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The Warsaw Voice » Culture » August 17, 2005
Film Review
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August 17, 2005 By Jonathan Walsh   
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Sergeant Ryan (Matt Dillon) is a cop with a bad attitude, at least towards anyone who isn't white, especially women who aren't white, so when he pulls over a young, wealthy black couple for nothing in particular, he does all that he can to get a reaction, frisking the woman with slow, lingering hands while her husband tries not to take the bait, vowing never to do whatever he was doing again. Some time later Ryan is on the scene of a serious car accident. A young woman is imprisoned in her upturned vehicle as gasoline begins to seep in all around her, immolation just seconds away. Ryan risks his life to pull the screaming woman from the car-screaming not because she-s scared of dying, but because the man trying to free her is the same cop who just a short time ago was pawing at her thighs while her husband looked helplessly on.

Contrived, melodramatic, desperate to wring out some essential goodness from people who obey a shoddy color-coded moral law, Crash is also one of the most sporadically powerful films of the year. Dillon's is one amongst a handful of tales explicitly concerned with racism, all interwoven to form a Short Cuts-style snapshot of a city coming apart at the seams. "In LA nobody touches you," says Don Cheadle's police detective at the start of the movie. "I think we miss that touch so much that we crash into each other, just so that we can feel something." His partner, Jennifer Esposito, is less philosophical about the matter, jumping from the car to berate the Chinese woman who just rear-ended them, telling her to "speak fucking English," no matter that her new-found foe is doing just that. Elsewhere, Ludacris is telling partner Larenze Tate that the white woman (Sandra Bullock) who just ducked out of the way and into her SUV is a racist, acting irrationally considering the fact that as the only black folk in a sea of white faces, it's they that should be scared. A second later he's waving a gun in Bullock's face and commandeering her car. Touche!

A film populated by stereotypes, and people who know they're stereotypes but play the part anyhow, Crash moves with occasional elegance and constant urgency to its aw-shucks, can't we all just get along conclusion, eventually more interested in its own cleverness in bringing together its multiplicity of narrative strands, than in pursuing its opening gambit: that the racism is cover for a greater, nameless disconnection. It's territory that director/writer Paul Haggis knows exists, but this movie, for all its twists and turns, doesn't know how to get there.

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