A Film Review
Copyright Dragan Antulov 2005
If someone tries to base his picture of the world on average Hollywood films, he would come to conclusion that there isn't any world outside Los Angeles. This could be explained with sharp ethnic, social, economic and cultural divisions that exist within something that people like to refer as a "city". For many of its citizens - especially those living in wealthier sections like Beverly Hills - some of the neighbourhoods and their inhabitants appear like another planet. This failure to communicate seems to be endless source of frustrations for Hollywood - entertainment industry institution based on the very idea of bridging all cultural and other gaps. One of many films to address this issue is CRASH, 2005 drama directed by Paul Haggis.
Haggis, who co-wrote the script with Robert Moresco, built the plot on the narrative device very familiar to those who had seen Altman's SHORT CUTS and Paul Thomas Anderson's MAGNOLIA. The film begins with Graham Waters (played by Don Cheadle), passenger in car driven by Latina woman named Ria (played by Jennifer Esposito). When they get rear-ended, it is slowly revealed that those two are Los Angeles Police detectives who investigate a murder of young black man. The rest of the film shows 36 hours that had preceded this event and during which many new characters - each belonging to different race, class, ethnic or social group - are introduced. All those characters are by coincidence connected with each other and series of vignettes - some featuring very violent and unpleasant incidents -describe how they interact, often using each and every opportunity to show racism and other forms of prejudice.
Haggis, best known as the scriptwriter for "Oscar"-awarded and overrated MILLION DOLLAR BABY, shows great skill as a director. The plot, despite its complicated structure, is easy to follow and the characters are intriguing. The cast is superb, with many actors playing against the type - especially Brendan Fraser as faceless politician and Sandra Bullock as his bourgeois snobby wife. The most pleasant surprise is, however, Michael Pena as a young Mexican locksmith - the only character with whom the audience could identify without feeling bad about it.
CRASH is well-acted and well-directed, but also betrayed by its script. Haggis has built the plot on the series of often implausible coincidences that look more suitable to misanthropic black comedies than dramas that aspire to tell important truths about real life. There were better ways to present the idea of everyone in Los Angeles being connected with everyone else. The dialogue also leaves much to be desired - characters are often burdened with long expository dialogues that don't sound particularly realistic. This starts with Graham's "poetic" monologue at the beginning and continues throughout film - most often in situations when characters have to address various issues that plague their social or ethnic group. Mark Isham's musical score also takes away film's realism by emphasising pathos in the least opportune moments. The quasi-biblical ending - "borrowed" from MAGNOLIA - also underlines the impression of plot's artificiality, but at that time its effect on film's quality isn't that important.
While at times CRASH might look more like a sermon than genuine film, there are more than enough powerful scenes and more than enough displays of great talent for this film to deserve recommendation.
RATING: 6/10 (++)