Tuesday, May 17, 2005


dir. Paul Haggis

"Crash" is getting a lot of rave reviews, including from fellow blogger, Chris, and it's easy to see why. In a year that we have had this many piece of shit films thrown at us, a movie like "Crash" stands out and is maybe even praised a little more than it should be. In a year like 1999 (And if you don't know what I'm talking about, go to IMDB and type in 1999, and you will see the ridiculous list of kick ass films that leaps forth at you) "Crash" might only get a simple mention as being a solid piece of filmwork. However, in a year like 2005 is shaping up to be, we may already have our "Best Picture" winner by default.

Not to worry, I'm not meaning to trash this film by any means. I actually saw this almost a week ago, and I have been thinking about it ever since. It is a movie I like quite a bit; I'm not sure I love it, but I most definately enjoyed it. The movie is an ensemble piece; it's a multi-narrative film. These are films I usually like quite a bit. Some of my favorite films of all time fall under this category: "Magnolia," "Short Cuts," "Slacker." There are quite a few of these types of films that don't work as well: "Traffic" and "Ready to Wear" are the two immediates that come to mind. "Crash" falls somewhere in the middle for me in this subgenre, but it leans more toward the good than the bad.

Paul Haggis is to be commended for writing a script of this nature. After last year's Oscar winner, "Million Dollar Baby," which Haggis also wrote, he has proven the man is no fluke. He is able to interweave these characters, and there are plenty of them, very well. He makes all of their connections by the end of the film fit very nicely together. I give him credit for using what could obviously be a hack writer's (ala Joe Esterhaz) gimmick and using these strange coincedences to make the story even stronger because of them. No one should feel cheated by the story's structure at the end of the film. KW made the comment that this film was better than "Magnolia" at tying all of the characters together, and I can see where he's coming from. However, where in "Magnolia" you get falling frogs, in "Crash" you get falling snow. As far as L.A. goes, I think the frogs might be more credible. Haggis also directs "Crash," and as a director I was very intrigued. Working alongside cinematographer's Dana Gonzales and James Muro (X2 and The Chronicles of Riddick), Haggis creates a visually captivating Los Angeles. As many times as this city as been captured on film, I can honestly say it has never looked this gritty or dark.

There are a lot of strong performances throughout the movie. Sandra Bullock is getting all kinds of raves for her performance; many people are saying it's her best one yet, and it's a valid point. While I still prefer her early attention getting parts in "Speed" and "While You Were Sleeping," this is a very different role for Ms. Bullock, and she knocks it out of the park. So, I can see why people are giving her the raves. Matt Dillon and Don Cheadle are their usual selves; they have a couple of good characters to work with here, and they pull them off nicely. Terence Howard, as Chris pointed out, will be talked about a lot this year, and I'm glad he's getting his dues. He was the best thing about last year's "Ray" after Jaime Foxx, and he gives my second favorite performance in this movie. Ludacris joins the group of rappers that can act in his first high profile role. My favorite performance in the film goes to Michale Pena as Daniel. In one of the best scenes in the film, he wins your heart as he shows at what depths he will go to protect his daughter.

So, what doesn't work so well? The movie gets a little heavy handed at times, especially at the end of the film. But, in a movie dealing with volitale issues, such as racism, it's hard to expect there not to be a little over the top antics. While Haggis does manage to avoid a lot of the stereotypical scenes seen in much better movies, he does get trapped in them as well on occassion. Some of the acting is throwaway as well. Ryan Phillipe and Brendan Fraser are both miscast. The former plays a cop who thinks he isn't racist but then gets thrown into a situation where he has to test his patience on the subject, and the latter plays an ADA who seems to care more about his image than his wife's unhappiness or the people's lives that his decisions affect. In one scene Fraser's character realizes that he might be considered racist due to a certain event so he tells his aide that as soon as possible he must have a picture taken with him giving a random black person some kind of award. Thandie Newton is an actress that has never really worked for me, and her performance in "Crash" doesn't change any past feelings. The most insulting of the bunch is Shaun Toub. Toub plays Faud, a Persian convienent store owner who must deal with people thinking he's an Arab terrorist everyday of his life. It's a well written tragic character, but Toub's performance turns him into such an asshole, it's really hard to care one way or the other about him.

So, in the end, despite it's problems, "Crash" is a really good movie. The strong scenes outweigh the heavy handed scenes, and the bad performances get overshadowed by the good ones. All-in-all, you couldn't ask for a better movie to go see when you can't get into to the sold out showings of "Revenge of the Sith."



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