Rarely do I find myself equally liking and disliking a movie but that is exactly where I find myself with Crash, Paul Haggis’ first film following the critically acclaimed Million Dollar Baby. Crash follows a group of people in L.A. as their lives collide unexpectedly and violently over a forty-eight hour period.
Crash works because it takes an honest and serious look at racial, ethnic and class relations in Los Angeles a city that is the epicenter of such tensions. Instead of just offering the same overused and overdone stereotypes, Crash forces you to look at what we think we know about these issues and forces you to look at them from a point of view that may not have previously considered.
The movie is helped in part by the amazing performances of the cast. As star studded as the cast is that doesn’t necessarily guarantee great acting but in Crash the actors more then deliver and there is more then one Oscar worthy performance in the film.
Don Cheadle is outstanding as usual as a hardworking detective whose mother loves his thug younger brother then she does him. Matt Dillon is more then convincing as a bigoted cop who is caring for his ailing father and Sandra Bullock’s performance as the wasp wife of the district attorney who is very honest about her contempt and fear of anyone who doesn’t look like her is arguably the best of her career. It’s easy to forget that Bullock is a pretty good actress considering her recent choices in films (think Miss Congeniality 1 and 2 come to mind) and rarely have we seen her in a dramatic role, but she does an excellent job here that is more than worthy of a little gold man.
Crash doesn’t work because in order to tell its tale it relies too heavily on coincidence. The movie wants you to believe that all of these lives intersect in a two day span in a way that irrevocably changes everyone’s life and for many their view of the world. I realize that L.A. is a small town in that everybody knows somebody but give me a break. I don’t think Matt Dillon’s character is the only cop in the city or Michael Pena is the only locksmith. I don’t believe Terrance Howard’s was the only other person driving a black navigator or one of the young thugs just happens to have a cop for a brother. The movie tries hard to make you believe that all the coincidences are possible but it just doesn’t work.
I can accept that the lives of these characters intersect here and there but the movies insistence that they all connect in some way takes away the level of reality that the movie strives so hard to achieve. Everyone fitting in this nice little circle rings false and is actually completely unnecessary to the telling of the story.
Crash also suffers because it offers little to no analysis of these issues. It more or less says, “Here it is do with it what you may.” I didn’t expect answers and would have been very disappointed had the film tried to offer any but if offers very little in the way of hope and when you lay such heavy material on an audience you should at least offer some hope that things can and will be better.
Crash is a must see movie. I think in a country that has managed to convince itself that race issues no longer exist this film is a stark reminder that that is far from reality and that there is still a lot that needs to be done and that should be done. Often we don’t have the opportunity or we simply don’t want to look at the world outside of the little box we have created for ourselves. Crash forces you to look outside of that box and in the end I believe you will be better for it.