on May 06, 2005 by Shlomo Schwartzberg
A group of disparate Angelenos of all races, classes and religions become enmeshed with each other through a series of increasingly contrived events in "Crash," a promising but ultimately disappointing drama about California angst. Director Paul Haggis (creator of TV's "Due South") means to get at the racial anger that runs through the city, where everyone is suspicious of one another and communication between the races is garbled at best. It's a good premise for a film but the connecting threads between the characters are rarely convincing and further undone by one too many coincidences. Thus an incident in which a racist white cop (Matt Dillon) humiliates an African-American TV director (Terrence Howard) and his wife (Thandie Newton) reverberates later in a scene that beggars belief when the cop crosses paths again with one member of the couple. That type of serendipity happens so often in "Crash" that you'd think Los Angeles was a small village where everyone knows each other instead of an impersonal metropolis where one would rarely bump into a stranger more than once. "Crash" is also burdened with lame, far-fetched dialogue, such as that uttered by a philosophy-spouting pair of carjackers (Larenz Tate, Chris "Ludacris" Bridges), and flat characterization (Brendan Fraser's ambitious district attorney; Ryan Phillippe's upright cop).

There are some smart scenes in "Crash," such as one in which a black police chief explains why he has to tolerate a racist cop under his command, that are genuinely unsettling and thought-provoking. And there's some good acting in the movie, notably by Sandra Bullock as a lonely, angry housewife and Don Cheadle as a troubled detective. Yet "Crash's" virtues are undone by its heavy-handed symbolic imagery--i.e., the myriad car accidents that occur throughout the film--which generally fails to make meaningful the connections between us all. Starring Sandra Bullock, Don Cheadle, Matt Dillon and Brendan Fraser. Directed by Paul Haggis. Written by Paul Haggis and Bobby Moresco. Produced by Mark R. Harris, Bobby Moresco, Paul Haggis, Don Cheadle, Bob Yari and Cathy Schulman. A Lions Gate release. Drama. Rated R for language, sexual content and some violence. Running time: 114 min

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