Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Crash

2004
ApolloProScreen Filmproduktion
Director: Paul Haggis
Length: 112 min.
Format: DVD
Date Viewed: 24 January

Let's just get it out of the way. Crash is a terrible film. I somehow endured it's length (I can't remember ever being so happy for a film to end ten minutes before it's advertised run-time), and I ask you to avoid doing so yourself.

Racism in modern America is a topic that needs to be properly examined in the mass media. Some people have taken the stance that Crash fills that need. It doesn't, and perhaps even hurts our attempt to overthrow racism. Someone needs to come along and make a film that exposes the racist undercurrent in our country. How many people do you know spend their entire day screaming racial epitaphs or starting an agressive confrotntation every time they see a person of another race as they do in Crash? Exactly; almost nobody. How many people do you know tense up when they are around different races, or quietly single out an entire race as a group of thieves or bloodthirsty hoodlums to their same-race friends or families? That's right, almost everybody. And I, shamefully enough, include myself in that group (I've said some truly horrible things in my time). None of us are free from racially motivated stereotyping. Many of us work very hard on eliminating this racism and stereotyping from our thoughts and actions, but most people have no idea what they are saying or doing is harmful to others.

This is where Crash may hurt instead of help. In presenting racists as only those who openly and actively spew hate to others, it allows the subtly racist viewer off the hook. The subtle racist can correctly assert that they act in such a manner and thus, is either not a racist or, worse, can excuse their hateful words as they are not as bad as Crash's characters (trust me, I've seen this excuse from others and have used it myself in the past). This fallacy is already too prevalent in our society. You see it every time someone you know refer to anyone who speaks Spanish as a "beaner" to their non-Latino friends or points to prison statistics as proof that most black people are criminals (usually pointed out after the person says "I'm not a racist, but..."), for example. One day, a film may come along that exposes this truth and make us realize the error of our ways, but it seems that we're going to have to wait a little longer for that film.

But this is not the only problem of Paul Haggis and Robert Moresco's script. Throughout the film, you can almost hear the writers congratulating each other on how "perfectly" they scripted the ridiculously stupid coincidences that lead the characters to their conclusions and on how pat everything wraps up. They don't hesitate to use every cliche in the book and every non-revelation they can think of (wait, you mean the LAPD...is racist?). Haggis and Moresco even stoop so low as to have a scene where a little girl gets in the way of a gun, and worst of all, include a last-second rescue from an exploding car (it's so cheesy I had to leave the room for a minute, and almost turned the DVD off right there). Between characters making incongruous changes and choices and the aforementioned coincidences (and don't even get me started on the snowfall at the film's end), the script is so preposterous we can't begin to take it seriously even on a technical level. In fact, the whole script is generally of TV movie-of-the-week quality. The fact that the film played theatrically is something of a shock.

The cinematography is similarly poor. Slow motion is used at the worst possible times, and a hilariously poor dolly-counter-zoom only makes the child-in-danger scene all the more cringe-inducing (and not in the way Haggis wants us to cringe).

Nothing about this film rings true, and the entire effort is a huge waste of time. This isn't the worst film of the year. No, King Kong has a strangle-hold on that position. Crash certainly comes close, though. Let's just hope that somebody makes a real film on racism in the near future so we can erase Haggis' failed attempt from our consciousness.

2 Comments:

Anonymous Mike said...

I agree with you that Crash is a bad movie that treats racism too simplistically (Hey, guess what, it's bad!), but do you really think "most people" go around calling Hispanics "beaners" and claiming that "most black people are criminals?"

09 July, 2006 02:10  
Blogger Kyle Smith said...

I take this from family ("it's beaner night at the laundromat", said my cousin - and not to be "comedically edgy" - as we drove past a coin-op laundry), friends', and coworkers' comments over the last couple years. Perhaps the specific term "beaner" isn't terribly common, but anti-Hispanic racism is, and comments about and fear of blacks as criminals by non-blacks is still widespread, even here in "enlightened" Seattle. I will admit I did a poor job of explaining this int he review, but I hope the point came across.

10 July, 2006 00:44  

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