- on Thursday, 06 May 2010 11:42
- by Frank Wilkins
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By means of a Don Cheadle matter-of-fact voiceover during the opening minute of Crash, writer/director Paul Haggis (Million Dollar Baby) tells us that we think we know who we are. He spends the remaining 112 minutes showing us that we really have no idea. We all like to think we're naturally equipped with an innate sense of tolerance, compassion, and understanding of those around us. But as the events in Crash are set into motion, we see that we all will be touched, at some point, by the scourge of racism. It's how we handle ourselves in uncomfortable situations and what we say and do during a catastrophic event that makes us finally acknowledge that we all hate to be judged, but we tend to see no contradiction in judging others.
Taking on a subject that Hollywood rarely addresses in such an overt manner, Haggis rams us head-on into the issue of racism in this soul-searing drama that sprang from his own real-life experiences. He never skirts the issue and is never vague about its implications. Like the 500-pound gorilla in the room, the subject is a main driving force around which all the actors perform. As painful and embarrassing as it is, by the time the film runs its course, each and every one of us will have seen a piece of ourselves in the film. No races are spared and no stereotypes go unaddressed.
Haggis' screenplay weaves a disturbingly volatile tapestry that's stitched together by a diverse group of Los Angeles residents whose lives literally collide during a 36-hour period. Haggis claims that because of our tendency to isolate ourselves from our urban surroundings, presumably in our cars, we are more likely to crash into one another than we are to bump elbows on the street. A bigoted gun dealer refuses to sell a gun to a Persian man calling him Osama, yet the Persian man later yells at an Hispanic locksmith who's only trying to help him. Two young black men complain that white people are wrongfully scared of them due to racial profiling, yet the youngsters turn right around and carjack the couple who cowered at their presence. A racist cop harasses a black TV director and his wife, yet the couple later have an argument about which is more genuinely black. It's these disturbing ironies and painful truths that cause Crash to resonate with each of us. The film reveals more about ourselves than we are comfortable in knowing.
Haggis' skills as an award-winning screenwriter are undeniable. But the fact that Crash represents his directing debut becomes a bit obvious in the film's latter stages. Due to its circuitous complexity, his multi-threaded screenplay needs a firm hand, an adroit sense of organization and a consistent vision to keep all the plates spinning at once. Many of his closing scenes seem a bit rushed and unevenly paced, and some of his characters need a few more minutes of screen time to fully blossom. But kudos for his fearlessness in tackling both the complexity of the project and having the chutzpah to tell his controversial story.
The acting is truly superb, including another unforgettable effort by Cheadle. The cinematography is remarkable as Haggis uses the lights of a nighttime Los Angeles to create a palpable atmosphere reminiscent of last year's Collateral.
Screen formats: Widescreen 1.85:1
Subtitles: English; Spanish; Closed Captioned
Language and Sound: English: Dolby Digital 5.1; English: Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround
Other Features: Color; interactive menus; scene access; trailer; director's commentary; cast and crew interview; making-of featurette..
* DVD Introduction - 16 second welcome from Haggis himself.
* Commentary Track - With writer/director/producer Paul Haggis, co-writer/producer Robert Moresco, and actor Don Cheadle
* Featurette: 10-minute behind-the-scenes featurette.
* Music Video - Kansascali's "If I..." from the Crash original soundtrack.
* Trailers - for Rize, High Tension, Beyond the Sea, Diary of a Mad Black Woman, Killing Words and A Good Woman.
Number of discs: 2 - Keepcase packaging.