Wait, you’re telling me this isn’t the movie with Jason Statham trying to keep this adrenaline up or else he dies? Damn you Netflix and your completion match searching!
Instead, this is movie that inspired Babel, the film that would have truly lived up to its name if it were spelled slightly differently. To its benefit--or not--writer/director Paul Haggis’s movie won the Best Picture Oscar in 2005, beating out popular favorite Brokeback Mountain. I guess racism beats out homophobia when Hollywood can only make one statement per award. Of course, it’s also possible that Crash was just a good movie, but we'll see to that.
Knowing that this movie was going to have even more barely-related parallel stories going on than Babel, I decided to watch this movie for the first time with a notepad so I could semi-live blog it. Uh, don’t get the impression, though, that I was watching this movie with the expectation that it would rile me up enough to put a negative review online. Nah, just a precaution.
I’ll say this up-front: racism, the subject of this movie, is no joke. Don’t confuse my disrespect for a preachy, stilted, cloying film for dismissal of the basic underlying topic. But then, who knows? Maybe this movie deserves all the praise it got. Let’s begin.
0:01: Opening credits. Sandra Bullock? Brendan Fraser? Wow, I didn’t know this was going to be a cute romantic comedy. With Ludacris as Fraser’s jive-talkin’ best bud.
0:04: Don Cheadle and Jennifer Esposito are detectives who rear-end a Korean woman. In a CAR, you sick freak. Jennifer Esposito gets out to berate the woman for her driving. Cuz Asians are bad drivers, you know.
It’s amazing how much Jennifer looks like Mariska Hargitay of Law & Order SVU “fame” here. She’s got the same “furrow your eyebrows really hard to make it look like you’re intense” look to her.
By the way, are we really going to have to listen to this new agey music the whole movie?
0:05: An Iranian immigrant (Shaun Toub) and his daughter buy a gun from a racist, fat slob of a shopkeeper who calls him “Osama.” Congratulations, Crash: you’ve just won your Oscar. You could introduce John Travolta in Battlefield Earth garb as your next character and you’d still win it on the strength of this scene. Racist fat white guy gun shop owner who calls the Iranian Osama? Check. A guy buying a gun to defend himself in a tough city being depicted as a hothead? Check. Daughter level-headed while the father’s freaking out? Check. She winds up buying the gun and ammo for him when he’s ejected from the store. Oh, and you’ll love where this subplot goes. More later.
0:09: Yes, Ludacris is actually in this movie, as a low-life criminal who wanders the streets with his friend, Larenz Tate, discussing the subtle and unsubtle ways that racism reveals itself in everyday life. You need to hear these guys to believe them. It’s like Paul Haggis was using passages from his Sociology textbook for their dialogue, but tossed in the word “dawg” once in a while to get an urban vibe going. The two of them, but in particular Luda, provide the running ironic commentary throughout the movie. Now, as some of the later scenes will attest, this movie isn’t going for total realism, but did we really need Rosencrantz and Guildenstern in here?
0:12: Don and Jen arrive at the scene of a shooting, where a white cop who looks like a shipwrecked Nick Nolte has just shot a black cop. This guy’s already shot two other black guys before, so is he a murderous bigot, or was the black cop corrupt as he claims?
0:14: Fraser is the district attorney, Bullock is his wife, and they’d earlier gotten carjacked by Luda and Larenz. She’s a bitchy racist, and he’s equally insensitive, but he’s got a political career to keep in mind. So he tries to figure out how to spin this to the press, afraid that whether he’s too verbally tough or too verbally soft on the thieves, he’ll catch hell from one half of the city or the other.
“What we need is a picture of me pinning a medal on a black man,” he says to his campaign staff. How much longer is this movie? It won the Best Short Film category, right?
"...and it's 'yap, yap, yap' 24/7 about how they gave your role to Don Cheadle in the Iron Man sequel. Well, you don't hear me crying about how there's never going to be a Chroncles of Riddick sequel, do you?"
0:27: Michael Pena is a locksmith who was berated by an agitated Sandra Bullock earlier because she thought he was going to rob her house after he changed her locks. But here we see that he’s just a sweet family guy who tucks his adorable daughter in. The daughter’s still afraid of gunfire, because they used to live in a bad neighborhood, but Michael gives her a “magic invisible cloak” that deflects bullets. And it also gives +4 Dexterity, +18 Hit Points, and can cast Magic Missile 3x/day.
This little father/daughter scene is so sweet, I’m sure there’s no chance the movie will eventually threaten these two with violence. It just wouldn’t be appropriate.
