“Crash (2004)” Review

This one’s an Oscar winner.

Why did I watch it?

This is a rather convoluted one. I was looking for the Bird York song, which had been used in an episode of House (Autopsy) and I had discovered it was on the soundtrack to Crash. In searching fo the soundtrack I made two discoveries: firstly that this wasn’t (as I had thought) the 1996 Cronenberg film about people who get aroused by car crashes (which I don’t plan on watching) and secondly that, although the CD with the song on it was hard to come by, the DVD was not. Also it was written (and directed) by Paul Haggis (Due South, Million Dollar Baby, Casino Royale etc.) so I thought I’d give it a go.

Did it meet expectations?

Well, I was expecting to hear the song In the Deep, and it did turn up in the end; but to my surprise, way before that, Bird York appeared in an onscreen cameo!

It’s a multi-stranded film (like Contagion) with a great cast; the main linking theme here being how racist everyone is to each other (Puerto Rican to Chinese, white to black, black to Puerto Rican, etc.) Although there’s a point being made, the fact that the characters are stereotypes makes it hard to engage with the story for some time.

However, it’s a slow-burner in the sense that there are a series of very effective (almost unbelievably tense) payoffs. They feel satisfying even despite the difficulty I had investing in any of the characters.

While I’m a believer in people being more than one thing, I’m not sure what we’re supposed to do with the portrayal of heroism by a character established as a racist molester – maybe something I found particularly unwelcome as a viewer in the era of Trump after the recent stories about sexual harassment. It’s a great performance by Matt Dillon, it’s just odd writing, in the sense that combining two stereotypes doesn’t really create depth… Haggis is out to confound your expectations in some way, but without any obvious purpose.

You should watch it if…

  • You appreciate cleverly structured narrative.

You shouldn’t watch it if…

  • You’re irritated by contrived impartiality.

Next up: The Shawshank Redemption (1994). Yeah, yeah, I know…

About Simon Wood

Lecturer in medical education, lapsed mathematician, Doctor Who fan and garden railway builder. See simonwood.info for more...

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