Crash (1996) Poster

(1996)

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8/10
What a bunch of weirdo's! Awesome movie!
Skeptic45930 December 2003
Crash caused a huge stir in the United Kingdom. Many conservatives were outraged by the combination of sex, already an issue of danger because of aids, and traffic accidents. Dangerous driving is like smoking, a subject that you just can't touch without many moral watchdogs chasing you through a hellish puritan junkyard.

I remember seeing this and a middle aged to elderly man in the theater began to quite obviously...ahem...trouser cough. This was one hell of a way to clear the cinema! That moment is pretty much like this film. Crash has weird sex and masterbation, stuff that you do not really want to see. But David Cronenberg with the help of James Ballard drags us into a world that just takes the whole 'I love cars' boy racer thing way too far! It is just not healthy...

Ballard writes in a bleak monotone. A monotone that Chuck Palahniuk seeks to imitate unsuccessfully. All of his characters are alien because of their lack of emotion. Cronenberg takes this aspect and runs with it. This makes the film good not because of the familiarity and sympathy that the viewer can build with the characters. It is actually quite the opposite, the film strikes the viewer because of the sheer UNREALITY of what is happening. The complete and utter icy way that everything is presented just leaves the viewer going 'what?' Am I watching a bunch of jellyfish here? The characters are so jaded. Trying desperately to experience emotion in an industrialized emotionless world. A world that has become nothing more than a production line. Good Ford! Sorry, Huxley joke. Nerdy but necessary.

Also, Cronenberg is presenting a discourse that the famous intellectual Donna Haraway puts forward. That basically the human race has become cyborgs. The the human form is constantly changing. That machines are changing our humanity and crash seems to say that our own sexuality can mingle with the mundane machines that we hold so dear. Oh no! I am getting flashbacks of the crazed artist Stellarc...no...no...no! Besides I bet in the future, terminators would make much more money as sexual partners, rather than as assassins. Imagine that, a beautiful spouse who always thinks your right and never argues with you. I LOVE THE FUTURE!

Sex is considered to be the ultimate joining of two people. The most intimate way that human beings can connect to one another. Wrong! This film suggests that sex means...well, nothing really. Procreation and a simple physical reaction. This is shown by James Spader and his wife's, Deborah Unger, relationship. These two are so jaded they tell each other their sexual adventures for attempted excitement but feel absolutely nothing. Certainly not some sought of emotional closeness to one another.

This film is just so incredibly empty. But it is also a comment on the human condition. How we make almost suicidal attempts to attain pleasure. If this was a film about heroin for instance, about junkies, this film would be much more understandable. Ballard has taken this addictive, self destructive behaviour and replaced it with an everyday object. The motor car. It is a brilliantly simple idea! But look at how many people it has horrified and offended! C'mon people, are we really this stupid? Sex and drugs, sex and violence. Sex, drugs and violence. These things are all o.k. Portrayed constantly in Hollywood movies. Van Diesel anybody? But sex and car accidents, how dare you? What kind of a sick freak are you??!! Consider how hypocritical this is when you watch something like Fast and the Furious.

This is also a film that features the psychological nature of fetish heavily. Instead of having the common fetish for breasts or bottoms, which again people might find more understandable. The fetish is actually for wounds and crash test dummy videos! That scene with Rosanna Arquette, ewww! Would that work? This is definitely something that no one should try at home.

David Cronenberg really deserves credit for making this film. He really has some big balls and respects the intelligence of the audience, which I however do not. All of the actors deserve much credit for taking on some truly difficult material. They must really trust the director. I'm surprised no one said 'no David, you are out to lunch on this one!' This film could have become a parody so easily. Never have I seen a film where everyone in the audience seemed so uncomfortable with the material. In fact, when I saw this film without the trouser coughing, people still walked out. It hasn't been since Salo that I have see a movie upset so many people. I give this 8 out of 10 for sheer weirdness. A great moment in a major auteur's career who is not afraid to take risks. Hollywood take note!
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This film is fascinating but definitely not for everyone
patrezzi1 June 2004
I love this film. I have now viewed it three times and I still keep getting something new out of each viewing.

I think it's one of Cronenberg's best. It is not, however, for the uninitiated. By that, I mean those who are not familiar with Cronenberg's previous work, and those who have not read J.G. Ballard, whose novel was the basis for this film.

Cronenberg excels at bringing difficult pieces of fiction to film. This is one such example.

The written works of J.G.Ballard are generally, dark, dreary, and disturbing psychological fiction. The characters in them are often very disturbed and socially dysfunctional. These are people who, often due to unusual circumstances, are not in their right minds.

In Crash, we are observing a group of characters who are all survivors of horrific car crashes. Like many crash survivors, they are, during their period of recovery, in shock. They are badly shaken. They are recovering from severe physical injuries, and they are disoriented, fearful, and emotionally numb.

Instead of recovering in the normal fashion, (how sad that we've come to think of auto accidents as normal) these characters stumble into the car crash cult of Vaughan. Vaughan, who is brilliantly portrayed by Elias Koteas, is a scientist who believes that there is a strong connection between the violence of a car crash and the passion of the sexual act.

He easily indoctrinates the other characters into his mode of behavior and beliefs. By staging car crashes for entertainment, by initiating traffic altercations with his followers and ultimately finishing with some very warped sex, usually involving cars, there is a metaphor being created. Accidents, and the viewing of them becomes foreplay. It's the eroticism of the automobile taken to an extreme.

Our society has had, what is often referred to as a "love affair" with the automobile. This love affair has resulted in a worldwide addiction to a means of transportation that is, in reality, often very unhealthy and destructive. Aside from the aftermath of pollution and the sheer carnage of the ever rising highway accident rate, this addiction also increases people's isolation from each other. Hidden in their private shells, they move about, only interacting with one another as necessary. This interaction rarely becomes intimate until it is violent, as in aggressive driving and accidents .

