Crash (2005)

Don’t be racist, especially in L.A.

A Brentwood housewife and her DA husband. A Persian store owner. Two police detectives who are also lovers. A black television director and his wife. A Mexican locksmith. Two car-jackers. A rookie cop. A middle-aged Korean couple… They all live in Los Angeles. And in the next 36 hours, they will all collide…

So the one thing about this movie that always seems to get people crazy (myself included) is that this was the Best Picture winner over the near-masterpiece that is ‘Brokeback Mountain’, and while I can’t say that I think otherwise now, I can still say that i think that this one doesn’t deserve all the bashing it seems to get.

To start off with this flick, I have to say that the general idea of having all of these stories center around racism is pretty nifty and it works mainly because of Paul Haggis‘ script. Haggis did a great job at showing us all of these different perspectives on other peoples’ race and gives us plenty of stories where we realize just how hard it is to be anything in this world, especially when race comes into the picture. I think I’ve mentioned race about 3 times already in this review but it’s as if it was just another character in this movie, but it just didn’t speak. It’s everywhere these characters look, around everything they do, and basically impacts all of their everyday activities and it’s only gotten worse and worse as the years have gone by. It’s a harsh reality but it’s a very true reality and I have to give it to Haggis for at least going out there and showing all of this because it’s something everybody needs to hear and understand. There’s plenty of other themes and messages here about life, people, and the world we live in, not just racism, but it’s definitely one of the themes that I could understand and connect with the most.

The problem that Haggis ran into with this script was that it sometimes dives into soap opera-ish and that’s where it sort of began to lose me. Some moments in this film rang true for me, while others just felt too cinematically cheesy that they could only happen in a movie, which is what movies are all about but this film does try its hardest to seem like its real. Take for instance, the scene with Ryan Phillippe and Larenz Tate, without giving too much away I just want to say that they both are driving in a car and within 1 minute of the ride, they are already fighting and arguing about something, which is trying to show how a black person and white person can’t really get along. Then it ends in a very bizarre and shocking way but it came off more as unbelievable to me because it seemed like Haggis was trying too hard to try and show us how messed up relations between two different races are. Nice try Paul, but life doesn’t always play out like that.

However, for every “made for movies” scene, there was an equally compelling and powerful scene waiting to just come right up and snatch us. Haggis has a couple of scenes as director where he unleashes these very heavy scenes full of his score and they work because as over-powering as it may be, it still keeps your eyes glued on the screen as you can feel the emotion pouring out. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t, but the fact is that when it works here, it works superbly.

Where this film really works is the ensemble cast that Haggis was able to assemble here and all do perfect jobs with their sometimes unlikable characters. Don Cheadle, Sandra Bullock, and Matt Dillon are all given characters that you can’t really like just because they don’t do the right thing about 95% of the whole flick, but yet they are very compelling, especially Dillon. Matt Dillon is perfect here as the racist cop, which is sort of a cliche in and of itself but he somehow transcends above that formula and makes this a character that it seems like only he could play. He’s unlikable, pompous, and racist but by the end we start to see the human side of him and it actually feels very real and that’s where I think his performance hit its highest note. Once we start to realize that he’s actually a good actor too, is also when his performance got better. Still don’t know why this guy hasn’t been able to get more like this recently. Then again, there was ‘Takers’ but I think that only counts as a good movie for me.

Consensus: Crash is a very hard flick to talk about because it’s well-written, features some great points about the world we live in, especially when it comes to race, and is acted greatly by everybody involved, but way too many scenes also feel like they were just made for a movie experience and the more the film seemed to ring false, the more it seemed to lose points for me. Good film? Yes. Good enough to win Best Picture over Ang Lee’s near-masterpiece? Nope, sorry.



  1. This film rubbed me the wrong way in theaters because it wants to get people discussing/thinking about racism but does so by showing racism with no care given to the subject. I think most of the accolades were because of the subject matter, not the film itself.

    Still, great review! I’ve considered rewatching this one to see if I still have a bad taste in my mouth after.

  2. I have to say, I really liked this and agree that it’s gets a bit of a bashing that it doesn’t deserve. A surprising best picture winner but still worthy of it’s nomination at the very least.

  3. I still think the Oscars got it wrong. It’s a film full of contrivances, manipulative drama, and a subject matter that gets hammered in the head. There’s a few things like Matt Dillon that I do like. Everything else. No. Fuck this movie!

  4. I really enjoyed this one as well. I think it was one more example of how the Oscars periodically choose to be socially conscious. This one won for many of the same reasons that The Lost Weekend did.

  5. I liked this film quite a bit and had no problem with it winning the Oscar. I wouldn’t have had a problem had Brokeback won it either. Both were good films. The depth of hatred people can generate for a film to tear it down when their goal should instead be to raise their beloved film up is astonishing sometimes.

  6. Racism is a major concern of mine, and in regards this subject, I’d like to recommend the movie Crash (2005; careful, there is another recent film with the same name), directed by Paul Haggis. It is one of the most thought-provoking films I have seen about prejudice. And it is an ideal movie to use in educational programs about tolerance.
    Crash interweaves a number of stories dealing with racism. It is easy to criticize the stories as being too stereotypical and relying on unlikely coincidences. However, I don’t think the movie was meant to be a perfect representation of reality. The coincidences are simply tools to make points. And the stereotypical thinking of the characters, I must say, is awfully close to the way people do, in fact, think about members of other groups.

    Crash goes beyond the typical “evil racist – poor innocent victimized minority” mentality that pervades many print and film representations of prejudice. Every story is different, and the endings are unpredictable (at least to my limited mind). Taken as a whole, the vignettes demonstrate how difficult it is to be free of racial prejudice. Minority members are just as blinded by their prejudices as are members of the majority. Even those who attempt to fight against prejudice by overcompensating end up committing injustices.

    From the perspective of my Bullies to Buddies philosophy, the important thing about the movie is that every character who acts despicably feels, not like a bully, but like a victim! Some may seem to us like bullies, but they act from the motivation of being victims. As I keep on insisting, if we want to make the world a better place, we need to end our crusade against bullies and start teaching people how to stop thinking like victims.

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