A review of a brilliant movie i recently saw
Racism collides with its targets during one
thirty six-hour period in
. Alive with bracing human drama and blistering wit, the film benefits from the strong directing debut of Paul Haggis, the screenwriter of Million Dollar Baby. In the style of Magnolia, Haggis and co-writer Bobby Moresco weave many stories (too many) into the narrative. But the rage sticks, as do the emotions underlying it. The district attorney (Brendan Fraser) and his wife (Sandra Bullock, strikingly uncongenial) are carjacked at gunpoint by two black men (Ludacris and Larenz Tate). At home, the wife orders the locks changed and then changed again because a Mexican (Michael Pena) did the first job. A black TV director (Terrence Howard), getting a blow job from his wife (Thandie Newton) while driving home, is stopped by two white cops. One officer (Matt Dillon) gropes the wife to humiliate the husband, while the other cop (a standout Ryan Phillippe) watches helplessly. A Persian store owner (Shaun Toub), taken for an Arab, buys a gun for protection. Don Cheadle plays a detective who ties these stories together when he finds a dead body in the road. The acting is dynamite, notably by Dillon and Los Angeles in their shocking second encounter
thirty six-hour period in
But this is Haggis’ film; his characters, his city, his vision. It’s deeply human and empathetic, observational without being judgemental, compassionate without being soft, shocking without being gratuitous, clever and contrived but never for a moment predictable or easy.
From such a well worn formula, Haggis has managed to craft something truly original. Scenes you may think you’ve watched play out a dozen times before go places you’d never have dreamed. Often darkly humourous, Crash nevertheless throbs with power and resonance. Not only are we presented with breathtaking dramatic scenarios, we’re also forced to confront our own attitudes and ask ourselves how our preconceptions influence our everyday interactions, not forgetting that there are two sides to every story: Ryan may be a racist prick, but he’s still a heroic cop ; Daniel may be from a bad neighbourhood and have the appearance of a gang member, but he’s still an honest tradesman with a family ; Cameron may rightly feel indignant over Ryan’s abuse, but he’s still a wealthy voice actor who is reluctant for his audience to know he’s black.
Compelling, brilliant, gripping, funny, constantly surprising – this is everything cinema should be. Go see, go see.