Film-Forward Review: [CRASH]

Reviews of Recent Independent, Foreign, & Documentary Films in Theaters and DVD/Home Video

Christine Thayer (Thandie Newton) &
Officer Ryan (Matt Dillon)
Photo: Lorey Sebastian/Lions Gate

Directed by: Paul Haggis.
Produced by: Cathy Schulman, Don Cheadle, Bob Yari et al.
Written by: Paul Haggis & Bobby Moresco.
Director of Photography: J. Michael Muro.
Edited by: Hughes Winborne.
Music by: Mark Isham.
Released by: Lions Gate.
Country of Origin: USA. 107 min. Rated: R.
With: Sandra Bullock, Don Cheadle, Matt Dillon, Jennifer Esposito, William Fichtner, Brendan Fraser, Terrence Howard, Chris "Ludacris" Bridges, Thandie Newton, Ryan Phillippe, Larenz Tate, Nona Gaye & Michael Peña.

Writer Paul Haggis (Million Dollar Baby) drew impetus for his directorial debut from a car jacking he experienced, at gunpoint, after leaving a video store in his hometown of Los Angeles. Crash begins in the present day at the site of a crime scene and flashes back to the events of the days leading up to the incident. Sandra Bullock and Brendan Fraser play an upper class couple - he's the L.A. district attorney - who is car jacked by two black men (Larenz Tate and Chris "Ludacris" Bridges). This occurrence is the catalyst that sets off the collision of strangers who are as different as they are the same. Bullock, in a thankful departure from anything congenial, is immediately suspicious of the two men as she first passes them on the sidewalk. Her mistrust is confirmed and the subsequent tirade she unleashes on her Hispanic maid and a young Latino locksmith is graphic and shocking.

Likewise, the abuse Terence Howard and Thandie Newton's characters undergo at the hands of a racist cop, (Matt Dillon, who gives a riveting performance) is so horrifying that you'll feel compelled to either turn away from the screen or hurl something at it. And the always praise-worthy Don Cheadle is a police detective having an affair with his "white girl" partner (Jennifer Esposito) and who finds himself trapped in a sticky political situation involving the D.A. and a police cover-up.

Compellingly told, Crash is an unflinching and mesmerizing drama about the way the complicated aspects of race permeate our everyday life. With a talented ensemble of familiar and famous faces, Haggis uses each actor, some in ways that are unexpected, to tell individual stories that converge in one way or another by the film's completion. Though there are multiple story arcs and it would be easy for some characters to become lost, Haggis successfully layers each tale and gets to the heart of each person. The still baby-faced Ryan Phillippe, for instance, turns in a surprisingly mature and pivotal performance as a young cop repulsed by his partner's racism, but who is not immune to its reach. No one or ethnicity is left unscathed. Crash forces us to take a look at the way we interact with each other and how intolerance is not reserved for "others." It will certainly be one of 2005's top films. Tanya Chesterfield
May 6, 2005



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