Thursday, May 19, 2005

A Benetton ad gone bad: "Crash"

I almost titled this post "Hey, white man, wanna feel guilty?" Then I realized that no race goes unscathed in this somewhat uncomfortable movie about several Los Angelenos crossing paths over the course of 36 hours.

First, though, I need to call out the "Star Wars" fans and their piss-poor showing last night at one New York theater. While in town on business I caught the 9:05 pm showing of "Crash," less than three hours before the first showing of "Episode III" at 12:01 am. But I was very disappointed to see fewer than 50 people lined up outside the theater, and not one Wookiee costume among them. Then again, the cineplexes on Alderaan were just packed, I bet.

As for "Crash," we're treated to a decent ensemble cast of folks all guilty of some kind of prejudice as they interact with each other in sunny El Lay. None of these are above-the-title actors, although Don Cheadle ("Moving Violations") is always worth the price of admission. I still get choked up thinking about his bank loan scene in "Boogie Nights." ("This is a real thing ... ") In additon to Cheadle's turn as a cop, other players include:
  • Brendan Fraser ("Airheads") as a district attorney who gets carjacked.
  • Sandra Bullock ("Love Potion No. 9) as his wife, and not nearly as cute-perky as in "Speed," let me tell you.
  • Matt Dillon ("The Flamingo Kid"), bringing his punk attitude from "My Bodyguard" up to date as a cop with a few problems with affirmative action.
  • Ryan Phillippe ("I Know What You Did Last Summer") as his fresh-faced partner none too keen on Matty's anti-black attitude.
  • Terrence Dashon Howard ("The Player's Club"), who plays a TV show director who goes along with "the man" to his wife's chagrin. (I didn't know him by name but see he played "Young A.C." in "The O.J. Simpson Story," so he's all right by me.)
  • Thandie Newton ("The Chronicles of Riddick"), the aforementioned wife who has a couple of disturbing interludes with Dillon's cop.

There are many more people involved, from Larenz Tate and rapper Ludacris playing the carjackers to "that guy" William Fichtner's turn as a City Hall sleazoid and Jennifer "I've done other stuff since 'Spin City,' I swear" Esposito as Cheadle's partner/lover. And this doesn't even cover the plotline with the Persian storeowners and Hispanic locksmith (who also changed the Fraser-Bullock locks after the carjacking). Bottom line: There are a buttload of people here with some pent-up prejudice.

The result: A winding, not-bad tale that strays too much into lecture at times but overall is interesting, even gripping at times. Some performances might have been too one-note -- Bullock and Fraser didn't do much for me -- but hey, with this many people some aren't going to pull their weight. But in the end, the issues raised are worth thinking about, even if you might need a drink or two to calm the nerves. Maybe if Cheadle had worn his cowboy gear from "Boogie Nights," that would have lightened the mood.


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