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Paul Haggis
Sandra Bullock, Don Cheadle, Jennifer Esposito, Karina Arroyave, Dato Bakhtadze, Brendan Fraser, Terrence Howard, Ludacris, Matt Dillon
Writing Credits:
Paul Haggis, Robert Moresco

You think you know who you are. You have no idea.

Set in Los Angeles shortly after Sept. 11, 2001, this ensemble drama tracks the intersecting lives of a Brentwood housewife and her attorney husband, a Persian store owner, two police detectives who are also lovers, an African-American television director and his wife, a Mexican locksmith, two car-jackers, a rookie cop, and a middle-aged Korean couple.

Box Office:
$6.5 million.
Opening Weekend
$9.107 million on 1864 screens.
Domestic Gross
$55.382 million.

Rated R

Widescreen 2.35:1/16x9
English Dolby Digital 5.1
English Dolby 2.0

Runtime: 112 min.
Price: $19.98
Release Date: 9/6/2005

• DVD Introduction by Writer/Producer/Director Paul Haggis
• Audio Commentary with Writer/Producer/Director Paul Haggis, Writer/Producer Bobby Moresco and Actor/Producer Don Cheadle
• “Behind the Scenes” Featurette
• Music Video
• Trailers


Sony 36" WEGA KV-36FS12 Monitor; Sony DA333ES Processor/Receiver; Panasonic CV-50 DVD Player using component outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Sony SA-WM40 Subwoofer.


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Crash (2005)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (February 21, 2006)

In the spring of 2005, my friend Kevin and I grabbed Frosties at a local Wendy’s. As we devoured them, a large African-American man entered and ranted about the evils of the world. Specifically, he went on about white people. The gist of his argument was that a) all white people were bad, and b) all white people were on drugs. When a woman in line behind him challenged his thought processes and declared that he needed to stop the hate, he replied, “White people gotta stop doing drugs!”

Kevin and I found the incident to be bizarrely amusing… until we realized we were the only white people in the restaurant. Neither of us knows if the guy planned to back up his anti-Caucasian sentiment with actions, but he seemed unstable enough that we high-tailed it out of there. When I mentioned this event to friends, they all stated that it sounded like this guy had seen and been influenced by the movie Crash.

Could be – or he could have just been a racist nutbag. Anyway, I missed Crash during its theatrical run so I decided it was time to give it a look on DVD. Crash doesn’t boast a traditional narrative, as instead it shows intermingling events that occur over a 36-hour period in Los Angeles.

We follow a slew of characters that include cops and civilians. In the former category we meet black Detective Graham (Don Cheadle) and his Latina partner – and occasional lover – Ria (Jennifer Esposito). They investigate a cop-on-cop murder that becomes complicated. We also encounter white street officers Ryan (Matt Dillon) and Hanson (Ryan Phillippe). They become part of the story after two young black guys named Anthony (Chris “Ludacris” Bridges) and Peter (Larenz Tate) carjack white LA District Attorney Rick (Brendan Fraser) and his wife Jean (Sandra Bullock).

Ryan and Hanson pull over black TV director Cameron (Terrence Howard) and his light-skinned black wife Christine (Thandie Newton) because their SUV resembles the one stolen from Rick and Jean. It’s clearly not the same vehicle, but Ryan takes out some racial hostilities as he threatens the pair and body searches Christine in an invasive manner. This leaves them scarred and vulnerable for later in the movie.

Those characters account for the bulk of the film, but we also get to know Latino locksmith Daniel (Michael Pena) and Persian shop-owner Farhad (Shaun Toub). Farhad’s shop has a broken door, but he insists he just needs a new lock despite all of Daniel’s statements that the door must be replaced. When thieves ransack the store, Farhad blames Daniel and goes after revenge.

That synopsis doesn’t perfectly sum up Crash, as it leaves out a number of characters and situations. However, given the complexity of the melange of events, it’s about as good as it’ll get.

I don’t know if the synopsis very well conveys one of Crash’s more absurd aspects, though. How many people live in greater Los Angeles – eight, nine million? All those folks, and yet our little band of characters keeps bumping into each other! It’s amazing – ultra-big-city LA looks more tightly connected than Mayberry. At the movie’s start, the Graham character theorizes that people get into car accidents in LA because the city’s so disconnected; they need the physical contact, violent though it may be. However, the movie sure doesn’t make LA look very detached since the same folks constantly bump into each other.

I understand that writer/director Paul Haggis stretches credulity to make a point. Really, Crash often comes across more as a plea for racial unity than it does a movie. He interconnects all these disparate lives to remind us we’re all really the same and no one’s without flaws.