In Crash, the characters are all portrayed as cold hearted, numb, and incapable of true intimacy with each other(they sure have a lot of sex though). They are only capable of intimacy through their cars.

This film is a bizarre metaphor for the human condition and how it is affected by our choice of technology. It is not meant to make car crashes look sexy. It is meant to draw attention to how our most familiar technology has changed us and made us less human.

I love this film. Brilliant cast. Great cinematography. An excellent soundtrack by Howard Shore (multiple layers of cleanly played, very dissonant electric guitar, sounding like a cross between Sonic Youth and Brian Ruryk). Only Cronenberg would have the guts to tackle a subject as difficult as this particular work of Ballard's. I think he did quite well.

Depending on your mood at the time of viewing, this film can range from being shocking, amusing, revolting, hilarious, to even just plain boring. It's a great piece of art, but you really do have to be in the right mood for it.
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10/10
An anti-erotic exploration of the hollowness of modern life
Glaurung (academic dragon)13 December 1999
Crash is a very sexually explicit film, but if you buy or rent this movie expecting it to be an evening's erotic entertainment, you are going to be disappointed, because it is also an anti-erotic film.

Even in the midst of frenzied lovemaking, the characters remain distant, their voices quiet and abstracted, their gazes directed inward. These are people who have been told all their lives by their culture, by TV and movies, that sex is, on the one hand, the most perfect form of communion and connection with another human being; and, on the other hand, that it is the ultimate in transcendent and transformative experiences. Instead, they discover to their horror that even during sex they still feel nothing. They crave connection, they are starved for a glimpse of transcendence, but no matter what they do, no matter who they do it with or how often, while their bodies may feel passion, their minds and hearts remain cold and empty.

In the more recent movie Pleasantville, the Jennifer/Mary Sue character is unable to feel anything either, and remains stubbornly black and white no matter how much sex she has, until her brother suggests that "maybe it isn't the sex" that is the key to moving from black and white to color, from passionlessness to feeling. Unfortunately, in Crash, there is no one to suggest to David and Catherine Ballard that maybe it isn't through sex that they will find the transformation and connection they are craving. So they instead seek more and more extreme forms of sexual stimulation, only to be disappointed again and again.

James is hurt in a car crash, and during his stay in the hospital he meets Helen (who was in the other car) and later Vaughan, a man who like James and Catherine is in desperate search of feeling, only he looks for it in the violence of car crashes. With Helen, at first James, then Catherine too is drawn into Vaughan's world, where sex and death (eros and thanatos for you Freudians) meet in the twisted metal of wrecked cars and the mutilated bodies of the victims of fatal car crashes and the survivors of near-fatal ones.

They attend staged recreations of famous car crashes, like the one that killed James Dean. They have sex in crashed cars, and start touring crash sites on the freeway as a form of foreplay. They begin to watch films of crash tests and fatal race accidents like other people would watch erotic films, and to have sex with people whose bodies have been mutilated by car crashes.

But not even the horror of mutilation or the adrenaline rush of near-death experience can lend James and Catherine's desperate coupling the depth of feeling that they so desperately crave.

Like all the people who buy expensive automobiles to give them a feeling of power and independence, only to discover that no matter how snazzy their car is, they still feel powerless and unhappy, James and Catherine have bought into one of our culture's Big Lies, that sex is the answer. This film shows us that it is not.
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9/10
dangerously erotic work that changes years after seeing it
Quinoa198418 December 2006
David Cronenberg's Crash was one of those "dirty" movies I more than likely wasn't supposed to rent let alone watch when the NC-17 cut first came into existence on video (and, if anything, the film was more than an eye-opener in my young teen state, going even further than I had seen at the time with Boogie Nights or Kids). But I didn't pay quite as much attention to the story as I should've, aside from the James Dean subplot (as I remembered it anyway, with Elias Koteas's character), and from the very dark atmosphere. It was almost TOO dark at the time, and I stayed away until recently when it was shown on TV late one night. Seeing it now I'm much more absorbed into the wretchedly but totally, sensually charged work by the actors and the crew, and Cronenberg's utmost trust and professionalism with both. It certainly has that effect on a first viewing of veering way too close into the soft-core boundaries, and even seems like the kind of thing that I used to see in that 'scandalous' section of mainstream adult films as a kid like Last Tango in Paris. But the psychology behind the characters ends up being more striking than anything, and like many of Cronenberg's films, the duality of man (and woman, apparently) comes strongly into play, and the merging of the two as usually becomes the case.

James Spader is in one of his very best performances- albeit only somewhat removed from the sexual deviants of Sex Lies & Videotape and Secretary (maybe closer to the latter, however without any of that film's outright satire)- as Ballard, also the author this film is based upon. He gets in a car accident, a horrible one, that kills a doctor and leaves his wife (Holly Hunter) injured both physically and psychologically. But Ballard and his wife (Deborah Kara Unger, very good as well) get brought into this strange world that's been built around Vaughn (Koteas, perhaps in one of his top 3 best pieces of work, very creepy but somehow convincing early on, at least to his new arrivals). He is a man who is completely enveloped into his psyche of car-crash sex, and how history ends up adding a mystique to it all (hence the James Dean references, which are very amusingly pathological). But this all becomes very dangerous, if only on some subversive level, when Ballard, his wife, and Hunter's Helen Remington get involved in this underground cult.

