‘Crash’ Review: Don’t Watch This Film Part Two

Posted in The Screening Room by - January 06, 2015

Some might say that I’m extremely critical of certain films, and I will admit that at times I am often for very good reason. Crash is one of those films that I am extremely critical of for a couple reasons: it won the Oscar for Best Picture instead of Brokeback Mountain, it takes itself super seriously, and it’s an admitted vanity project for Paul Haggis. I’m just going to say it early in this review so that there is no question that I absolutely detested this movie on even the basic level. I see why this film won the Oscar for Best Picture because it essentially pandered to the Academy in the most obvious, pathetic way along with providing a plot that is laughably ridiculous. I haven’t hated a film this much since I reviewed Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer, I’m not kidding, I really didn’t like this film. 

Crash takes place in Los Angeles over two days with multiple intertwining story lines between a handful of different characters from all walks of life. The plot is paper thin because there isn’t a real tangible plot even in the ensemble cast sense; the film could be boiled down to a series of vignettes all focusing on racism. This film tries to show that everyone, even people who “traditionally” on the receiving end of racism, are racist bigoted assholes towards everyone different from them. This film may have been “edgy” or “thought-provoking” back in 2004 but in 2014, with recent events creating tension in the race discussion in America, this movie is just racist, that’s all it is. It doesn’t bring any new topics to the table and it implies that everyone is racist and no one will ever be otherwise.

Along with the total lack of plot, the performances in this movie are hyper-racist in a way that is usually played for comedy not drama. You know what isn’t played out? All of the white cops being racists towards the black characters in the film, going as far as to shoot one for no reason and sexually assault another for no reason. You know what also isn’t played out? The white district attorney’s wife being racist towards the Hispanic locksmith and her Hispanic house keeper. It’s as if Paul Haggis googled “racist tropes from cinema” and just used the most low-hanging fruit of the bunch for his characters in this film. He even goes as far as to perform a bait and switch with the two “thug” characters who are upset at the perceived racist treatment they are receiving only to then go and car jack a couple. There is nothing in this film that is original or creative, it just takes all of the racist stereotypes and throws them at a wall, hoping something sticks. 

The two characters that are worth talking about at length are Daniel Ruiz played by Michael Pena and Farhad played by Shaun Toub. Ruiz is the aforementioned Hispanic locksmith who, because he has tattoos, is believed to be a “gangbanger” and even told so to his face. He is the only redeemable character in the film mostly because he isn’t on screen long enough to have his possible racist tendencies displayed, but I wager he might be racist off-screen. His storyline in the film revolves around him changing people’s locks and them thinking he is a thug, with his interaction with Farhad being the most ridiculous. Farhad is a Persian convenience store owner who doesn’t speak English well but can somehow manage to yell at any character who will listen. The only way it could be more stereotypically racist would be if he wore a turban and threatened to blow people up. His character buys a gun early in the film to protect his shop and when Ruiz comes to replace the lock only to tell Farhad he needs a new door, he snaps. He snaps because he believes Ruiz ripped him off because he didn’t fix the broken door, so he goes to Ruiz’s home with the gun to shoot him. Unbeknown to him the racist gun store clerk sold him blanks as opposed to live rounds so when Farhad shoots Ruiz, he doesn’t kill him. That’s it however. It is never revisited and Farhad doesn’t go to jail; it’s just another way this movie shows how little it cares about actually telling a coherent story.

I can’t believe that so many critics, including Roger Ebert, were enamored with this film and went as far to call it their best film of the 2004. It panders so hard to everyone in a way that is normally reserved for biopics or historical war films; this movie was created with the sole purpose of winning an Oscar not telling a story. Matt Dillon was the sole actor nominated from the film, thankfully he didn’t win but to me it’s hilarious that he was even nominated. His performance is just another example of the hyper-racism that this film employs to try and tell a story. No real person is this racist at least not outwardly but it’s a racist fantasy that Paul Haggis employs to create this movie.

It’s too bad this movie won the Oscar for Best Picture when Brokeback Mountain and Good Night, and Good Luck were nominated. This movie was the safe option for the Academy that, to this very day, doesn’t award films that challenge the viewer’s beliefs but instead gives the gold to films that pander to them. They give awards to films that try to be self-important or confront an important topic, not movies that tell a worthwhile story with some of those ideas in it. They picked the safe option that year and continue to; of course they didn’t pick a film about two cowboys who share a loving, same sex relationship, it would offend too many people. I’m more offended that they awarded Crash with Best Picture because it isn’t a good film; it is pandering garbage that is melodramatic for melodramatic’s sake and I’m glad that I have seen it. I’m glad because now I can tell anyone who is on the fence about watching this film to spend their time elsewhere. This film is a waste of time that shouldn’t have been elevated and shouldn’t be included in any serious conversations about race relations in society.

Final Say: Skip It

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Chris Stachiw is the Editor-in-Chief and co-host of the Kulturecast. He’s a native Californian with a penchant for sarcasm and a taste for the cinematic bizarre. You’ll often find him wandering the wasteland of Nebraska searching for the meaning of life and possibly another rare Pokemon.

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