Or, to put it another way, this car wreck of a movie is pure sentimental, overwrought ridiculous Hollywood liberal (or conservative, depending upon where in the film you are) garbage being pawned off as a meaningful and artistic portrayal of racial and ethnic interaction at the dawn of the 21st century. People in the City of Angels (and perhaps if we extrapolate further, in "War on Terror" riven America?) are so lacking in intimate interactions that they need crashes of various sorts, including racial outbursts, to provide the means for "touching" each other, for connecting, being honest, keeping it real. Or, as Cheadle's character narrates: "Violent contact—in word or on wheels—is the only way left to reach out and touch somebody." Uh, okay, and if you buy this nonsense, I've got a few insurances policies on land in Atlantis I'd like to sell you as well. As Shakespeare might have put it in one of his own fulsome moments of epizeuxis, Crash is crap, crap, crap, crap, crap!
I kept thinking as I watched it that this contrived claptrap may reflect how some upper-middle-class, privileged White people like Haggis and producer Sandra Bullock--and maybe even some deluded Black--view the world, but it was such an implausible, hole-ridden, poorly constructed fantasy world so far from anything I or anyone I know knows that I couldn't buy into it for more than a moment. Now, I'm all for outrageousness, fantasy, and so forth. But the point of this film is supposed to be its clever realism and authenticity. Yet it was mostly so false it gave new definition to the word "fiction." As critic Armond White noted in his harsh New York Press review (which unfortunately confuses Jennifer Esposito and favorite-Latino-paired-with-Negro-male lead Eva Mendes), the Black folks in this film are "caricatures," the white folks are "tragic," and almost none of it reflects the reality of contemporary Los Angeles or America. Only one lone characterization rung true: that of the Latino locksmith, played by Miguel Peña, whose personal story would have made a very interesting film all by itself.
But back to Crap: I mean, where to begin?
- If you've just been pulled from a burning car wreck, do you think you'd still have your three-inch pumps on? Your clothes only barely torn, your face only lightly bruised? And if you did survive a burning car wreck and were able to walk away and talk about it, don't you think your very first action--I mean, it could be just me here--would be to call your loved one or loved ones or some close family member as soon as possible, or have someone else do it for you? Even if you've had a bad argument--you've just survived a burning car wreck, for God's sake!!!
- Only in a Hollywood movie could a white rookie cop--yes, even a blond-haired, blue-eyed do gooder like Ryan Phillippe--persuade two other officers (veteran? rookie? etc.), with their guns trained on a Black carjacking suspect, who'd led them on a highspeed chase and who subsequently decided to curse them out, to let said suspect walk away with a citation. Oh yeah, right. Maybe Haggis has missed the frequent video captures of Negroes being beaten up after police pursuits, whether they're guilty or not (hey Paul, why not check out Cops while you're at it, they rough up white folks too), but then again, we're talking about the product of America's liberal "dream factory," so....
- And only in a Hollywood movie would a Black man jump out of a car screaming at and walking towards police and not be shot, let alone blown away. Seriously. Try and if it works for you, well, I don't know, send me a sign via a Ouija board or something. Or some other kind of sign. No, on second thought, don't try it. We lose enough Black men every day--no need to lose even one more.
- And only in a Hollywood movie would a Black man--or anyone--who's been carjacked, after surviving a totally implausible confrontation with liberally armed policepeople and a liberal do-gooder cop ride around with his carjacker (of whatever race, mind you!!!) and as he's dropping him off (dropping him off!!!), utter such drivel as "You embarrass me." (You embarrass me!!!) Okay, maybe Black Christ on his return would do this or something, but anyone else even halfway sane....
- Why does Hollywood always feel the need to redeem white racists? Don't people like Haggis realize that many such people are unredeemable? The whole Matt Dillon-is-an-avowed-racist-but-saves-the-hightoned-Negress-who-glances-up -thankfully-into-his-eyes scenario made me want to vomit. Weren't all those adaptation of Kyle Onstott's novels, let alone Monster's Ball, etc. enough? Come on!
- Also, from what planet were Haggis's strange upper-middle-class Black people teleported? I've known more a few members of the Black haute bourgeoisie, and they sure in the hell don't act anything like the characters portrayed by Thandie Newton and Terrence Dashon Howard. Now, there are hanky heads running around out there, like Clarence Thomas and Ward Connerly (neither of whom grew up as "equestrians" or among the Black upper classes), but then would these folks really have Howard's outburst, particularly with police guns trained...oh well, see above. And would an entitled, upper-middle-class Black woman, of all people, have allowed a white cop to molest her as Newton's character did, and not be on the phone right away with a phalanx of lawyers? Seriously? (I won't even go into Newton's bursting-into-tears histrionics on the TV set....)
- And, after your wife called to say she'd survived a burning car wreck (yep, I'm back to that) and you'd just survived a carjacking, would you possibly just drive around like a fool and then participate in a bonfire? I ask again, what planet was this strange upper-middle-class Negro teleported from???
