Los Angeles citizens with vastly separate lives collide in interweaving stories of race, loss and redemption.Los Angeles citizens with vastly separate lives collide in interweaving stories of race, loss and redemption.Los Angeles citizens with vastly separate lives collide in interweaving stories of race, loss and redemption.
This film follows the lives of a dozen or so people over the course of 2 days all living in Los Angeles. The opening scene gives us the aftermath of some ambiguous tragedy (the titular "crash"), and the next scene flashes back to "yesterday" and shows us the events in these people's seemingly unrelated lives, leading up to that opening moment. If you've seen "House of Sand and Fog" (the #1 Feel Bad Movie of the 2000s), you'll recognize an identical sort of chronology and foreboding tone--so similar that I wonder if the Crash filmmakers were somehow involved in House as well. Both films are very powerful and effective at what they aim to do, and that is, simply put, to disturb us.
Disturb us it does. Within the first 15 minutes, we see things that are so disturbing to the pit of our souls that I almost shut the movie off twice. Racism, hate, justified racism, justified hate, brutal stereotypes. The film masterfully shows us not only the worst quality of humankind but it scrutinizes the reasons why humans are this way. There's no good guy/bad guy; it's all bad guys. The first 15 mins is designed to make us hate almost every character, if not every race. By showing the atrocity that each race supposedly inflicts on the other, it paints us a Hatfield-McCoy cycle of hatred that has no known origin. It just exists and burns hotter. Non-whites are subverted by white society, so they exact revenge by committing crimes against white people which in turn causes the white police to hate and abuse non-white people who in turn become criminals against white people. The cycle of hate is not only explained but validated in a well-crafted, brutally told, highly disturbing way.
Which leads me to the 4th paragraph where I explain why I would never recommend this film. It's because IT JUST MAKES YOU FEEL BAD. For nearly 2 hours you get the same feeling you get when you watch too much cable news. And just as psychologists warn that watching too much news leads to depression, I would say the same can be said of films like this which, like the news, expose and scrutinize the absolute worst of humanity.
But then one might say that films like this are necessary to inspire change. Normally I would agree, and I'm sure that that's the intent of the filmmakers here. But let me ask you: who needs to change? Answer: racists and bigots. But are racists and bigots really going to be watching "Crash", stroking their beards and saying "Golly, I need to stop being a racist"? Probably not. And that is the film's undoing. By taking a heavy, ponderous, complex look at racism and hate, it alienates the fury-driven haters who most need to grasp this message. And instead "Crash" merely preaches to the choir, making the choir feel gawd awful lousy about the state of the world.
The film attempts to lead us to redemption, and there is at least 1 truly powerful scene of triumph that's worth the price of admission. However, other subplot resolutions seem a bit contrived, if not completely unnecessary, such as one character's climactic tragedy & epiphany which was so random I literally burst out laughing (the moral of the story being: don't wear socks indoors!). Ultimately "Crash" tries to tie things up neatly with a positive message, but it's precisely this neat tie-up, simultaneously with every sub-plot, that feels a bit contrived and ultimately unbelievable. At the risk of cutting out half the award-winning cast, perhaps the film should have focused on just 1 story & resolution, rather than pulling the "Fantasy Island" formula of having half a dozen stories wrap up neatly in the last 10 minutes.
Ultimately, despite its excellent presentation and first class acting, "Crash" couldn't sell me on its optimistic spin and instead left me feeling pretty horrible about the reality of living in a world where racists don't often have magical transformations. If you understand what I'm saying, you might want to skip this flick because, regardless of how it ends, the subject will just make you feel bad.
- Oct 2, 2019