Tuesday, June 6, 2006

Crash (2005)

Two harmless-looking college kids (Larenz Tate and Ludacris) take time out from discussing class to highjack a car; following the incident, Rick, LA's rich, liberal white DA (Brendan Fraser) puzzles out the proper politically-correct spin for the situation, which only underscores his callow nature; his traumatized wife Jean (Sandra Bullock, for once playing a raging nasty) wants the locks changed on their house a second time, in fear that locksmith/"gangbanger" Daniel (Michael Pena doing an interesting Mark Ruffalo impersonation) will return with his "homies" to rob them at gunpoint; Daniel is actually a loving family man who has recently moved to a safer neighborhood to protect his scared daughter... blah blah blah. Paul Haggis's movie works as a kind of flipside to David Cronenberg's tale of sexual fetishism gone haywire. Both films concern disconnected people who have moments of awakening thanks to roadside accidents or violence; the critical difference in Haggis's film is that the characters are willfully disconnected, deliberately ingrown, self-involved to the point of social debilitation, no longer capable of empathy, finding it irresistible not to prejudge solely based on appearances (not to mention, they don't end up having frantic, disassociated sex). At the center of this maelstrom is despicable beat-cop Ryan (Matt Dillon), who salaciously feels up Christine (Thandie Newton), the wife of an African-American television producer, during a questionable traffic stop. The movie brazenly pretends to flesh out both of sides of this incident, and while Officer Ryan's behavior is never rendered excusable, it is given a thematic axis: Racism is bad, absolute racism is absolutely bad, something obvious like that. Crash is like a scatter-shot anthology wherein the stories are all different, but the characters are just varied faces for the same static personality: unlovable, unoriginal, devoid of wit. And this won Best Picture? That's a crime worse than Forrest Gump (1994).

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