That’s all well and good, but I’m not sure the movie has much more depth than the McCartney/Stevie Wonder duet “Ebony and Ivory”. I actually inadvertently started to quote that tune since Haggis tries hard to remind us there’s good and bad in everyone. This is true, and it’s nice that Crash doesn’t present characters as absolutes in either direction, but it comes out in a rather heavy-handed manner.

Oddly, the movie leaves little room for thought because of its broadness. Usually films stifle interpretation because they’re one-sided, but here we lose breathing room since the characters can be so undefined. The story demonstrates racist behavior in almost all of them but makes sure it balances it with some understanding. This really should be a good thing, but in this case, it comes across as token and gratuitous.

In other words, I just don’t buy it. Perhaps it’s the broad scope of the film that causes problems. It introduces us to so many characters that they barely become more than stereotypes themselves. The movie somewhat embraces what it fights against because it doesn’t have much more time to explore the roles in detail.

I don’t want to sound totally down on Crash, as I thought it offered an interesting film. I also respect the fact it tried to do something different and ambitious. However, I think it fails to explore its issues with any substantial depth or intelligence. Despite an outward appearance of complexity, it treats matters simplistically and becomes tough to swallow due to its myriad of coincidences.

The DVD Grades: Picture B-/ Audio B-/ Bonus C

Crash appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.35:1 on this single-sided, double-layered DVD; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. The photographic styles made it tough to assess the visual quality of Crash, but I found the result to be a little iffy.

Sharpness created some of the problems. Many shots offered good definition and delineation, but some wider takes could turn rather soft. The clarity varied but usually stayed reasonably concise and accurate. No issues with jagged edges or shimmering occurred, and I noticed no edge enhancement. Some graininess popped up due to all the low-light shots, but otherwise the movie was clean and free from flaws.

In regard to colors, Crash went with a very stark palette. It mainly stayed with a steely blue tone, though daylight shots tended toward a somewhat overblown white look. Within the parameters, the tones seemed fine, though they didn’t excel. Blacks were a little mushy but acceptable. Shadows tended to be murky and a bit opaque. They abounded and often made the image a little tough to discern. I went with a “B-“ for the picture because I thought some of my complaints stemmed from production choices, but I still couldn’t muster a higher grade than that.

Matters seemed less complicated when I examined the perfectly acceptable Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack of Crash. Music dominated the soundfield, as the ethereal score swirled around the speakers. Otherwise the channels didn’t get much of a workout. Some environmental audio came from the side and rear areas, and these became a little more active during some louder sequences like an explosion, but there just wasn’t much happening.

No issues with quality occurred. Speech was concise and distinctive, and edginess was absent. Effects played a small role but seemed accurate and clear. Music demonstrated good range and definition, as the score was well-developed. I found nothing about which to complain here, but the restricted scope of the mix left it with a “B-“.

The disc’s extras start with a DVD Introduction by writer/producer/director Paul Haggis. It lasts a mere 15 seconds as Haggis simply says “thanks for watching!” It’s a waste of time, but at least it doesn’t waste much time.

For greater substance, we head to the audio commentary with Haggis, writer/producer Bobby Moresco and actor/producer Don Cheadle. All three sit together for this running, screen-specific chat. The guys discuss the story’s genesis and development, shooting locations in LA as well as sets, cast and performances, and restrictions of the low budget.

I can’t complain too much about the breadth of the material covered, but the commentary lacks real information. We find too much dead air, and the remarks tend to concentrate on praise and self-congratulation. Every once in a while, we discover useful tidbits, such as when Haggis gets into the personal influences for the story, but usually the commentary drags and offers little of value. This is a dull, uninformative chat.

Next we find a 10-minute and six-second Behind the Scenes featurette. It provides the standard allotment of movie clips, behind the scenes elements, and interviews. We hear from Haggis, Moresco, Cheadle, producer Cathy Schulman, and actors Thandie Newton, Sandra Bullock, and Brendan Fraser. The shoe talks about the movie’s goals and intentions, the assembly of the cast and their work, and the flick’s themes. Don’t expect to learn much here. Like the commentary, the program mostly tells us what a great film Crash is. Add to that lots of movie snippets and this becomes nothing more than an extended commercial.

Trailers includes a soundtrack ad for Crash plus spots for Rize, High Tension, Diary of a Mad Black Woman, Killing Words, A Good Woman and Beyond the Sea. Finally, the DVD features a Music Video for Kansascali’s “If I…” It’s a boring mix of lip-synch materials and movie clips for an unmemorable tune.

I wouldn’t necessarily call Crash itself unmemorable, as the movie’s too ambitious to be discounted. However, I also wouldn’t call it a success. The DVD offers decent picture and sound but skimps on useful extras. Give this one a rental if you want to see what all the fuss is about, but I don’t think it deserves more than that.

Viewer Film Ratings: 3.2105 Stars Number of Votes: 76
8 3:
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