0:32: Luda and Larenz are driving the van they stole from Brendan and Sandra, and they run over a Korean guy (whom they think is Chinese; ‘cause they’re racially insensitive, get it?) and drag him halfway down the block before they realize what’s going on. When they stop, they fully realize that they could get arrested for reckless driving or manslaughter if the guy dies, but still discuss whether or not to take him to the hospital, using the tone of voice usually reserved for discussing whether to get the roast beef or chicken at Arby’s. I’m really not sure these two were supposed to be in this movie. I think they acted in a wacky urban pothead comedy and got digitally spliced into this “serious” movie. Anyway, they dump the Korean guy at the hospital, proving that despite all the carjacking, they’re pretty decent people.
0:33: Keith David! That guy’s awesome! And he’s awesome here! For one whole scene! Now if they just throw in Kurt Russell and a shape-shifting alien, we’ll have an awesome movie going here! Hell, I’d even take Roddy Piper and some sunglasses! Anyway, David’s the police captain, and despite a long speech about racial politics, he agrees to let Ryan Phillipe drive a patrol car by himself, while Dillon gets a new partner.
0:37: “Why do you keep everyone a certain distance away?” Actual dialogue from an actual motion picture. Oh, and Don and Jen are having sex. He calls her a Mexican, but she reminds him that she’s actually Puerto Rican. Which means that in the course of a single evening (yes, that’s how far we’ve gotten so far), the only characters who haven’t said or done anything racist are Michael Pena and Guy on Street #3.
"Hey, yoo! Turn arownd! Leesten to meee! On da wahl! Cahleefohrnya's all outta monee! Get to da choppa! Runnn!"
0:44: Next morning. Holy crap, Tony Danza is in the movie! And he’s a racist too! Now, if they introduce Regis Philbin as Hitler's bastard child, Skip, this might be the greatest movie ever.
Turns out Terrence Howard not only wears the kinds of sweaters you see on guys selling Time Life books, but he’s a TV director, which is a great way to make him sympathetic. Thandie’s still pissed at him for not standing up to Matt Dillon the other night. Terrence decides he’s got to be more of a man. Dude, here’s a tip. Stop wearing those damn sweaters.
0:51: Don talks to his mother. Wow, another depressing talk between a cop and his decrepit widowed parent. Haven’t seen one of those since Matt Dillon had one about… oh, a minute ago.
0:52: Really, what’s wrong with this music? They should call the soundtrack, “Music to Start Up Windows By.” It’s like they hired a new age band to perform Keyboard Demo #5. It’s like this is the arty side project of the guy who does the crappy synthesizer music from dirt-cheap early-‘90s horror movies.
0:56: Michael Pena had earlier refused to install a lock in Shaun Toub’s shop because he really needed to get an entirely new door. Now, Toub’s store has been robbed, and he’s frakking mad. Insurance won’t pay up because Michael was right and he should have gotten his door replaced entirely. So Toub prepares to do the only thing that a man who owns a gun will do in a movie like this: use it to get bloody, bloody, irrational revenge.
1:02: And now that we’ve gone through our utterly depressing phase of the movie, we’ve reached our inspirational/reconciliatory phase of the movie! Hooray! And it starts with Thandie Newton getting in a horrible car accident on the highway, while Matt Dillon just happens to be the one to show up to try to pull her out of the car before the gas tank explodes. Yeah, Los Angeles is a pretty small city. Since he’d molested her about 12 hours earlier, it’s a bit awkward when he has to reach into a confined space and wrestle her body from the car just ahead of the explosion, but the giddily chanting music ensures us that this is supposed to be inspirational. Come on, let‘s sing the Crash theme music together! Ah -ah -ah -ah -ah -ah -ah -ah -ah -ah -ah -ah -ah!
1:06: Fraser sends one of his underlings (William Fichtner) to convince Don to say he believes that the white cop from earlier in the movie murdered his black cop partner, even though Don has evidence to suggest that the black cop really was crooked and the white cop might have been acting in self-defense. The underling wants the white cop framed so that his boss can prosecute him and look good in the eyes of the black voters. Don wants to hear nothing of it until the underling mentions that there’s a warrant out for Don’s brother’s arrest. If Don forgets about the evidence exonerating the white cop, DA Fraser will forget about the evidence.
You know, this movie takes place over 24 hours and its plot involves widespread political corruption and cover-ups. You know what TV show this reminds me of? That’s right. C-SPAN.
