Crash (2005)
(Premiere Date: September 10, 2004 [Toronto Film Festival])
(Release Date: May 6, 2005)

Tales from the Brink!

J.C. Mašek III
The World's Greatest Critic!

When one looks over the Oscar Nominations for 2005, a trend is easily seen. People who are ostensibly the "good guys" are proven to have some serious evil in them, while the obvious "bad guys" prove that they have their good side, or possibly they're just like us on the other side of that proverbial mirror. Crash is just that kind of film. It's also a very similar in theme to films like Altman's Short Cuts and I˝ßrritu's Amores perros in its display of vastly divergent people all brought together by singular events that cause ripples through each others lives.

CRASH Casting:

Don Cheadle - Graham
Jennifer Esposito - Ria
Sandra Bullock - Jean
Brendan Fraser - Rick
Terrence Howard - Cameron
Larenz Tate - Peter
Chris "Ludacris" Bridges - Anthony
Thandie Newton - Christine
Michael Pe˝a - Daniel
Matt Dillon - Officer Ryan
Ryan Phillippe - Officer Hanson
Shaun Toub - Farhad
Bahar Soomekh - Dorri
Keith David - Lt. Dixon
Loretta Devine - Shaniqua
Nona Gaye - Karen
Tony Danza - Fred
Daniel Dae Kim - Park
Marina Sirtis - Shereen

However, Crash isn't a reflection of actual reality. For better or for worse, Crash showcases a distorted and amplified reality, a caricature of life, that intends for us to turn inward for self inspection. In fact, Crash reminded me more of a series of braided-together episodes of Tales from the Crypt in its bold take on the modern day "Morality Play" than it did Short Cuts.

That said, this is a very good film, and superb to watch. The wildly juggled spheres of near-satirical existence shows us a lot more of ourselves than just any old "true life story" ever could! Crash holds not a mirror up to life, but a magnifying glass, blowing everything up to the point that we do indeed see the flaws in humanity. The fact that all this is done so successfully with such a large cast (there are somewhere around eleven principals) is a credit to director Paul Haggis and his writing partner Bobby Moresco. Crash can be very, very powerful, and with superb acting and a coherent plot, it's a keeper. On the other hand it occasionally balances surprise with predictability and realism with sentimental fairy tale elements.

The plot is incredibly complex, so a recap would be as futile as an Al Gore bid to lead the GOP. Therefore, I'll tell you about the characters and who they are. Larenz Tate and Ludacris are Peter and Anthony, two philosophical African American inner city thieves who attack and carjack Rick (the Los Angeles District Attourney, played by Brendan Fraser) and his wife Jean (Sandra Bullock). Naturally they report the hell out of this, sending officers Ryan (Matt Dillon) and Hanson (Ryan Phillippe) out onto the street to chase after a similar car that just happens to have two African Americans in it. Of course, it's not Peter and Anthony, it's Cameron (Terrence Howard) a successful Television Director and his high-class wife Christine (Thandie Newton). Left traumatized by the racist and lecherous actions of Ryan are Cameron, Christine, and even Hanson, all of whom begin to carry Ryan's baggage around with them. Meanwhile, Jean gets her locks changed by Daniel (Michael Pe˝a), who is "obviously" a gangster criminal... except that he's not. Daniel's next stop is the convenience store owned by Farhad (Shaun Toub) and his daughter Dorri (Bahar Soomekh). Of course the Lock isn't the problem (which must be Daniel's fault). It's not long before quite a lot of this is being investigated by police detectives Graham (Don Cheadle) and Ria (Jennifer Esposito). Confused? Well, trust me, these lives haven't even begun to bounce off of each other in this wind machine we call life.

It's hard to imagine a whole lot of this being completely possible in real life, at least on this scale. Certainly in two hours and two minutes we can't have a full and realistic character development of eleven principals and twice again as many supporting characters. Therefore we've got a lot of archetypes here, and yeah, stereotypes as well. Certainly this works as a morality tale (or series thereof), but what exactly Crash is trying to tell us with these elements is pretty bleak! Haggis and Moresco seem to be telling us that everyone is a racist, and those who aren't are right on the cusp of becoming hate mongers at the drop of a cross word. The best among us is harboring great nastiness, and the most deplorable among us are capable of great heroism. Is that pessimistic or optimistic? I suppose the answer depends on which one you are.

What makes Crash work is the way that these square pegs fit together in their respective round holes. It's true, some of these connections become self-evident earlier than they should, and a few surprises miss the mark, however, so many work perfectly that the old jaw tends to drop open. And even where the story takes a turn toward the fantastic and the fairy tale, it is kept afloat by the dialogue skills of Haggis and Moresco (which are considerable). In many a case, this surreal one-layer-beyond-reality approach works wonders for this film, causing the viewer to know well that anything could happen at any time! Like an episode of Tales from the Crypt (albeit and Oscar Worthy episode), Crash keeps the viewer squirming, knowing that at any moment the monster of rage, menace and racism could pop right out, draw a connection we'd never see coming, and send the senses reeling into the next reel.

Crash is a success, and is proof that Bobby Moresco and Paul Haggis had more up their sleeves than Million Dollar Baby! Four Stars out of Five for Crash, the multi-layered, trickily-balanced adult fairy tale! Occasionally it gets a bit too fantastic, occasionally it gets a bit too sentimental, and it has a separate climax for each intertwined thread (giving it the most exhausting final act of all the 2005 Academy Award nominees). Modified or not, caricatured or not, Crash will make you think, even if you don't buy into the concept that everyone's a Racist. I'm not. Except for against the Irish. I mean, I am an Irishman and all, but man, do I ever piss me off! I'm gonna kick my ruddy ass, man! Too bad I'm too drunk right now to do it. I think I'll eat some potatoes and go the hell to bed.

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Crash (2005) reviewed by J.C. Mašek III, WHO DOESN'T LIKE YOUR HAT!
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