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Film Review


(May 22, 2005) Hi guys, Crash begins and ends with one, and in between are seven stories of people who crash into each other, in cars and in life. What better setting than LA, with its extreme car culture and mixture of racial groups. often in conflict. Paul Haggis (screenplay for Million Dollar Baby) directs (and co-authored the screenplay) a huge ensemble cast, who play people in extremis who often don't know who they really are, and who continually surprise us by their actions (which I have tried not to reveal). Don Cheadle plays a detective, who at the very beginning, seems to summarize the film by saying "I think we [in LA] miss touch so much that we crash into each other just so we can feel something". Two black kids in Brentwood, complaining of racism because they had bad service in a restaurant, surprise us. A Chicano locksmith, redoing the locks of the district attorney's house, is berated and listens to racist remarks by the DA's wife (played by Sandra Bullock), who thinks the locksmith is a thug. He too, surprises and moves us greatly. An irascible Iranian shop keeper, struggling to keep his shop open in the ghetto, has an encounter with the same locksmith who has come to repair his shop door. And then buys a gun to protect his store. One of the main stories is about two cops (played by Matt Dillon and Ryan Phillippe), one a horrible racist, and the other his decent young partner, who stop a black couple for no real reason and humiliate them. When the young cop requests another partner, the racist cop says "You think you know who you are. You have no idea". True not only for the young cop but for most others in this film. There are many surprises here. Some seem like a screenwriter's crutch, but most ring true.

There is such rage and hurt; everyone seems to be angry at everyone else. Haggis confronts racism as directly as you will ever see in any film. Some of his characters rise above it while others cannot. There is great power in this film, the pace is intense, with each story cutting into the others, and sometimes not linear. Yet we begin to know the characters, we think, and we, like they, are often wrong. This is very Altmanesque, but much harder edged than Altman's films. The acting is very very accomplished with no false steps in casting. The cinematography is well done, and the music mostly soothing, rather than jarring. You will probably leave exhausted but having seen a great American film that you will not be able to stop thinking about. It may force you to re-examine your ideas about racism. I loved Crash and think it is easily the best American film that I have seen this year. I only wish it had been longer. And it will age well. There is so much more that I want to say, but it would be unfair to reveal the many surprises. Definitely see this in the theatre, although unfortunately it is playing at the Kabuki and the AMC (Van Ness), not at the Landmarks.

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