Seeing the film again, I'm a lot more struck this time after seeing other Cronenberg work how the style slips so amazingly into the content of the picture. The first time around, the style almost seemed to be just another side to the content, that it was obvious to have such a wild yet controlled technique, particularly for the sex &/or car crash scenes. This is as much a credit to Cronenberg's poetic touches to the material as it is to DP Peter Suschitzky and Howard Shore's music, which somehow rises above being too pornographic to being really touching. In fact, after seeing it again very late at night and not remembering the entire film, I may even need to see it again to let it all sink in. But really this won't be the case for all- the NC-17 rating isn't too unwarranted in this case, even if it's more a rating for the nature of the sexual contact and aggressiveness of the fetishism as opposed to something like the Dreamers where there was blatant nudity a lot of the time. I wouldn't dare recommend the R-rated version, however, as the whole point is to see it all in its un-tarnished view. It's a harsh vision painted here of people reaching out for some kind of connection through the most destructive way imaginable. One thing's for certain, once you've seen it there's no mistaking this from Paul Haggis's Crash (and, for me, this beats out Haggis's contrived good-intention machine any day).
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6/10
Driving around in cars, with sex
paul2001sw-115 May 2004
David Cronenburg's interesting but flawed film 'Crash', adapted from James Ballard's novel (Ballard also gives his name to the leading character), attracted huge amounts of controversy on its release and has one of the most striking voting profiles on IMDB that I have seen - also equal returns for every number from 1 to 10. In fact, there's a lot of admire in this sweaty, atmospheric adaptation that perfectly captures the sense of heightened alienation that charactersises much of Ballard's prose. While among the cast, Deborah Kara Unger is sexy as always, Elias Koteas is suitably creepy and even James Spader is kind-of OK, if you don't mind him doing that "lost little college boy grown up to be a pervert" thing that he first perfected as Graham in 'Sex, Lies, and Videotape', a role he basically reprises here.

But - and let's get real for a minute - this is a film about people who are turned on by car crashes! Now, what the hell is that all about? If you ask me, the film is trying to say something about the need for transgression in an age with no real taboos - so its characters push at an endlessly receding door, until in the end only death itself can offer a way out. The problem is that the film suffers from the same problems as the world it portrays - these people have no moral rules, so their actions carry no implications beyond themselves - which leaves us with an idea, with happenings, but no narrative "drive" as such. Without anything to set against their nihilistic desires, 'Crash' coveys no sense of tragedy; just driving around in cars, with sex.
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2/10
A fetish for fender benders...
moonspinner5526 November 2016
Director David Cronenberg took a wrong turn with this failed sex-melodrama about car crashes and climaxes. A young movie producer is involved in a violent two-car smash-up which leaves one man dead and his wife briefly hospitalized--and yet aroused. The producer and the woman begin a sexual relationship with car wrecks as their aphrodisiac--and they're not alone; the producer's wife is already a player in this ungainly game, and so is a local performance artist who is sexually charged by recreating celebrity crashes. Cronenberg, who also adapted J.G. Ballard's novel, was allegedly attracted not to the eroticism prevalent in the material, but rather the opportunity to delve into his characters' scarred and warped psyches (Roger Ebert called the film "A pornographic movie without pornography in it"). Unfortunately, the characters are a heavy-breathing group of hedonistic (or is that nihilistic?) freaks, pale and vacant-eyed like horny zombies, who seem to have the time and the energy (and the insurance!) to engage in such a lifestyle. What is Cronenberg's point--that death behind the steering wheel represents the ultimate orgasm? If eroticism wasn't Cronenberg's primary objective in tackling this tasteless project, that pretty much leaves everyone involved bumping and grinding without a purpose. Shaken but not stirred, if you will. *1/2 from ****
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4/10
One of the Sickest and Weirdest Movies Ever
claudio_carvalho30 November 2010
The producer James Ballard (James Spader) and his sexy wife Catherine Ballard (Deborah Kara Unger) have an open relationship with fantasies and extra conjugal affairs that they tell to each other to increase their sexual drive. When James has a car accident where the other driver dies, he changes his behavior and becomes obsessed for car-crash victims. The lame James befriends the widow of his victim, Helen Remington (Holly Hunter), and the sick maniac for accidents Vaughan (Elias Koteas) and he joins a world of people that feels pleasure watching and provoking car accidents, dragging Catherine with him.

"Crash" is one of the sickest and weirdest movies I have ever seen. In the 90's, when I saw it for the first time on VHS, I liked it more than now. I have just watched again on a high-quality DVD and I found this time a pointless erotic story with an unbelievable plot that has the only intention of shocking. There is no message, no nothing but sick people having kinky sex related to car crashes. Deborah Kara Unger is extremely sexy and hot in one of her first works and the choreography of the accidents is quite perfect. My vote is four.

Title (Brazil): "Crash – Estranhos Prazeres" ("Crash – Weird Pleasures")
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5/10
Autoerotic and grotesque.
rmax3048234 October 2005
Warning: Spoilers
Kids, read no farther. In fact, leave the room and play Nintendo. And put your dirty socks in the hamper.

If you think YOU'RE warped wait until you see the characters who populate this movie. You'll not only emerge from the experience reassured, you'll wind up feeling like a paragon of normality.

The story (if that's the word for it) has Spader getting into a head-on smasheroo with a car in which Hunter is a passenger. Her husband is thrown through the windshield and killed. Spader is hospitalized with various pieces of shiny steel holding his long bones in place. He finds the pain and discomfort and immobilization so arousing that when his wife (Unger) visits him it leads to masturbation. There's a lot of that sort of thing in this movie.

You'd never think Holly Hunter would suffer from such a paraphilia but she does. So does Spader's wife. Hunter and Spader run into each other, figuratively, in a garage full of wrecked cars and make furious love in one of the surrealistically twisted carcasses.

Before you know it, the Spader family and Hunter have fallen in with a group of -- well, there's no easy name for people of this quality. Koteas, the head of this underground cohort, is some sort of show-business stunt driver who, with a few associated, restages fatal car crashes of celebrities. Spader and Hunter are one of a dozen or two spectators who come to watch the staging of the 1955 crash between James Dean's Porsche and a Ford driven by somebody named Turnipseed. None of the men involved in the stunt wear helmets or seat belts and there are no roll bars or any of that wimpy stuff. Koteas' shiny Porsche Spider backs up, then speeds full blast into the front of the Ford. Kaboom. Sirens burping, the cops arrive and everyone scuttles for cover. It is never explained exactly how Koteas makes enough money to smash up beautifully restored Fords and Porsches. (His next big show will involve the decapitation of Jane Mansfield.) At Koteas' home they watch movies of test crashes with dummies instead of porn.

