I’ve never been more in two minds about a film than with Crash.
Crash is primarily about racial tension amongst a variety of characters who pop up all over LA. As I began watching, I was getting ready to lay into it for its rather childish and simplistic treatment of these racial divisions. At times, I found it almost insulting to the intelligence. The strongest characters were the cookie-cutter car thieves, who at first seemed to be placed there for some sick comic relief - not an encouraging sign. The film ran through the usual murmurings about stereotypes and making assumptions based on them (some wrong, some right). Roger Ebert thinks this it does well because it shows victimizers being victimized. I respectfully disagree - I think that’s somewhat of a cliché and that it would be more accurate and honest to keep it simple. Scott Foundas describes this position eloquently.
But a touching scene involving a gun and a little girl literally made me cry, and that was a turning point - in those three minutes the film mostly nullified its plodding and pretentious existence up to then. It starts to lay off the racial lecturing, and focus on the human beings involved, and so it becomes touching. Even the evil cop who commits a fairly disgusting assault at the start of the movie seems a decent human being in some significant way (although Wikipedia asserts that ‘[the cop] later relieves the viewers of his racist tendencies’ - an oversimplification if I ever heard one).
Nevertheless, Crash still had plenty of flaws. None of the performances were particularly stellar, although Don Cheadle and Michael Peña put in some solid work. The editing was a bit sloppy, and the whole presentation was a bit too detached and characterless for my taste.
Especially given the bitty storyline that involved so many characters, Crash reminded me of Magnolia - although Magnolia still far outshines it as a film of complexity and beauty. It’s easy to see why one might like Crash, but it’s also easy to see how one could hate it. This is a film I’ll be pondering over for a while yet.