not only is Crash not one of the five best movies of the year, it's not even a good movie. After watching it, I'm actually baffled at the level of praise that has been heaped upon it, as I found the whole movie to be a tired exercise from start to finish. In it, veteran TV director Paul Haggis presents us with an ensemble cast of one-dimensional types, most of whom prove to be awful human beings, who exist in life for one purpose and one purpose only (I hope you're sitting down for this revelation): to illustrate that racism is still a problem in America. Who knew?

Where would we be without this 112 minute opus on a problem that no sane person didn't already know existed? Alright, to be fair, there is still art to be made about this ongoing problem, especially as racism becomes less overt and more ingrained behind closed doors. There's also the post-9/11 brand of bigotry that is particularly troubling. Art can be a powerful tool in shining light on the dark corners society would rather we forget, as it has in the past with Uncle Tom's Cabin, Guess Who's Coming To Dinner, or Do the Right Thing. Sadly, Crash is not that piece of art, no matter how desperately it wants to manipulate you into thinking that it is.

It wants to force the difficult questions, moving the audience into self-reflection and forcing them to re-think their own positions on life and diversity. The problem is that the characters Crash presents us with are so one-dimensional, and the coincidences that it forces upon them so contrived, that only the most racist and ignorant in the audience could see the reflection of themselves on screen that would force such reflection. Which is kind of self-defeating, since you have to figure that such a bigot wouldn't find themselves watching this movie in the first place, unless he confusedly believed the movie was based on NASCAR. For the average moviegoer, I don't see how they leave the movie feeling anything but good about themselves, for while they may have issues, they probably aren't as bad as the characters they see on screen. And if they are, it's doubtless they'll find themselves in the ridiculous situations the characters in Crash find themselves in.

So the movie makes the audience feel good about themselves for not being so bad, and has the air of faux-intelligence to make them feel better for taking in such difficult subject matter. The problem is that the movie SHOULD make them feel uncomfortable, like Syriana did. It did not challenge me at all, not even in basic movie plotting ways. Once you figure out that every character in the movie will do the most plainly obvious, racially-motivated, negative thing in any given situation, you can pretty much figure out what's going to play out. It's terribly predictable, especially when you realise that the large ensemble will somehow interconnect by the end, making it the Love Actually of racially-charged dramas. Literally, the wife and I were calling out scenes before they happened, with stunning success rates. "He's gonna shoot the girl", "it's the statue", "I bet that's his brother". The film was far too predictable, although my prediction that the snow in the end would turn into frogs didn't come to pass.

All in all, the movie has all the subtlity of a mack truck, squeezing every racist stereotype into its cast of dozens in an attempt to seem important. Since it was so over-wrought anyway, I wonder why it left certain groups out? No Jews in there at all. They really dropped the ball there, especially since they already had a Persian character who interacts with an insurance agent. It was right there Haggis! Maybe the scenes with Eskimos and Danish cartoonists didn't make out of the editing room, who knows? In any case, I'm sure no new light would have been shone on their plight (well, maybe the Eskimos), just as no new light was shone on any of the featured ethnicities in Crash. Instead, we got a simple, obvious, manipulative movie pretending to be an important one.

2/5

Related:
Love Actually (2003)
Syriana (2005)
The United States of Leland (2003)
Comments 
20th-Feb-2006 11:09 am (UTC)
I read recently that Paul Haggis was the creator of Walker Texas Ranger, and you're a lucky man if you have never seen that show. This film is so much like that show, in that they use every cheap and pathetic trick imaginable to think one is watching something worth seeing and it is pathetic.

I thought this was worst than Love Actually since that was just trying to a silly romantic comedy, this was wanting to be a "masterpiece" and came out looking like an after-school special.
20th-Feb-2006 04:07 pm (UTC)
I've been putting off seeing this movie because I either hear high praise or heavy bashing of it, although this is the first time I've read someone thinking of this movie as cheesy.
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