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Crash

a film by Paul Haggis

A friend of mine, after seeing Crash - and walking out three quarters of the way through the film - told me his reason for hating the movie was his inability to enjoy something if it has even the slightest hint of seriousness to it. I paraphrased his actual reaction for dramatic purposes, but the tone is the same. When asked what the meaning of the film was, I told him it was about the stupidity of racism. He said, fine, but did it have to be shoved down his throat. Of course the fact that this person is an ultra conservative Republican who makes dreamy puppy dog eyes every time the name George W. Bush is brought up in conversations (usually in a negative conotation, considering me and most of my crowd), makes his reactionary afront to a film as glibly liberal as Crash seem more understandable - if not still ridiculous.

As far as the actual film goes, the directorial debut of Million Dollar Baby screenwriter Paul Haggis really wasn't a selling point for me, although its grouping with such films as Short Cuts and Magnolia did turn me on - even if it did star Sandra Bullock and Brendan Fraser (neither of which is actually in the film all that much). The brunt of the emotional toll of the film is held up by Terrance Howard and Thandie Newton as an affluent African-American couple that must deal with the aftermath of a racist pullover from a molesting cop. The cop is played with utter intensity by Matt Dillon and his unwittingly naive partner is played with a sad foreboding by Ryan Phillippe. Everyone, Don Cheadle, Larenz Tate, Michael Pena, Ludachris, Bullock and Fraser even, and a surprisingly dark cameo from Tony Danza, are great in this film - despite the amateurish screenplay and direction from Haggis.

Emotional blackmail for the majority of the script, it is the grandiose performances that keep this otherwise ridiculous film held together - barely as it does. Crash tries to be a defiantly complex film with hidden meanings and truths in every word spoken, and does manage that on a handful of occasions, but still ends up dissapating when we can manage to see through the gauzy pretentions of its story. I suppose when all is said and done, my right-wing friend and I agree on our dislike for Haggis' Crash - if not for the same reasons. [05/11/05]

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