- You're in an interracial or interethnic relationship. So you regularly a) show some semblance of respect for your beloved's background or b) pop off insulting, ignorant remarks that show you don't have a goddamned clue about the other person's ethnicity? According to Haggis, if you're Black, it's definitely b. And of course despite the fact that you're an intelligent Black detective who's about to be appointed to an important post, you're actually too stupid, being a Black caricature, to tell the difference between different Latino ethnicities, so you're fucking person who's half Puerto Rican (I can remember what the other nationality Jennifer Esposito claimed to be), but you tell your mother on the phone that you're fucking a "white woman" and you then you assume this "white" woman you've been fucking is actually "Mexican." Which means you get to toss out a hateful slur against Mexicans. Yep, sure. I know, "race play," etc. Happens all the time. All. The. Time....
- Does anyone on earth believe that Sandra Bullock's character would actually tell her Latina housekeeper-qua-Mammy-cita, who of course is there to provide her with that necessary comfort, that Mammy-cita is her only and best "friend"? After she's yelled at the woman and is ranting about people of color in general? But of course, because you know, she has an epiphany after her ass slides down the stairs; it knocks some sense into her upper-middle-class head. Her egotism and paranoia, as White says, were believable. But the rest wasn't at all. Her best friend of ten years can't come comfort her because she's getting a massage--but she also doesn't call the police or someone else. And Bullock only has this one friend, you know, unfortunately. But fortunately, of course there's always some person of color to help such people out, preferably a subserviant one brown-skinned one. Why does Hollywood keep pushing this particular fantasy? Seriously?
- Shaun Toub, who plays the Iranian(-American) father, totally loses his accent at one point. It just vanishes. Oops. And in fact the whole Iranian-mistaken-as-Arab-and-gets-store-vandalized storyline just felt, oh, I don't know, a bit much. Yes, I know after 9/11 (and before) Iranians and other non-Arab people (no matter what their religion, Muslim, Christian, Zoroastrian, perhaps even Jewish) from the Middle East, as well as South Asians (Sikhs especially) were mistaken for Arabs and attacked, but there's a large, well integrated Iranian-American community in Los Angeles that has been there since before the fall of the Shah, yet these particular Iranians seemed completely cut off, untethered, and of course, Toub's response to the vandalization of his store was to go after the Latino, which, you know, just makes so much sense outside of a filmic geneology that, as White points out, derives from Falling Down and House of Sand and Fog...
- If you're dragged beneath a van as the "Chinaman" was, and then roughly dragged out from under the van, and then dumped outside a hospital, is it humanly possible--school me, folks--for you lying in bed after this extremely traumatic experience, and to be chatting with your wife (girlfriend, who knows, the Asian folks in the film were barely dealt with except in broad stereotypic strokes) and directing her to look in a locker and cash a check, because of course you're involved in transporting illegal aliens, and the person paying you to do so would write you a check (which of course would be so easy for the INS to trace...).
Why does Don Cheadle's mother have to be a heroin addict? What purpose does that serve? Did "racial preferences" really destroy Dillon's father's business, because from what I can see, across America, white people still own and run most of everything, including small businesses, so whose racist, conservative fantasy is this "history" reinforcing? What purpose was Keith David's grinning minstrel supposed to serve, and couldn't there have been even one Black male character who wasn't a weak head-bowing, embodiment of shame? Would Ryan Phillippe's character, who just happens to be listening to country music (you know, authentic "White" music or something), really pick up some random Black hitchhiker and then turn defensive and fearful on a dime, leading to yet another unnecessary tragedy in the film, which of course just works perfectly for its crappy, interwoven plot structure? Why the need to descend into sentimentality with the "I love you's" when the filmmaker demonstrated that he could portray something approaching true emotional resonance clearly enough in the Latino locksmith's storyline? What exactly was the point of Ludacris's character, really? Irony is one thing, but Haggis's point, that this pro-Black-rhetoric-spouting pseudo-philosopher buffoon would eventually experience his own epiphany of sorts was just beyond believable. Who on earth believed the scene where Ludracis lets the Chinese (I suppose) immigrants out onto the streets of Chinatown? And why does he have to utter yet another gratuitous racial remark at the end of the scene (nigga just cain't help hisself...)?
Other than the Peña character, about the only other true moment I witnessed was when the white lawyer chatting with Don Cheadle's character spouted off hateful remarks about Black men. I've actually experienced such a moment, more than once. That wasn't fiction, I felt, so much as Haggis and Hollywood just getting their hateration off their chests. What's wrong with the nigger male? Can't they (you) get their (your) acts together? We aren't to blame, you know--well, some of us, but not all of us. In fact, had Haggis delved a bit more deeply he might have come up with a far more engaging film about racial--and human--interactions that actually mirrored the painful realities so many of us live every day. A film of greater subtlety, that actually interrogated the sources of so many of our society's problems, that probed the complexity of a liberal or conservative worldview (from the viewpoint of anyone, but particularly those at the top and bottom), that truthfully looked at race, ethnicity, gender, sexuality, class, religion, and above all the regimes of power, to use Foucault's term, that aren't so easily localized but reinforced by an overall white supremacist power structure--that is, a film that actually went beyond trying to make upper-middle-class, White liberal people feel comfortable, once again, and Black people feel, well, like the impotent minstrels we're viewed as, might have been worth however many millions this shit cost to make.
I think J. G. Ballard and David Cronenberg should sue for having this dreck potentially confuse viewers into thinking there's more than one decent contemporary film with Crash as its title.