Movie Review
Crash poster
By Lee Tistaert     Published April 13, 2005
US Release: May 6, 2005

Directed by: Paul Haggis
Starring: Sandra Bullock , Don Cheadle , Jennifer Esposito , Brendan Fraser

Running Time: 100 minutes
Domestic Box Office: $54,557,348
1 of 143
The film is mostly geared to the art house crowds who love intelligent and bold commentaries.
Crash is the first really good film I've seen this year. It is an emotional powerhouse and has a similarly empowering effect as Traffic (A-). The film is an ensemble cast piece that offers great performances, and tackles a raw subject matter that relates to everyday culture. It?s also depressing and heavy (and is light on comic relief) and will appeal to a limited audience.

The film is a slice of life from one day in Los Angeles that dissects racism and prejudice. It involves multiple stories that are going on simultaneously, and some of them intervene. Crash is Robert Altman?s Short Cuts meets Paul Thomas Anderson?s Magnolia in terms of structure, with thematic issues that are similar to Grand Canyon (B+) and House of Sand and Fog (B+), and has a somber tone that somewhat resembles In America (B+).

The film is about a car accident that brings together a few strangers. The story begins the night of the crash on the scene of the investigation, and then backtracks to the previous day as we follow various groups of people whose lives come together in an act of coincidence (or fate).

There are two night crawlers (Larenz Tate and Chris ?Ludacris? Bridges) who wander the city ranting about African Americans and rap music. There is a District Attorney (Brendan Fraser) whose car gets stolen by two black people and has to deal with his racist wife (Sandra Bullock) who?s paranoid over their safety. There is a corrupt police officer (Matt Dillon) who tries to corrupt the mind of his good-natured partner (Ryan Phillippe). There is a film director and his wife (Terrence Howard and Thandie Newton) who are pulled over by those officers for being black. There is a crime investigator (Don Cheadle) who oversees the crash, and is also in search of his long-lost brother who?s a criminal on the run. And there is a Persian storeowner who gets involved in a racy issue with a Mexican locksmith over a misunderstanding.

Although no one stands out in particular in terms of performance (they?re all very good), I really admired Sandra Bullock for taking on the role she did. I had just recently commented on how she and Cedric the Entertainer need to make a ?real film? some day, kind of like how Adam Sandler eventually did with Punch-Drunk Love (B+). Bullock plays the opposite of her ?pretty and cute? Hollywood figure ? a bitter woman who doesn?t appreciate what she has in life. Bullock was a slap in the face considering I didn?t see this role coming, and I loved her for finally branching out emotionally. You could possibly argue that her character is too sour to like, but her previous movies had been so predictable and lightweight that this performance was a relief to me.

Crash was written/directed by Paul Haggis, who wrote Million Dollar Baby (B+). Both of these films are very personal stories, and even with an ensemble under his belt this time, Haggis has applied solid depth behind each character. The one slight except is Brendan Fraser, whose presence is breezed over a bit, but his performance compensates for that shortage. Otherwise, each character shines, and each of them changes emotionally as a result of an incident.

Haggis uses the common views of society and he sometimes plays tricks on your perception, making you realize how twisted some of the media?s propaganda can be (on issues like discrimination). It?s a biting commentary on many of our mindsets during everyday encounters, and how much bias there can be due to our instant, oftentimes inaccurate judgments. The film is also so much of a downer in the tone that it?s never quite clear what is going to happen, and as a result it can be quite a dramatic nail biter. The film is mostly geared to the art house crowds who love intelligent and bold commentaries.
Lee's Grade: B+
Ranked #1 of 143 between The 40 Year Old Virgin (#2) and (#) for 2005 movies.
Lee's Overall Grading: 2947 graded movies
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    April 16, 2005    A very emotional film that confronts uncomfortable subject matters in a forthright and powerful way. -- Scott Sycamore
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