Crash (2004) Director: Paul Haggis
Crash is a bleak, depressing, sappy socio-political “message” movie. At the time of its release it was widely praised, even winning Best Picture at the Oscars in 2005. While I can appreciate a film with an anti-bigotry message, Crash just gets more ridiculous and overtly sentimental with time. It does not rank among the greatest of the Best Picture winners in my view.
Crash is a panorama-film. It tells the story a variety of parallel lives, people living empty, broken lives in Los Angeles, people filled with prejudice and hatred and, above all, distance from one another. So they come violently crashing into one another in a string of car accidents, robberies, and gun violence. The plot concerns a struggling Iranian family who runs a shop with a broken door, so they call a Latino locksmith who has already been accused of being a “gang banger” though in truth he is the loving father of a little girl, we meet racism in the District Attorney’s office, a dirty police force, one officer’s father who struggles with health problems, a pair of car thieves, a black couple wrongfully abused by the LAPD, an Asian family who, as it turns out, have been trafficking people to the United States and so on. It is about a string of poor choices and misunderstandings which remind us that everyone has a story. There is greater depth to a person than a mere stereotype and so forth. This obvious piece of Oscar-bait features an ensemble cast: Sandra Bullock, Don Cheadle, Matt Dillon, Jennifer Esposito, William Fichtner, Brendan Fraser, Terrence Howard, Chris “Ludacris” Bridges, Thandiwe Newton, Michael Peña, and Ryan Phillippe.
It’s pretty extraordinary in hindsight that this film won Best Picture. Paul Haggis had previously received acclaim for his script for Clint Eastwood’s Million Dollar Baby which won Best Picture the prior year. At any rate, Crash left me rolling my eyes about half the time, during the other half one cannot help but feel the tug at even the most tensely bound heartstrings.