We've Met the Enemy and It's Us
Good people do bad things, and bad people do good things. Never mind that movies usually try to simplify the battle between good and evil by focusing on noble heroes fighting against evil villains. In Crash, that age-old struggle is more frightening and realistic: it takes place inside the individuals whose lives intertwine during a tense 24-hour period in Los Angeles. And, as we watch this riveting film unfold, we canít help wondering about our own strengths and imperfections
Who are the good guys? Who are the bad guys? I thought I knew after a couple of scenes. One cop (Matt Dillon), who fondles an African-American woman (Thandie Newton) after pulling over her and her TV producer husband (Terrence Howard) for a bogus traffic infraction, is surely a villain. His young partner (Ryan Phillippe) objects to such obnoxious behavior, so he must be a good guy. But, surprisingly, like all the diverse characters in this amazing film, both men act admirably in some situations and despicably in others. They are oh-so human.
The film's dramatic events take place in one of our nationís greatest melting pots, and racism surfaces in almost every scene. People toss out ethnic slurs and stereotypical comments like poison-coated confetti on New Yearís Eve. Although most of these remarks are hateful and made me cringe, some come across as quite humorous, especially the bickering between two carjackers (Larenz Tate and Ludacris) who complain about white people believing that all black people are criminals.
The L.A. District Attorney and his angry wife (Brendan Fraser and Sandra Bullock), who own a vehicle stolen by Tate and Ludacrus, exhibit racist attitudes in different ways. Bullock insists the Hispanic locksmith (Michael Pena) canít be trusted, and Fraser shows more interest in maintaining multi-cultural political support than in finding out the truth about what could turn out to be a high profile case. He seeks help from a conscientious detective (Don Cheadle) with problems of his own, including fallout from an ethnic remark he made to his partner (Jennifer Esposito), a woman of Puerto Rican descent.
I love to be surprised in a movie, and Crash is full of unpredictable moments. The two most dramatic ones involve the locksmith and his little daughter. In one poignant sequence, the girlís caring father soothes her with a delightful fairy story; and in the filmís most powerful scene, these two sympathetic characters connect with a Persian shop owner (Shaun Toub) in a most unexpected way.
Films with so many characters and interweaving stories usually leave me cold. Iím one of the few critics who didnít rave about Magnolia or Traffic. But Crash got to me big time. Directed and co-written by Paul Haggis (who also wrote the Million Dollar Baby screenplay), this movie did more than hold my interest. It touched my soul.
(Released by Lions Gate Films and rated ďRĒ for language, sexual content and some violence.)