Written by: Paul Haggis & Bobby Moresco
Starring: Sandra Bullock, Don Cheadle, Matt Dillon, Jennifer Esposito, William Fichtner
Even with the best intentions in the world, some people simply are not equipped to tell stories involving race because of their lack of experience in the matter. An unsettling pattern emerges when we see who tells these stories and where the adulation lies from the peers in the entertainment industry. Crash symbolizes one of those instances and for all the good it attempts to do, it proves to be a shallow exercise that accomplishes nothing by the end.
Within the city of Los Angeles, Detective Graham Waters (Don Cheadle) responds to a car accident, which then begins a series of events where individuals display their biases towards people of different backgrounds. A constant cycle of pain and where lessons should be learned.
The fundamental idea behind Crash seeks to have a larger discussion about the biases people hold and the way they express it to others. Some do it more directly and others harbor it in their minds, which informs some more passive decision making. Something worthy to look into, which needs some sort of nuance because we’re not robots. Well, someone should have told the screenwriters of this film because their lack of subtlety or any bit of restraint ended up turning their film about forgiveness and confrontation into a complete farce.
The biggest failing of this film arises in the lack of humanity these characters possess. Instead of focusing on a select and small group, this story expands to several different people having their own stories play out. For a film asking the audience to emotionally attach themselves to these characters, it gives us nothing but empty representations on screen. Each of these characters represents a stereotype of some way and lack any characteristics beyond how it serves the story. It’s impossible to attach yourself to anyone when you just see one side of their personality and nothing else. We don’t spend enough time with them to establish a true connection, but I’m guessing that still would not have helped considering the terrible characterization with the limited time available.
Outside of the meaningless characters, the plotlines established come together in such an unsatisfactory and simply harmful way. These grand sweeping moments of emotional overwhelmingness are devoid of any meaning because none of these characters earn these supposed payoffs. Let’s take one of the most egregious examples with it being the bigoted cop portrayed by Matt Dillon. He has a truly horrible scene where he pulls over a married African-American couple portrayed by Terrence Howard and Thandie Newton. The entire scene carries a level of tension because of the neverending abuse of Black folks at the hands of the police. With the paralyzing power the officer wields, he molests the wife in front of his partner and the husband. A truly horrifying scene, which gets the point of the evil this man embodies. Fair enough, for a movie trying to establish the atrocities humans do to each other when we discriminate but this story also has the gall to provide some type of meaningless redemption for this man. It’s offensive the way the particular scene plays out as it’s some sort of climactic moment. If nothing else, this arc and car sequence say all you need to know about this helplessly naive and uneducated movie.
The cast assembled for Crash unquestionably has strong talent, which includes Don Cheadle, Sandra Bullock, Matt Dillon, Jennifer Esposito, William Fichtner, Brendan Fraser, Terrence Howard, Ludacris, Thandie Newton, Michael Peña, and Ryan Phillippe. They remain the only saving grace this film has as they perform decently well even with the horrendous script and story presented to them. Terrence Howard, Sandra Bullock, and Thandie Newton, in particular, really bring it in their scenes but even their talent cannot save completely rotten and shallow material. Actors cannot overcome terrible material no matter their presence or charisma. Heck, even Marlon Brando and Katharine Hepburn would not salvage this tragic nonsense.
Crash will forever live in infamy because of its unforgivable win for Best Picture over the vastly superior Brokeback Mountain. It’s funny how a film about being more tolerant actually exposed the Academy for their own homophobia, but I guess it perfectly sums up the true impact of this wholly disrespectful movie. A true embarrassment that people thought this would be the best film of any year and a true dumpster fire of someone taking on a topic they had absolutely no education or maturity to take on.