Crash (2005) - Movie Review
Wow! I really don’t know how to describe this movie. I could say it is a study of race relations, racial tensions and emotions in America, but that would make the movie sounds too artsy and stodgy - something which this movie is completely not. (Now, “Birth” is another issue and might be the topic of another review). Crash in a nutshell is the story of a complete day in the lives of a lot of people living in LA, how their lives intersect through the day and in my husband’s words, “set off a chain reaction” that ultimately ends in the death of a black man.
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The movie has pretty much every racial stereotype you can think of - Hispanic housekeeper, thuggish black people, racist white people, Chinese people who say “blake” for “brake” and illegal immigrants. There are Persian shopkeepers who think all Hispanics are out to cheat them - there are black guys who think the Whitey’s keeping them down - there are white people who think all black people are out to rob them. What keeps the movie from becoming a parody or a preachy lecture is the heart that the movie manages to find in it’s characters - the characters are all shades of gray - none really evil (well, maybe a couple who frame an innicent white cop so they can get the black vote).
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I thought the most complex interesting characters were those of the black director(Terrence Howard) who thinks he has to shut up and let people walk over him so he can get on with his life - he doesn’t want to cause any ripples. He is too afraid to even speak up when Matt Dillon’s racist white cop (another very interesting character) pretends to search her while actually feeling up her skirt. He would rather stand there and let him and his wife be publicly humiliated than do something - all this pent-up frustration causes him to erupt at quite an unlikely time that puts his life in real jeopardy.
Matt Dillon’s portrayal of a racist cop seemed run-of-the-mill initially till you realize there are layers of empathy, frustration and hurt below his hard surface once you get to know him. It was commendable of the movie makers to not take any sides in the argument, but simply present the various sides of the race story. What got me were the scenes of confrontation between Thandie Newton who plays the wife humiliated by Matt Dillon and her husband. The wife is screaming at her husband in frustration - angry that he, her protector simply stood by and watched while she was being molested on a road by another man. She is humiliated not only for herself, but also for him that he couldn’t muster up the dignity to fight back. He, on the other hand is passive-aggressive and punishes the only person whom he can safely stand up to - his wife - by refusing to talk to her, and playing the martyr while at the same time choosing to ignore the fact that it was she who was molested and she, who is in greater pain than he could possibly be in.
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Ryan Phillippe has an interesting little arc playing the honset sidekick to Matt Dillon who requests a reassignment since he cannot stand his partner’s racism, but in the end realizes there in inherent racism within himself too - whether he acknowledges it or not.
All in all, a very interesting movie - well-made with gripping characters that stay with you long after the movie has ended. A well-told tale that probably comes as close to balanced as it can when it comes to the state of race relations in America.
For some weird reason, a lot of this movie reminded me of Magnolia - I think it was two things - firstly, the way all characters in the movie have some connection to each other and secondly, remember the ending of Magnolia when frogs rain down? The snowfall-in-LA ending of this movie seemed very similar.
*Review by shanti, Dancing with Dogs.
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