Spader's wife has seemed relatively reasonable up to now but she finds herself turned on by crashes, stunt men, and the rest. When she and Spader are making love (this time in bed, not in the back seat), she asks about Koteas. "Did you see his penis?" Spader: "He says it's all scarred from a motorcycle accident." Unger ecstatically: "Ewwwww." Anyway, to get on with it, one thing leads to another -- one thing being crashes and the other being flaming death amidst twisted metal. What with everyone being swept up in the craze and wanting still more of the excitement, the only sensible way to arouse and satisfy your wife is to smash into her car and kill her, right? Two Big Os for the price of one -- Orgasm through Obliteration. So Spader continually rams the convertible driven by his willing wife until it flips over on the side of the highway. But she's not dead after all. "I'm all right," she mumbles. "Maybe next time. Maybe next time," he whispers to her and then does her bloody and half conscious body in the sere grass.

So what's it all about, you ask? You might find that SOME people have no idea but I have a very firm answer. I don't know. At one point Spader asks Koteas why he's so interested in this stuff and Koteas replies portentously: "It's the reshaping of the human body by modern technology." Gosh.

It's an awesome statement but what does it mean? How is modern technology reshaping the human body? Does he mean that vehicular accidents tear it all to bits? Is he somehow thinking of the Thighmaster or simulacrum that imitate rowing or cross-country skiing or walking upstairs? Is Cronenberg really after ROCK HARD ABS? Here's what I think he's up to. It's been called self testing. It's seeing how far you can violate ordinary tastes and still get away with it, rather like a toddler who insists on wobbling along by himself until he either falls down or somebody picks him up. The real message of the movie is that there is no message. It's a highly ritualized violation of the viewer's expectations of taste. A Halloween prank.

What else could it be? It's certainly not a realistic portrayal of a bunch of perverts. Where could they possibly get insurance after the first dozen crashes? And the fear and sexual responses are antagonistic, the former mediated by the sympathetic nervous system and the latter by the parasympathetic. Somebody who jumps off a cliff might have a spontaneous ejaculation, a sympathetic reflex, but he's not going to have an erection.

I don't mean to pan the movie entirely. Unger and Hunter and Roseanna Arquette are sexy and attractive women. (There's a homosexual encounter involving Spader and Koteas, but it's not sufficiently prolonged or explicit to be anhedonic.) At any randomly chosen moment, the screen will show cars on the highway, cars crashing, people having sex in cars, or people talking about cars crashing and people having sex in cars. And it's neatly directed too. What shiny metal and what frangible flesh! Everything but the bodies seem gleaming and cold.

My only problem was that I didn't like it. Not my perversion.
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6/10
Car crashes and sex, that's it
MarcoParzivalRocha19 January 2021
James Ballard, a TV director who is going through a complicated phase at a professional and personal level, suffers a car accident that transports him to an urban sub-culture, where victims of car accidents have sex in order to rejuvenate and give meaning to their lives.

It's a bizarre film, at least, dark, psychologically disturbing, and uncomfortable, for the vast majority of the audience.

This film explores certain psychological changes that a person may suffer after a trauma, instincts and ingrained desires, which needed the right moment to emerge.

The characters are cold, lacking a solid background, disconnected from emotions, which are linked only by carnal attraction and the primitive and violent sexual desire.

It's a metaphor about our relationship with technology and the progressive loss of connections with other individuals, but I don't think it had the best execution.
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4/10
A daring film that didn't quite work
tomq5p26 July 2006
"Crash" had a lot of potential. I feel like I can criticize it harshly because I am a Cronenberg fan and this was nowhere close to his best work. The themes (sexual "deviance," violence, obsession) that Cronenberg was exploring are very relevant to today's post-modern society. However, this film didn't get the message across. Supposedly the book by James Ballard deals more with our obsession with fame and celebrities; that was not dealt with in the film and it should have been. It would have resulted in a more coherent piece of art. As you watch the movie, you feel like a kid watching late-night TV and stumbling upon something "dirty" that you know you aren't supposed to see. That's about it. As an adult, you know that there is supposed to be symbolism, an underlying metaphor or allegory, but the viewer is never really let in on the secret. Instead, we see a lot of strange sex scenes, car crashes and empty dialogue. I wanted to like this film, but it was boring, a little pretentious, and left me wanting more substance.

4 out of 10
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7/10
voyeuristic, fascinating, original and also a bit slow
SnoopyStyle12 December 2014
Catherine Ballard (Deborah Kara Unger) is hypersexual. She and her husband James Ballard (James Spader) have an unconventional marriage. James causes a car crash when he moves into oncoming traffic. Helen Remington (Holly Hunter) is in the other car. Her husband is killed and she finds sexual enjoyment in the crash. James and Helen find compatible erotic needs with car crashes. Vaughan (Elias Koteas) is a like-minded person and introduces them to his group with Gabrielle (Rosanna Arquette) who walks with leg braces.

Director David Cronenberg is diving into some sexual perversities here. It is voyeuristic at times, fascinating, different, but also prodding at other times. Sex is not hot as much as it is disturbingly cold. It is definitely weird. I do wonder if there is more to this movie. It's a crazy artifact of cinema.
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6/10
Challenging crash
TheLittleSongbird17 April 2019
David Cronenberg is for me one of the most interesting and unlike any other out there directors (even if not quite one of my personal favourites), despite being known for body horror and originating it his films are much more than that. They are incredibly well made, and as well as being unsettling some have a dark yet subtle wit or a poignant emotional core. All these are the reasons for my admiration and appreciation for him.

