Oscar Movie Month: "Crash" Review

Photo Credit: Lions Gate Films

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Rating: R

Length: 112 minutes

Release Date: May 06, 2005

Directed by: Paul Haggis

Genre: Drama


Lionsgate's "Crash" is the powerful tale of the racial tensions that still exist in society. The film interlocks stories involving all races, cops and crooks, the rich and poor, and the powerful and powerless. They are all affected in one way or another by racism. The movie presumes that most people feel prejudice and resentment against members of other groups and demonstrates the consequences of such feelings effectively.

The movie begins with Detective Graham Waters (Don Cheadle) speaking in his vehicle about the nature of Los Angeles and the need for people to "crash" into each other. His Latina partner, Ria (Jennifer Esposito), mentions they were just hit from behind. She gets out of the car and confronts the other driver, an Asian woman. The two women begin blaming each other for the mishap while making racial jibes.  

Some of the interlocking, racially-fueled events include (but are not limited to) the following:

-Two young black men, Anthony (Ludacris) and Peter, leave a restaurant. Anthony claims they were victims of poor service due to their "blackness" while Peter laughs it off. At the same time, a white couple walking down the sidewalk, Jean (Sandra Bullock) and Rick Cabot (Brendan Fraser), notice the men, with Jean clutching Rick's arm in reaction. Though Anthony takes offense, viewing it as a racial slight, the two young men ironically draw handguns and carjack the couple's black Lincoln Navigator. The men eventually hit an Asian man, and after dropping the "China-man" off in front of a hospital, they are unsuccessful in getting rid of the vehicle, which would become evidence. Interestingly, Anthony's constant blame of society for the mistreatment of blacks is only further supported by his criminal actions.

-Detective Waters and Ria later arrive at a crime scene, with a uniformed cop telling them of a shooting between two drivers. The surviving white man is identified as an undercover cop, while the dead driver of a Mercedes is also a cop, a black man. The investigators are unsure as to just who began the road-rage shooting, leaving the audience to assume until the truth is revealed later on.

-Upon the theft of their car and house keys, Jean and Rick change the locks of their house. To Jean's dismay, the locksmith is an aggressive-looking Hispanic man, leading her to loudly exclaim to her husband that she would like the locks changed again the next day to avoid a second robbery. 

Perhaps the most fascinating character is Officer Ryan (Matt Dillon). From the start, he is portrayed as a racist cop, beginning with his mistreatment of a couple he pulls over for engaging in a sexual act while behind the wheel. Later on, it is revealed that his anger stems from the downfall of his father's janitorial business due to the city's decision to contract work to minority businesses even though he employed numerous black men to work for him. The brighter side of him is also shown as a compassionate caregiver and, in the end, a lifesaver.

Another interesting aspect of the film is that peoples' misconceptions prevent them from seeing the actual person before them. For example, an Iranian store owner is thought to be an Arab, and both he and Jean believe the Mexican-American locksmith to be a gang member and a crook when he is really a family man. Additionally, Detective Waters is also under the impression that Ria is white, and Officer Ryan mistakes a light-skinned black woman to be white.

The all-star cast of Bullock, Cheadle, Dillon and Esposito is hard to ignore, and all deliver fantastic performances. Director Paul Haggis, known for his spectacular work in "Million Dollar Baby," does not disappoint. He works his magic brilliantly in interweaving a diverse group of characters and their paths without confusing the audience. A strong conclusion further reminds viewers that, as much as groups may differ from one another, there is always common ground.

The film is well-received by moviegoers and critics alike. Roger Ebert proclaimed the film "a movie of intense fascination" and the best film of 2005. Ebert gave the flick four out of four stars, a rating he also gave well-acclaimed blockbusters "Dances With Wolves," "Pleasantville" and "Mystic River." The film made Empire's 2008 list of the 500 greatest films of all time. "Crash" also won the Oscar for Best Picture at the 78th Academy Awards and was nominated for several other awards.

Lacking the filter for political-correctness that most other films have, "Crash" is evidence that anything can happen. It is a controversial yet powerful drama with viewers quickly able to understand just who the characters are and what their lives entail. However, they are left with no idea how they are about to actually behave, further adding to the excitement.

Rating: 4 out of 5