|© 2005 by C. E. Murphy. All Rights Reserved.
Lately it seems that movies coming out of Hollywood are devoid
of any real substance. In a bid to earn global dollars, the movie
studios churn out action dramas featuring special effects, explosions
and car chases. Or they produce unending sequels, carbon copies of
successful originals that fade as the franchise gets up in numbers. It’
s no secret that the target audience is young males in their teens and
early twenties. Often, the remaining segments of the audience feel
neglected. So it’s no surprise when they willingly embrace efforts
made by the smaller independent studios that occasionally fund or
distribute films with appeal to intelligent adults.
Lions Gate Films deserves a tremendous thank you for one of
the best films to come along so far in 2005, CRASH. Although it
shares the same name as David Cronenberg’s somewhat controversial
1996 adaptation of J.G. Ballard’s novel about a group of
psychologically disturbed individuals who eroticize automobile
accidents, this CRASH is drawn in part from an incident in the life of
one of its director, Paul Haggis.
The film, set in a post-9/11 Los Angeles, is a tapestry of plots
that sometimes overlap. Clearly, Haggis and his co-screenwriter
Bobby Moresco were inspired not only by the obvious master, Robert
Altman, but also other writer-directors like Quentin Tarantino, Paul
Thomas Anderson and Willard Carroll. While some of the plot points
are telegraphed and predictable, the characters are richly drawn,
three-dimensional people portrayed by an ensemble of gifted actors.
CRASH deals with a series of individuals living in the Los
Angeles area whose lives intersect over the course of two days. Some
may criticize the movie as too insular but I think that the writers’
intentions were to show the interconnectedness of humanity and the
accidental way Fate sometimes plays out. Although I live in New York
City, there are certain people I see almost daily. Some with whom I
may interact (for example, the wait staff at a diner where I eat),
while others I may just pass by (e.g., the other customers at the
diner who also go there regularly or people I pass on the way to
work). There’s a certain familiarity to neighborhoods, even those
within a big city. There’s also a random quality to the events.
Haggis has stated that the impetus for this script occurred
many years ago, when he and his wife were victims of a carjacking.
After the incident, he began to wonder about the criminals and began
to spin out stories that eventually reached their fruition with CRASH.
Indeed, an important set piece is the carjacking of a Ford Navigator
belonging to the youngish District Attorney Rick Cameron (Brendan
Fraser) and his tightly-wound wife Jean (Sandra Bullock). With the
police on the lookout for the car, racist cop Jack Ryan (Matt Dillon)
and his more open-minded partner (Ryan Phillippe) pull over an
African American couple (Terrence Howard and Thandie Newton) and
subject the wife to a humiliating search for weapons while her
husband, a successful TV director, impassively watches. One may
quibble when these character’s lives abut one another again the
following day, but as I’ve stated, I think Haggis and Moresco want to
make the point that we are all connected on a very basic level.
One of the beauties of CRASH is that the characters are not all
virtuous or all bad. They are flawed human beings existing in a
fractious society. Haggis has cast all the roles extremely well, and
each actor rises to the occasion, with Cheadle, Newton, Howard,
Bullock and Dillon doing some of their best screen work.Rapper-
turned-actor Chris ‘Ludacris’ Bridges turns in a star-making
performance. There are also incisive cameo appearances from Tony
Danza, William Fichtner and Keith David.
Since seeing the film, I’ve been haunted by it and it has made
me stop and think about how I relate to other people, whether
casually or intimately. I can safely say that there have only been a
handful of movies that have affected me on such a profound level.
CRASH ranks as one of them.
MPAA Rating: R for language, sexual content and
Running time: 113 mins.
Viewed at Magno Review One