Of all his films, 'Crash' (not to be confused with the film that, undeservedly in my opinion, won the Best Picture Oscar in its year, over the infinitely superior 'Brokeback Mountain', but that's another story) is his most controversial, causing a stir in Britain at the time. One can totally see why, with its uncompromising and difficult subject matter being portrayed unsettlingly and uniquely, something that fascinated and disturbed many yet sickened and perplexed just as many others. When it comes to me and my perception of 'Crash', it is a bit of a tricky one and not an easy film to rate and review. Do not consider it a misunderstood masterpiece or one of his best, at the same it's far from being on my worst films ever list and doesn't crash and burn. It's certainly an interesting and well made film, but other Cronenberg films connected with me far more emotionally and had me gripped more. Especially 'Dead Ringers' and 'The Fly'.

Contrary to what those who hated 'Crash' say, those who say that there are no redeeming qualities whatsoever (personally can never say that about any lesser Cronenberg), there is a lot to admire. As with all Cronenberg films, 'Crash' looks great, with photography that is both beautiful, almost dream-like in places, and harrowing, when at its most harrowing it really hits hard. Absolutely loved the opening credits sequence, Cronenberg always delivers in this aspect. A lot of effort clearly went into the design of it visually, it is beautiful to watch while also being very creepy. Howard Shore's score does add quite a bit, it is truly haunting stuff that also brings shivers down the spine when necessary. Cronenberg's style is unmistakable, if more purposefully clinical than usual.

He does admirably adhere close to the detached nature of the source material, which accounts for why viewers were and still are left cold and why his direction is more clinical. What is most interesting about the film and why it is controversial is its depiction of sex and violence, there is a lot of both, very daring and shocking at the time (still is) and both had seldom been depicted in this way before. The violence is uncompromising and does churn the stomach, even those who have seen a lot of violent films (myself included) will find themselves deeply disturbed. The sex scenes are beautifully choreographed and filmed while also being a mix of explicit, sensual, strange and ominous. When they merge, the depiction is vividly graphic, and for quite a large number it was/is hard to take, to me it was harrowing but in a way it intrigued. The film also made me think. Despite never getting to know the characters (Vaughan is the most interesting) or care for them, that doesn't stop Cronenberg from drawing great performances from a gifted cast. Found the standouts to be Elias Koteas, quite frightening here, and Deborah Kara Unger, who is equally astonishing.

On the other hand, it is very easy to see why anybody would say 'Crash' is a challenging film and hard to like. While appreciating what it set out and tried to do, the emotional investment wasn't there for me, things that were there in 'Dead Ringers' and 'The Fly', and there were times where the intentional coldness was overdone. Likewise with the bizarre factor, especially later on where things increasingly stop making sense until an ending that leaves one dumbfounded-ly scratching their heads.

While some of 'Crash' was thought-provoking, it was not always easy understanding what the point of it was and what it was trying to say. It also became repetitive with the sexual acts and violence becoming more frequent and in some cases not necessary, some of the film was pretty uneventful dramatically, the pace was very sluggish and the film could have been 20-25 minutes shorter because there was not enough plot, which was fairly slight structurally to begin with, to sustain the film's length.

In summary, didn't bowl me over and the controversy is more than understandable, but do highly appreciate the effort and can't be too hard on it. 6/10
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6/10
Curious, odd, but flawed examination of sexuality/identity.
Phoenix-3626 January 1999
Warning: Spoilers
David Cronenberg's most recent film. Set in Los Angeles, James Spader and Deborah Unger play a couple drawn into an underworld of odd characters who are sexually aroused by automobile crashes. Spader discovers this when he hits Holly Hunter's car head on, killing her husband. They become lovers, meeting in a parking garage, having (unsatisfying) sex in a parked car. Later they are involved with a clique that re-enacts famous crashes for excitement.

It's a fascinating premise and it starts off quite promising. However, Spader's patented flat, emotionally dead anti-hero never shows a spark of life. Nor do any of the other characters. And yet, while there is an attempt to capture that serene surface perfected by David Lynch, the attempt fails. In the end we do not care what happens to any of these characters. It becomes an exercise in guessing who will sleep with who next. Even the final scene, in which Spader and Unger are brought back together, fails to move because we have never cared about either of them. It felt like getting the news that your cousin twice removed, who you have never met, is getting married. You know you are supposed to feel happy for them but, frankly, you just don't care.

On the other hand, the movie is visually lush, and does take some legitimate risks. Spader has a gay sex-scene that, as tame as it was, is a true rarity in American theaters. Even "Faith! Hope! and Glory!" did not come close. One scene deserves especial mention. A group including Spader, Hunter, and Rosanne Arquette are watching video tapes of safety tests of automobiles, starring the test dummies. As they watch they become increasingly aroused. They are all completely absorbed in films that were shot by engineers. Like low-budget porn, the videos are grainy, out of focus, and have no camera movement. Nevertheless, the scene is oddly hysterical.

Cronenberg also keeps close to home in another way. He always seems to be obsessed with violation. In his films this is represented literally. Here we have a number of characters whose bodies are violated with pins and braces administered by doctors. Not for the squeamish, although the scenes are not gory. But to see the male nurse just poking at people's apparatus and wounds is unsettling (recalls the Monty Python skit where the major missing a leg has it poked by his superior office, asking if it hurts).
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On the road to hell...
majikstl30 September 2004
There is the very real possibility that CRASH is an elaborate joke. That is the only way that this monumentally idiotic mess could possibly be explained. Certainly there is nothing in this silliness that in any way touches upon normal human behavior as most people understand it. Indeed, I even suspect you would have trouble finding any psychologist or psychiatrist who would have ever encountered the type of freaky weirdoes who populate this film -- or for that matter even have read about such freaky weirdoes in text books.