1:14: Meanwhile, Terrence gets carjacked by Luda, who’s split up with Larenz, but he refuses to give up his car, because he’s got to prove himself to be macho (Dude, you might want to get a surgical voice deepening to start with; no offense.). Much reckless driving ensues. Terrence goes so berzerk that Phillipe has to talk him down to keep the other cops on the scene from blowing him away. Phillipe recognizes that the driver is the guy his partner did a number on the other night, so he helps Terrence get away by calling in a favor from a couple of cops who owe him nothing (I think they just wanted to avoid the paperwork), and Terrence helps Luda get away. Action scene narrowly averted.
1:20: Toub confronts Michael at his house, ready to blow the guy away for refusing to fix his door lock. Adorable daughter jumps in front of her dad just ahead of the gunshot. “NOOOOOOOO!!!” But wait… she’s okay! There’s no bullet wound on here. Damn, that magic cloak is effective. Michael and daughter run inside their house. Toub wanders away confused. Action scene narrowly averted. Toub thinks it’s an angel that saved him from killing that kid. But his daughter knows better; she bought him blanks for ammunition at the shop, and he apparently knows enough written English to run a store, but not to read a six-letter word on a box. Oh, and thanks movie for reminding us that there’s absolutely no reason for a guy who runs a small shop in a bad part of LA to have a pistol, and that it’s better off for everyone if he’s actually defenseless. I mean, he’s not black, so all he has to do is blow a whistle and the LAPD will ride in like the Rohirrim and save him. Right?
Oh, and since there’s just such a general air of goodwill going around, Michael Pena’s presumably going to forgive and forget the murder attempted upon him, even though he knows Toub and where he works. And I completely support an dramatic license taken to end the movie faster.
1:24: Sandra Bullock slips and falls down the stairs in her home. Which is a more entertaining three seconds than all of Speed 2.
1:26: Ryan Phillipe picks up Larenz hitchhiking on a lonely road at night. They start to bicker for some odd reason, and Phillipe shoots him when he thinks he’s pulling a gun on him. So while bigot Matt Dillon found redemption earlier on, knight in shining armor Ryan Phillipe dumps the body on the side of the highway and drives off. So the idea is that Ryan Phillipe is holier-than-thou, but really no better than anyone else deep down, while Matt Dillon is an asshole on the outside, but his racism doesn’t extend so far as to leave women he’s abused to die a fiery death.
Furthermore, it turns out that Larenz was actually Don Cheadle’s ne’r-do-well brother. Which is sad and ironic, because there’s flashback to when the two were boys, and Young Larenz told Young Don that he thinks Don is going to grow up to get shot by Ryan Phillipe while reaching for a St. Christopher figurine. Furthermore, his mother blames him for this death, reminding him that he was too busy with his career to go out and help his brother. Fortunately for Don, Jennifer Esposito is still hot.
1:34: Luda discovers that the van he just carjacked (vanjacked?) is full of slave laborers smuggled in from Asia. Although he’s offered $500 apiece for them by the chop shop owner he deals with, he’s such an awesome guy that he instead lets them loose in the middle of Los Angeles and gives them a few bucks each. They’re free to make new lives for themselves in opportunity-ridden LA, where car chases and car crashes go on left and right, where the politicians frame innocent people for racially-tinged photo ops, and where bad cops molest women and good cops murder people. Fortunately for us, the movie ends before we can see the immigrants gunned down by cracked-up gangsters who harvest their organs on the spot, because the movie would probably have to put a halt to the easy listening soundtrack if something dark like that happened.
1:40: Sandra Bullock calls Brendan Fraser to tell him that she fell down the stairs. He promises to drive there immediately, never slowing below 55 miles an hour, but she’s okay because their Hispanic maid drove her to the emergency room. This despite all of Sandra’s friends turning her down when she called them on her cell phone for help. Only Maria cared enough to help.
Congratulations, Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. You just gave the Best Picture award to a live-action version of The Little Engine That Could.
1:42: It’s snowing, in Los Angeles! And that makes Terrence Howard feel good. He’s just generally in a good mood, knowing that he lives in a world where everybody does something idiotic and illegal, and nobody gets punished for it. He calls his wife and tells her he loves her. AND THAT MATT DILLON’S GOING TO F***ING DIE!!! Yeah, I’m pretty sure that’s going to be the sequel.
1:47: As Luda smirks with self-adulation about his good deed and rides off into the sunset in his stolen van, two nearby cars get in a fender bender. The people who get out and argue about it are of different races. The camera pans away. What follows is not so much a crash as it is a STOP and an EJECT.