Crash (2004)

Imagine a world where everybody spoke what was on their mind, without worrying about offending anyone else unless offending them would lead to negative consequences for you. Political correctness doesn’t appear to exist, meaning if a thought about race, culture, gender, societal status, or anything else came into your mind, you wouldn’t be afraid to state it. Now, populate that world with racists, bigots, rich, poor, thieves and police officers, and the world you imagine would probably become similar to the one that Crash represents.

There are far too many characters and storylines to accurately describe them in text. All of these characters are different in their own ways, but like the point the film tries to make, all the same as well. What happens throughout most of the plot is that one character will appear, meet another character, and based on stereotypes about their race or current economic situation, will react to one another in a way that wouldn’t be deemed “correct” in a polite society, even though they’re almost always wrong.

I’ll give you a couple of examples. The first one involves a spoiled, upper class white woman (Sandra Bullock), who has just been carjacked. Upon returning to her house, with police officers from all different backgrounds present, she starts ranting and raving about seemingly every race that isn’t white, with most of her insults directed toward the man currently changing the locks to her door (Michael Peña). While she does leave the room to do this, it becomes pretty clear that everyone in the house can hear her. She believes that the locksmith will go and sell the keys to her house to a gang, and demands that they change the locks again in the morning. When he leaves, we see that the locksmith isn’t a criminal, but a family man, with a wife and daughter he takes care of. He even left a dangerous neighborhood to protect them.

The second situation involves an Iraqi named Farhad (Shaun Toub), who opens the film wanting to buy a gun. The shop owner is less than friendly to Farhad, who is eventually thrown out of the shop due to the racism exhibited by the shopkeeper. Eventually, Farhad’s daughter, Dorri (Bahar Soomekh), manages to get the gun from the abusive salesman. It turns out that the pair only wanted the gun to protect their shop, in case more thieves were to come in.

That doesn’t make the Iraqis innocent in this film, definitely not. Almost every character has both redeeming moments as well as inexcusable ones. For most of the time, I figured it would be one or the other; either the characters would be completely good, or completely bad, but that isn’t the case. By the end of the film, most of the characters will have learned a lesson, one that can be boiled down to their prejudice being right or wrong (in their eyes, at least).

What this results in are deep, realistic characters that all have problems and need to do some growing up, and learning about other cultures. In fact, most of their problems come from sheer ignorance, something relayed to us in one of the film’s final scenes, where a white, off-duty police officer (Ryan Phillippe) picks up a hitchhiking black man (Larenz Tate), and they get along well enough for a while, despite the fact that one’s a white cop, and the other is a black thief (although neither is aware of the others’ “occupation”).

I think I could watch these people for hours. This is an ensemble film, and as such suffers from the main problem that almost all films with such a cast suffer from: Not enough time is spent with each character. If Crash ended up being 4 hours, I think I’d be okay with that, because these characters are ones I wanted to watch for double the time that they got. There are a couple of characters that feel really shortchanged, only really getting three or four scenes throughout the entire picture.

I wanted more, which is a good sign that the movie I was watching was of high quality. I was not bored for a single moment while watching Crash, which is praise in and of itself when you’re talking about a drama. Despite that it is a drama, the amount of tension you get from each film makes it seem more like a thriller, and I was certainly thrilled. Whenever a scene started, I knew I would be in for something exciting. Crash didn’t disappoint in this aspect.

While I didn’t get tired of the film’s message, I’m sure that it might become redundant to some. It is delivered over and over again throughout the film, which is about as close as the film comes to having a problem. This can turn some people away, I’m sure, because being told multiple times that being racist and assuming negative things about people not exactly like you are bad qualities to have ends up getting stale. But I think that because the film delivers that idea with multiple ways and scenarios, it doesn’t get stale, but instead, becomes stronger and will stay with you after you it, even if you weren’t someone to need that being told to you.

Crash is a great film that deals with racism and different societal classes. Is it perfect? Not quite, but it’s very close. It gets its message hammered home in multiple ways, using realistic and intriguing characters to captivate us. It’s more thrilling than a lot of thrillers, and manages to find a balancing point between being too over-the-top with how bigoted these characters are, almost always giving them a chance to redeem themselves. Definitely give this film a watch.

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