The film deals with people who get sexual aroused by automobile accidents and the pain and suffering such wrecks cause. I suppose anything is possible and such people may exist, but CRASH takes it one step further and suggests that there is this cult of individuals who somehow network to fulfill their fantasies of motorized mayhem. Two such characters are played by Holly Hunter and James Spader. In a most grotesque parody of "meeting cute" the two encounter each other when he crosses the center line and smashes head-on into her car, killing her husband and apparently getting her hot and bothered in the process. Hunter's Helen is already into smashup sex, so, after a stay in the hospital, the grieving widow naturally rushes Spader -- playing James Ballard, the author of the original novel -- into her small band of bumper car aficionados.

In addition to being wreck 'n' roll fanatics, the people must also be incredibly rich. They like to recreate infamous celebrity auto accidents, such as James Dean's roadside death. For instance, to do so, they have to buy or recreate not only a replica of Dean's rare 1955 Porsche Spyder, but also an almost equally rare 1950 Ford coupe that was the other car involved in the crash. With these and a variety of other new and used cars, we're talking about thousands, perhaps hundreds of thousands of dollars for autos destined to be demolished in the name of foreplay. Talk about expensive quickies. A couple of tickets to a demolition derby would be far more economical -- and a virtual orgy.

Of course, the film isn't really about auto eroticism; it is about sexual obsession in general. The fetish in question could have been about anything that inspires abnormal lust. The characters could have been turned on by, say, internet porn, gambling, bungee jumping, farm animals or jiggling Jell-O molds. But, gosh darn it, car wrecks are so much more photogenic. It doesn't seem to bother the filmmakers that they are perpetuating a correlation between sex and violence, because, well, they apparently believe such a link already exists. Nor do they seem to be aware that they are undermining their own efforts by building an oh-so serious drama around a ludicrously grim (and lame) joke.

As such, the insipidness of the story is accentuated by the pomposity of the storytelling. Director David Cronenberg approaches the story as though he were Igmar Bergman directing PERSONA. Other than a few lapses, the film is cold and lifeless and empty; though it is somewhat appropriate that a film celebrating a sexual obsession with automobiles would depict sex as an utterly mechanical act. Cronenberg and crew do slip up a couple of times and inspire moments worthy of laughing out loud. One scene in particular is hilarious: Hunter and several others are lounging around watching videos of auto crash tests like they are watching porn videos; One particularly messy smash up prompts Hunter to excitedly demand that it be shown again in slow motion. Crash dummies watching crash dummies, as it were.

There is an unwritten rule of movie sex: If films featuring explicit sex are fun and comic, then it is pornographic; but if the sex is joyless, degrading and dispassionate, then it is art -- or, sex as something good is dirty; sex as something bad is honest. It is this simplistic, neo-puritanical attitude that makes films like CRASH so insultingly hypocritical: Make a big deal about filming graphic, lurid sex scenes, then condescendingly shake one's finger at the audience to remind them how perverse such activity is. It's like slipping an alcoholic a drink in order to self-righteously chastise him for being a drunk.

Had the filmmakers shucked the smug moralizing and openly played the material as sly satire, perhaps CRASH could have been a sharp commentary on modern romance, both between people and with their cars -- speeding as flirtation, road rage as rape, reckless driving as masturbation, the head-on collision as the one night stand; marriage as the aftermath of roadside carnage. But I don't think the film has the courage or the intellect to explore such themes. The film plays it safe, giving us a tale of obsession where the obsession is devoid of the thrill, the energy or the naughtiness of actually giving in to an impulse. It's an addiction without a high, but worse no expectation of there being a high. Here is a film that wants us to identify with a psychological quirk that is, to say the least, ridiculous, but it doesn't even make the effort to frame the quirk in a realistic fashion. How are we to care one way or the other -- emotionally, dramatically, socially or even clinically -- about people the film itself seems to regard as emotionally dead freaks?

CRASH thinks it is speeding recklessly down uncharted roads, but it is up on blocks, spinning its wheels and destined for the junkyard.
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Put put put...
Spleen1 July 2002
The more boring a movie is, the more crucial it is that there be a story: it may not relieve the boredom, but it will at least provide the viewer with a way of telling when it will end. Alas, there's no story here. Nor is there any reason for it to end at one point rather than another - except, of course, that the sooner, the better.

I don't mind using the premise that there's an underground coterie of sick weirdos who find car crashes sexually arousing, who trade crash test video porn, etc., but in describing the scenario with those nineteen words I've done only slightly less towards making a good movie out of it than Cronenberg did. I suspect the REASON there's no story is also the reason that none of these people have any kind of life at all - no work, no play - outside their shared fetish, and that they don't utter so much as a single line of dialogue (not even a "nice weather we're having") that doesn't relate directly to it. Cronenberg simply couldn't be bothered with all that stuff. If he can cut directly to the subject matter and show us the car crash fetishists being car crash fetishists, why should he bother showing us anything else? To avoid making a movie as unbearably tedious as this one, that's why.
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5/10
Utterly bizarre and empty.
bat-520 August 2000
David Cronenberg likes to push the envelope in film. With Scanners, he ushered in a new wave of horror. With The Dead Zone, he gave us horror of a more subdued kind. With The Fly, he remade a sci-fi classic and gave it a new spin. And with Dead Ringers, he explored the strange dual life of twins. With Crash, Cronenberg pushes us, but I don't know what kind of repsonse he was going for. The story concerns James Ballard and a group of crash enthusiasts. After his initial crash, Ballard meets up with Helen Remington and a mysterious man named Vaughn. Ballard is soon introduced to the strange world of car crashes, and the rush of sexual tension. Now I can see where there is a thin line that separates these two acts. Both bring out a strong physical and emotional reaction, but the characters in the film are too detached from life. There is sex without pleasure, and the only way these people can experience pleasure, is through the trauma of an automobile accident. The film moves along at a leisurely pace and nothing ever really happens. There is no dramatic need that these characters have to fill. There is no urgency in their actions and their motivations are clouded, by what I interpret as boredom. Cronenberg has done some fine work in the past, and I think he'll come along and shock us with a truly original film. Until then, stick with the four I mentioned at the top.
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Not Sufficiently Extreme
tedg6 October 2001
Warning: Spoilers
Spoilers herein.

