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Crash

Essay by review  •  February 5, 2011  •  Essay  •  854 Words (4 Pages)  •  661 Views

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You'd be forgiven for thinking that a film with the title "Crash" (Lions Gate) might just be some mindless action film. And, indeed, the first few minutes of the movie, with its somber depiction of Los Angeles at its murkiest -- with off-putting music to match -- might seem to confirm your worst fears.

At the start, we see Don Cheadle as Graham, a weary detective, become involved in a traffic accident. His partner Ria (Jennifer Esposito) -- with whom he's romantically involved -- gets out of the car and begins castigating the Korean woman at the wheel of another car. Her sarcastic taunts are blatantly racist, and the other woman gives as good as she gets. "What's going on here?" you begin to wonder.

Shortly afterward, two streetwise young black men -- Peter (Larenz Tate) and Anthony (Chris "Ludacris" Bridges) -- are walking along, grumbling about being discriminated against at Starbucks because of their color. Coming toward them are an upper-class white couple: Rick (Brendan Fraser), a district attorney, and his suburban wife, Jean (Sandra Bullock). Jean instinctively flinches at the sight of Peter and Anthony, who complain again they're being racially stereotyped.

But as the couple gets into their car, lo and behold, Peter and Anthony do pull out guns and carjack the vehicle. At home, Jean goes on a biased rant, venting her hatred at the Hispanic locksmith, Daniel (Michael Pena), and her Latino housekeeper.

Among the other characters are a Persian merchant (Shaun Toub) who attempts to buy a gun in broken English, and goes ballistic when he thinks the gun-shop owner is thwarting him. Only the Persian's level-headed daughter (Bahar Soomekh) averts physical violence.

There's also an abusive cop, Officer Ryan (Matt Dillon), on patrol with his idealistic younger partner, Officer Hansen (Ryan Phillippe). They stop to investigate a parked car -- inside is an African-American couple, Cameron (Terrence Howard), a television director, and Christine (Thandie Newton), his glamorous wife. They were apparently engaged in a sexual act, and Officer Ryan treats them harshly, going so far as to frisk the wife in a demeaning way.

Later, when the couple returns home, Christine berates her husband for not defending her honor.

So far, almost everyone has expressed racism in some form or another. But eventually, we see that the characters are not quite what we've taken them for. Officer Ryan is shown to be tending a sick father at home; Daniel the locksmith is taking care of his young daughter; Graham the detective has a troubled personal life, including a fragile mother and a missing brother. And so on.

Eventually, all these lives intersect in unlikely and wondrous ways.

It's difficult to go into more plot detail, without ruining any of the surprises (and there are many), but suffice it to say "Crash" is a powerful, expertly crafted film with a strong moral center and a fascinating subtext about race relations and fear.

Writer-director Paul Haggis -- who wrote the script of "Million Dollar Baby" -- takes a story and milieu that at first seems sordid and ugly and turns it into something redemptive and beautiful.

He's helped immeasurably by a terrific cast. Everyone is in top

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