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Crash (2005) Review

Time: 112 Minutes
Age Rating: 860949[1] Contains violence and offensive language
Cast:
Sandra Bullock as Jean Cabot
Don Cheadle as Det. Graham Waters
Matt Dillon as Sgt. John Ryan
Jennifer Esposito as Ria
Brendan Fraser as D.A. Rick Cabot
Terrence Howard as Cameron Thayer
Ludacris as Anthony
Thandie Newton as Christine Thayer
Michael Peña as Daniel Ruiz
Ryan Phillippe as Officer Tom Hansen
Larenz Tate as Peter Waters
Director: Paul Haggis

Writer-director Paul Haggis interweaves several connected stories about race, class, family and gender in Los Angeles in the aftermath of 9/11. Characters include a district attorney (Brendan Fraser) and his casually prejudiced wife (Sandra Bullock), dating police detectives Graham (Don Cheadle) and Ria (Jennifer Esposito), a victimized Middle Eastern store owner and a wealthy African-American couple (Terrence Dashon Howard, Thandie Newton) humiliated by a racist traffic cop (Matt Dillon).

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I had been meaning to do a review for Crash for a while. I remember hearing about the movie for the longest time, mainly with it being widely considered the worst pick for Best Picture at the Academy Awards and I had always wondered what about it sparked such a negative reaction outside of it beating out Brokeback Mountain. Having seen it, I can understand why it’s been receiving so much hate, and I have to say that it’s pretty well deserving of it. It’s more than that it’s just a somewhat okay movie that got more praise that it deserved, at best it’s well intended but clunky, at worst it’s horribly misguided and borderline offensive.

Crash is one of those award movies where a bunch of characters’ plotlines are all mixed together and crossover at different points. While there are some coincidences that I bought, other moments felt so ludicrous that it was hard to take things seriously (and the rest of the movie didn’t help that much). Most of the plotlines weren’t that particularly interesting, and the ones that were tended to be because the acting was great or something along those lines. Crash is very questionable in how it takes on racism, it’s very blatant and has no subtlety at all. Now it isn’t required to be subtle, but when it handles the topic poorly, the ham fisted feel to it make it feel worse. People don’t act like normal people, if they’re not stereotypes, they’re random characters meant to deliver a message through random character changes. I’ll use Sandra Bullock’s ‘arc’ as an example, she nearly gets robbed, which leads to her being racist against her caretakers, then she falls down some stairs, then the caretakers help her, leading to her not being racist (not even kidding, that’s her role in this movie). There are some admittedly pretty good individual scenes. For example, there’s a payoff scene between Matt Dillon and Thandie Newton which when seen out of context is great. However, in the context of the film, it just feels gross (more on that later). Some of the plotlines have very mixed messages. I guess they are at least tried to be fair with their treatment of people by ethnicities, so they’re showing good and bad people in each ethnicities, except for Asian people for whatever reason, they aren’t particularly portrayed very well here to say the least. Crash is also very questionable in some of its plotlines and decisions. There are way too many plotlines and characters to recall, but one of which is about the racist traffic cop played by Matt Dillon, and I can’t convey how poor some of these messages are without revealing things, if you don’t want to know about it before watching the movie, then skip ahead to the next paragraph. Long story short, Dillon pulls over a couple (Thandie Newton and Terrence Howard, and molests Newton’s character. A few scenes later he responds to a car crash, and it happens to be Newton’s character, and he saves her from the car before it explodes, which I guess is supposed to be him redeeming himself by actually doing his job. Make of that how you will.

Crash has an unbelievably large and talented cast, with the likes of Sandra Bullock, Don Cheadle, Matt Dillon, Brendan Fraser, Terrence Howard, Ludacris, Thandie Newton, Michael Pena, William Ficthner and many others all involved. The cast is by far the best part of the movie, most of whom deliver decent performances. The problem is that many of the characters don’t feel like real people, some of them being cartoonish, others being rather unlikable. Matt Dillon for example is pretty good in his role but it’s hard to think highly of his performance considering how the movie treats him, going from one end of the spectrum to the other, with very little time to actually show his ‘change’.

The direction by Paul Haggis is fine, nothing special. It’s shot well, edited well, the music was fine enough, there’s not much to really say about that honestly.

I found this movie personally really bad on its own, but even if you don’t compare it to Brokeback Mountain, I’m not sure how it got nominated for anything. There are a few scenes that are pretty good and some of the actors are able to give some good performances but that’s it. None of the characters feel like real people, the attempts of taking on racism is misguided at best, offensive at worst, and the end result is just. I won’t say not to watch it, I know that some people still like Crash, and you might end up liking it. Check it out for yourself and make up your own mind on it.