`Fight Club' meets `Zed and Two Noughts' meets `Bladerunner' meets `Fearless' meets `Leaving Las Vegas.'

I celebrate the intelligent vision of this film. But Fight Club wove a more engaging neurosis; `Zed' had a stronger disturbing vision; `Bladerunner' a more thorough sense of programmed sex; `Fearless' more visceral crashes; and `Leaving Las Vegas,' more relentless characters marching to oblivion (though it is not in the class of the other films).

Cronenberg has a fine visual sense, but it is not strongly individual. And the same can be said of his metaphoric fabric. So although this film is worth watching, I cannot consider it important. What really bothered me was how restrained it was. We needed stronger discomfort (like `Shadow of the Vampire'), a more radical visual statement (like `Pillow Book'), excessively greater perversions (The Coens could do it), increasingly outrageous acting style (Garafalano, where are you?). This is a pretty tepid film given its aspirations.

This is not a film about sex in the real sense -- it amazes me that anyone could think so -- rather, the technology of filming sex and what works in films for an audience with escalating needs. Folks: the chief character is a FILM producer. The drivers in the club are FILM stunt drivers. The re-enactments are of FILM actors' deaths.

Spader was chosen, I'm sure, because of his balance of in-your-face I'm-a-character no I'm-an-actor stances in `Sex, Lies' which also was a film about meeting the expectations of film audiences by directly phoning the sex memes. (Note how most of the sex -- and car smashes -- are from behind?)

This film is a big goof on anyone who sees it and thinks it is about sex. Very clever indeed, as it also explains why someone would need to think so.
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I liked it
Boyo-28 September 1999
I had read the novel and was very curious to see what David Cronenberg would do. The book was somewhat better, but I thought the movie was very intelligent, disturbing and outrageous. The cast does well, especially Deborah Kara Unger, who gives the best performance in the movie. As usual, Cronenberg creates another world, and either you want to go there or not, but this time it ended up being fascinating, for me at least.
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1/10
This movie is a car wreck
JeffG.22 April 1999
Let me sum up this movie for you right here and I'll save you the rental cost: A bunch of Canadian perverts crash cars and have sex for 100 minutes. That's the beginning, middle and end of the whole movie, right there. Call me old fashioned, but I prefer movies with plots.

I still can't figure out what Holly Hunter was doing in this movie.
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8/10
One of Cronenberg's More Bizarre Works, Which Says a Lot
gavin694228 July 2011
After getting into a serious car accident, a TV director (James Spader) discovers an underground sub-culture of scarred, omnisexual car-crash victims who use car accidents and the raw sexual energy they produce to try to rejuvenate his sex life with his wife.

This film is a great director (David Cronenberg) adapting a great novelist (JG Ballard), and featuring a great cast. James Spader has rarely been so good as he is here, and for those who cannot get enough of him having sex, this is the film you want (I honestly lost count). Holly Hunter is also great... with the star being, I think, Elias Koteas.

Koteas, who does not get enough credit, despite being in many, many great films, is obsessed with car accidents and likes to recreate historic ones, such as the crash that killed James Dean. No pads, no air bags, just metal on metal -- with him inside. He plays the character Vaughn in such a way that his perversity seems normal, even believable.
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8/10
The Orgasm of Burning Rubber.
Yuto_Zeiram13 March 2006
"How many orgasms per mile can you get ?" This is one of the catching tag lines of the movie "Crash". Again Cronenberg delivers a dive into human psychic, the world of dark obsession, and twisted fantasy's.

The plot:

A sexually frustrated couple starts experimenting with the outlines of anonymous sex. It is the husband James Ballard (James Spader) who gets into a car crash with Dr. Ellen Remington (Holly Hunter) and her husband. They crash frontally and both Ballard and Remington are seriously injured. Remington's husband dies while being launched from his seat through his own windshield into Ballards. Ballard ends up in the hospital, traumatized, trying to recover from his injuries. He gets into deeper contact with Helen Remington. Their mutual Crash-victim status brings them closer together, ultimately delivering them into the sump-oil-soaked world of the pathological Vaughan (Elias Koteas). Renegade scientist and leader of a strange subterranean group, Vaughan is only able to achieve sexual release by crashing into people on the motorways surrounding Heathrow airport. Getting sucked into his world, Ballard becomes obsessed with car crashes, and dives into the illegal world of "thrill seeking" and raw and hard (but mostly cold) sex.

The review:

To be quiet honest "Crash" is a very underestimated picture. First of all there are a serious amount of people who thought that the subject was laughable, and not to be taken serious, for how could you take something like this serious ?

After crashing your car and being injured, having sex with the victim of a car-crash ?

Apart from the post-traumatic stress that can appear after such an incident it also triggers a lot of adrenaline, which is almost a self produced drug. Cronenberg cuts a subject which is still very much of a taboo, the "thrill seeking taboo". You got a lot of so called thrill seekers now these days, which can result into ghost riding on the freeway, climbing on buildings without security etc. All in all the thrill seek element isn't that original.

This is where Cronenberg has looked for a thrill that rushes into a perverse sexual outburst. After the shock of crashing into a car, the adrenaline, the rush of the experience becomes so real, you feel so alive that you need to let it all out, which comes into the act of "making love". Cronenberg is trying to paint the audience a picture of an event like this.

