Saturday, April 27, 2019

Movie Review: "Crash" (2004)

Director: Paul Haggis
Year: 2004
Rating: R
Running Time: 1 hour, 52 minute

The intersecting stories of several people living in Los Angeles as they deal with racism daily.

Crash 2004 Thandie Newton Matt Dillon Terrence Howard
"I just couldn't stand to see that man take away your dignity." (Image Source)
We imagine the many stars auditioning for their role in "Crash" (2004) asking, "what is my character's most defining trait?" Turns out, the answer is inevitably, always, their racism. "Crash" is written and directed by Paul Haggis, who is known for writing films like the award-winning "Million Dollar Baby" (2004), "Casino Royale" (2006), and "In the Valley of Elah" (2007). This movie stars an ensemble cast including Don Cheadle, Sandra Bullock, Brendan Fraser, Thandie Newton, Terrance Howard, Matt Dillon, Michael Peña, Ryan Phillippe (sans saxophone solo, though) and Ludacris, just to name a few. They play various characters, from cops to criminals, from politicians to Hollywood directors. It is a slice-of-life look of how these characters' lives intersect on a day in Los Angeles and how racism impacts them all in different ways. 
Crash 2004 movie still
"They think we're Arab. When did Persian become Arab?" (Image Source)
If the message of "Crash" (2004) is to be understood, we are all racist, whether it be consciously or subconsciously. Also, shitty people can do good things, and good people can wind up doing really shitty things. This film came out in 2005 at a time when racial tensions and anti-Islamic sentiments were very high just a few years post-9/11. Looking at recent years, it doesn't seem like much has changed, and quite frankly, it seems to have gotten even worse. This movie is very much a product of its time, which is usually a statement reserved for movies 30 or 40 years old, not a film from the mid-2000s. Regardless, despite being only 14 years old, "Crash" (2004) feels very, very dated. It is often cited as one of the more baffling best picture winners in history, beating out vastly superior films like "Munich" (2005), "Good Night, and Good Luck" (2005) and "Brokeback Mountain" (2005). We don't hate this movie, but there is absolutely no way it should have won best picture. We imagine Paul Haggis and co. wanted to bring to light and condemn the stereotypes we place on people based on their race, appearance, and religious beliefs, but most of the characters are little more than stereotypes themselves. You have an overtly racist white cop, two young African Americans who complain about being profiled as criminals right before they carjack someone, the rich racist white lady who doesn't hide her contempt for minorities while at the same time employing them, her politician husband who is more interested in looking like he cares than actually caring, and so forth and so on. The only character that doesn't come off as a stereotype is Michael Peña's Daniel, who also happens to have the single most emotional(ly manipulative) moment in the movie. "Crash" (2004) is the kind of film that uses tactics like the moment between Daniel's young daughter and Shaun Toub's character Farhad to make it seem that much more introspective, sophisticated, and smart than it is. As all of the characters' accounts combine together into one sort-of-cohesive-but-also-extremely-messy-and-overly-contrived narrative thread, some people show themselves not just to be racist, but to be wholly evil as well. Just because someone does one good thing doesn't automatically save them from the lifetime of awful they have done.
Crash 2004 movie Ludacris Larenz Tate
"That waitress sized us up in two seconds. We're black, and black people don't tip. She wasn't gonna waste her time." (Image Source)
Though "Crash" (2004) tries to deliver a good and decent message, it does so in a ham-fisted way that comes off as cheesy, not serious. It has been years since we watched this, and sometimes, you just can't go back. Hindsight is 20-20, and upon revisiting this movie, we understand why people have difficulty accepting that this took home three Academy Awards, including best picture and best screenplay. Like we said, it isn't a bad movie, it just isn't as fantastic or as poignant or as earth-shattering as it thinks it is.

My Rating: 5.5/10
BigJ's Rating: 6.5/10
IMDB's Rating: 7.8/10
RT Rating: 74%
Do we recommend this movie: Sure, why not?

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