It is the time of the bold, brash thunder. The lumbering, overbearing explosion of dumb garish films that litter the early summer months is usually just offal to feed the masses that tend to spend far too much time overanalyzing just what happened on the insipid “American Idol” last night or what Paris Hilton’s up to.
So it is quite refreshing to see a film released in early May whose budget doesn’t dwarf the GNP of a small European country. Lions Gate Films is to be applauded for this counterprogramming. Crash is a racial parable that tells stories from the varied perspectives of two carjackers (Chris “Ludacris” Bridges and Larenz Tate, both stellar), an upper-crust Caucasian couple (Sandra Bullock & Brendan Fraser), two detectives who are partners on and off duty (Don Cheadle & Jennifer Esposito), a racist cop (Matt Dillon) and his rookie partner (Ryan Phillippe) and a television director (Terrance Howard) and his wife (Thandie Newton). The story intertwines itself amongst all of these characters over the course of 48 hours in L.A.
Co-writer/director Paul Haggis, who was nominated for an Oscar for writing last year’s Million Dollar Baby, deftly blends all of these plot threads into a cohesive and ultimately satisfying, albeit bittersweet, conclusion. No one is good or bad in the film. We look at these people and see the world through their own uniquely divisive prisms: Bullock’s character is nervous around the Hispanic man changing their locks (he’s actually a family man), the racist cop uses his hatred and abuse of authority to feed his own ego, much to the disgust of his partner. The two carjackers dress like university students and expound on different reasons why each race acts a certain way towards the other and to its own.
This being the type of film it is, it’s bound to draw some comparisons to Robert Altman’s masterful Short Cuts or Paul Thomas Anderson’s biting and emotional Magnolia but those comparisons end there. Some instances in Crash lend themselves to contrivances but it isn’t that much of a stretch so the audience is never brought out of the story by them.
For once it’s great to hear dialogue that doesn’t sound like lame platitudes spit out by hacks who seem to have installed ScriptWriting 101 on their laptops. The topics broached in Crash are real, live discussions and the incidents that occur around them are at turns frightening, unnerving, amazing, and joyous. From time to time, we all wonder WHY we go to the movies. Crash gives us a compelling reason to.