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    Race case

    The premise of "Crash," Paul Haggis's multi-storied, multi-starred and very earnest directorial debut film, is that we are all prejudiced in some way or another. Even the title has several varied meanings, from culture clash to automobile wreck.


    "We are Children of Coincidence and Harpo Marx," that old Dory Previn album title (she whom Andre Previn dumped for Mia Farrow before Farrow dumped him for Woody Allen), could also have provided the subtitle of "Crash." The directorial debut of recently Oscar-nominated writer Paul Haggis ("Million Dollar Baby") presents an ethnically disparate group of mostly well-known actors who keep colliding in a morass of coincidences.

    Directed by: Paul Haggis.
    Written by: Paul Haggis, Bobby Moresco.
    Cast: Sandra Bullock, Don Cheadle, Matt Dillon, Jennifer Esposito, William Fichtner, Brendan Fraser, Terrence Dashon Howard, Ludacris, Thandie Newton, Ryan Phillippe, Larenz Tate, Tony Danza, Keith David, Shaun Toub, Loretta Devine, Michael Pena, Bahar Soomekh, James Haggis.
    Cinematography: James Muro, Dana Gonzales.
    Edited by: Hughes Winborne.

    Related links: Official site
    "Crash" has antecedents in such recent culture clash films as "Spanglish" and "House of Sand and Fog," and those two Thanksgiving-based indies — "What's Cooking?" and "Pieces of April" — plus any number of John Sayles' flix and La Rondean multi-storied films like "Magnolia" and "Short Cuts."

    But the two-time Emmy-winning Haggis, a former writer/story editor on such disparate TV series as "Diff'rent Strokes," "thirtysomething" and "EZ Streets," cut his writing eye-teeth on a couple of multi-storied shows including "Love Boat" and "L.A. Law," so he definitely knows the territory. For "Crash," that territory is Los Angeles, where myriad ethnic and racial populations live side by side but rarely interact, except in the colonial sense of servant and master.

    Haggis's characters range from two privileged couples — one white: a district attorney (Brendan Fraser) and his wife (Sandra Bullock), and one black: a TV producer (Terence Howard) and his wife (Thandie Newton) — to a pair of philosophical black carjackers (Chris "Ludacris" Bridges and Larenz Tate). Haggis owes no small debt to Quentin Tarantino for these last two, while his Persian characters are second cousins to the Iranian family in "Sand and Fog."

    The police force is presented as the city's most integrated entity. Don Cheadle, a black detective, and Keith David, a black top kick, co-exist in a constantly fragile state of dÄtente within an LAPD filled with white (Matt Dillon, Ryan Phillippe) and Latino (Jennifer Esposito) officers. Haggis's television background kicks in as each character is put into a variety of situations to which he or she responds in ways both prejudiced and heroic.

    In his earnest desire to show that the human condition is never wholly black or white, Haggis leans too heavily on coincidence and a television-like sense of symmetry. If he partners two white cops in a patrol car, one (Dillon) must be a vicious bigot, while the other (Phillippe) will be almost saintly in his desire to bypass prejudicial treatment of blacks.

    And everyone has to have a flip side as well. The privileged Blacks will be alternately harassed and then saved by whites, while at least one carjacker will have a change of heart. Only the most centered character, a gentle Latino locksmith (Michael Peľa), never succumbs to any baser instincts.

    Yet the film is obviously sincere — Haggis himself was a victim of the kind of carjacking he depicts — and his dialogue is way above average. It's easy to see why the various name actors were attracted to the script, which provides most of them a chance to expand their usual screen images. The cinematography by James Muro is also impressive.

    All the actors, especially Newton, are valiant and newcomer Bridges, Peľa and Shawn Toub (as the Persian shopkeeper) are quite good. "Crash" may well provoke some serious aprĆs-film conversations, but those pesky coincidences really do tax the film's credibility.

    MAY 9, 2005

    Reader comments on Crash:

  • [no subject]   from JOHNNY, Jul 28, 2005
  • comments....   from andrea paula, Aug 28, 2005
  • :)   from Tatjana, Oct 8, 2005
  • "Crash"   from B. Fennell, Oct 15, 2005
  • JUST SEE   from Lexi, Oct 24, 2005
  • sounds great!!!   from ashleigh, Dec 7, 2005
  • Hughes Winborne   from Daniel Hughes Winborne, Mar 7, 2006
  • About Iranian   from Reza, Mar 9, 2006
  • Brilliant movie...   from swappy, Mar 15, 2006
  • Absolute Must See!!!!   from Saurabh Ghelani, Mar 15, 2006
  • ....   from M.S., Mar 26, 2006
  • ugly..powerful...and mesmerizing   from Jude, Apr 11, 2006
  • The Genius CLub   from A.D., May 3, 2006
  • Re: The Genius CLub   from Dallas Mavs Fan, Nov 16, 2006
  • Re: The Genius CLub   from lifeonpurpose, Dec 3, 2006
  • best movie ive seen for ages   from emma, Sep 6, 2006
  • the director   from guidance, Oct 30, 2006
  • 'genius' is a profound film   from fan of 'genius club', Nov 6, 2006
  • Re: 'genius' is it opening in LA?   from underwood, Dec 6, 2006
  • Newbie   from Rick, Jul 8, 2007

  • Post a comment on "Crash"