Based on J.G. Ballards novel "Crash" which was quiet detached and cold, the director follows in style with the dark freeways of Canada, showing that even in your car you are not always save, and how a car can become the ultimate "drive" for pleasure. The problem with this film (like many others) is that it is so far out there that you either hate it or love it. The pacing is rather slow in the beginning and its hard to get into, if you don't understand the psychology that lies underneath the dialog. The movie has a solid script but the subject and material is not accessible for everybody. James Spader who often (he almost could be a stereotype) plays sexual frustrated protagonists ("Sex,Lies,and Videotapes", "Secretary", "Speaking of Sex") delivers a terrific performance here. His distant and alienated acting fits perfectly into the dark en and sensual story, and doesn't come as a insincere or "over the top". Some people felt that Koteas and Hunter performances where a little flat, but they have just the balance between low key and an over the top performance (Koteas more than Hunter). You got to keep in mind that these people are already deranged from the beginning. What you see is simply a drop falling into bucket that is overflowing.

The use of light and shadow is very subtle and excellently done by cinematographer Peter Suschitzky. He really knows how to pull you into a certain world, that LOOKS like ours but feels very different. In any case I can recommend the movie if you want to watch something different. A lot of people will not understand the weight this film carries, and therefore this movie will be underrated, or simply will be put aside as boring or unrealistic. THIS IS A MISTAKE,... don't put it away, watch it, and feel the awkwardness. The result ?

"Humans really are quiet weird creatures..."
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1/10
Boring, boring, boring........boring, boring, boring.....
Rob_Taylor25 April 2004
Recipe for Crash:

Take one crappy porn movie.

Mix liberally with scenes of road carnage.

Try to convince the audience that images of death and destruction instill a sexual frenzy in anyone that views them.

Simmer for far too many minutes to ensure that any empathy for the characters, any character development or plot, or even anything remotely resembling entertainment, is thoroughly and completely boiled out.

Finally serve up to your audience on the strength that it has sex in it and hope they won't notice that it is pure, unadulterated shit.

Thank you, David Cronenberg, for wasting a portion of my life watching this turkey. Whatever money you made out of this garbage, tells me more about the sort of person that would watch this film, than it does about your talents as a director.

Geez, now all we need is Roman Polanski to do something similar.....
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1/10
How does one make such an awful film ?
Don-10219 February 1999
David Cronenberg's CRASH is one of the worst pieces of cinematic trash I have ever witnessed. I give an enormous amount of credit to some of the cast members (Holly Hunter, especially) for participating in such crap. She obviously saw something erotic or dangerous in the script. I saw idiocy, stupidity, and unnecessary pain. I did not know whether to laugh or vomit, but I somehow made it through.

The film involves an over-sexed James Spader, who 'crashes' into a car with a half-naked Ms. Hunter, killing the driver, and seriously injuring Spader's leg. In the hospital, the film's forced sexuality never stops, considering a visit Spader gets from a handy blonde. Through a series of weird events and experiences involving automobiles I would rather not get into, the film's self-important message is clear: How modern technology changes the human body i.e. car crashes.

First of all, we've been presented this message in countless other ways. Cronenberg has just found a sick and explicit way to present it. Secondly, what these characters think and do exist only to 'present' this overblown message. They have no other duties, ideas, character traits, or appeal other than to go wild sexually in all kinds of cars, car washes, and car chases. What is this? Neo-Industrial Revolutionary filmmaking? No, it is garbage.

One-note: Rosanna Arquette appears as a good-looking Darth Vader. Only anyone who has seen this will know what I mean. This is in no way a recommendation, and this has been a fun waste of time discussing bad cinema.
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1/10
Should have been called "Trash"
ChelseaGirl9822 February 2006
I am truly amazed that anyone could like this film. I saw it on cable last night and it has to be one of the worst pieces of trash I have ever seen (and I like David Cronenberg). It has absolutely no point, the connection the film tries to make between car crashes and sexual passion is total BS (and if you've ever been in one, as I have, I'm sure you'll agree it ain't sexy), and it has no redeeming features whatsoever. It was tedious, disgusting, shallow...it's one of those films that acts like it has some grand message to impart, but in reality it's empty. It's a miracle I actually made it through the whole film. It was so bad I'm having trouble finding words to describe it. Bottom line is, if you haven't seen it yet, and even if it's on TV and you're bored, don't waste your time.
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Sexiest Motion Picture to Date!
mdgray-116 June 2007
When Cronenberg's "Crash" came out in the theaters in Seattle, the audiences gave it standing ovations. Of course, that's Seattle! James Spader was thinner & sensuous playing the lead man's role. Debra Unger & he have quite the cinematic chemistry to generate steaming sexual scenes.

Car crashes are a group of fetishists' thing to get off on. Some re-stage famous fatal ones: Jimmy Dean's, Jane Mansfield's. The car crash fetish ring leader drives a town-car like JFK was assassinated in.

Holly Hunter is extremely surprising as she plays a bisexual car crash fetishist physician who is way into having sex in cars; most especially after near crashes.

I don't know how this film got away with a R rating! But, I'm glad it did! It's a scorching hot sexy motion picture with one heck of a deviant plot. I bet even director John Waters liked this one. . . .

Surprisingly, there is romance in the movie. Spader & Unger stay together throughout all other crash scenario flings. The most fascinating thing about Cronenberg's "Crash" is how true to life it is & was in Seattle, when it first came out.

"Crash" is a remarkable study of fetishism. That's why it is not pornographic. Yes, the numerous adult sex scenes are extremely graphic; but, Cronenberg prevents the subject matter from being degraded into pornography.

With an amazing star cast, "Crash" not only was, but still is, one of the most controversial movies today. Doubtless some of the audiences have to ask themselves, "Are there really people like these?" The answer is overwhelmingly, indeed there are. Cronenberg & cast was the group brave & brazen enough to get real about human sexualities.
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