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Crash (2004), Movie Review Example

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Movie Review

The 2004 film, Crash, generated as much controversy as it did popular acclaim and box office success. The latter element may have been enhanced by the title itself, seeming to promise audiences an explosive, action film.  The movie does not, moreover, shy away from action and the extreme tension created in violent, urban confrontations. Nonetheless, the greater reality is that Crash is about disconnection, and not collisions.  As Detective Waters speculates early in the movie, contemplating the Los Angeles arena: “We crash into each other just so we can feel something” (Crash, 2004).  His remark reveals the essence of the movie, and suggests as well the reality creating the confused and often violent landscape. The violence is a symptom, rather than an issue of its own.  Ultimately, what Crash seeks to present is that an urban failure of genuine communication is unnatural, and must lead to extremes of conflict.

One scene in particular powerfully illustrates how the inability of people to comprehend one another, and even in the most pragmatic ways, can generate explosive results.  David Ruiz has failed to convey to Farhad, the Persian store owner, that changing his shop’s lock will not secure the place.  The confusion between the two men exists through language barriers, but not entirely; the language problems are fueled by growing impatience stemming from them, and stifling further efforts in the process.  What ensues is that Farhad, finding his shop robbed and destroyed, believes Ruiz to be responsible. He tracks him down, nervously threatens him with a gun, and shoots Ruiz young daughter accidentally.  Farhad’s daughter, however, has placed blanks in the weapon, so the girl is unharmed. The scene tends to captivate viewers because of the strong irony, and the almost fatalistic saving of the girl, promised the night before by her father that a magical cloak would always protect her from guns. This view, while understandable, ignores the real thrust of the scene. It is a moment of great tension and potential violence, but nothing is actually malevolent. Farhad is terrified himself, even as he wields the gun, as Ruiz has no idea of the meaning behind this action. The scene’s resolution is touching, but what matters is that a series of disconnections has simply erupted into a possible nightmare. More importantly, as Ruiz takes his daughter away, there is still no seeking of communication by either man.

Certain critics have expressed that Crash is actually focused on the inevitable conflicts of multiple ethnic groups crowded into an urban arena, and the movie certainly provides a wide canvas of races in its characters. A scene in which white police officers stop a car with two black drivers, strongly hinting at extreme violence to come, is pointed to as exemplifying this racial agenda of the film.  Again, however, the real core of the scene is missed in such a view. To begin with, as racially contrasted as the two sides in the scene are, there is no direct racial reference made by anyone.  Then, and supporting Waters’s theory that the city generates an actual desire for extreme conflict, both black suspect and white officers seem to embrace the opportunity to create violence from this encounter.  They actually want a “crash,” which would mean a connection.  What defies this is something of an epiphany in an instantaneous reaction from the rookie officer, Hansen, who defies the older officers and stands between them and the suspect.  He desperately seeks to negotiate a peaceful resolution, and he can do this only by consistently insisting on communicating himself, even as both parties resist his efforts.  More tellingly, the older officer asserts that the black suspect must be a relative of Hansen, for the boy to so intervene, and this weakens any idea that racial hatred is the scene’s motivating force.

Even a “non-violent” confrontation between a film director and his assistant reveals the same layers of ostensible racial conflict over a far more significant issue.  A director feels that a black actor speaks too “white,” and the black assistant clearly finds this assessment both offensive and irrational.  On the surface, then, this is a “crash” based on racial bias and reaction to it, but more important is that the exchange reveals an utter lack of communication between the men at a level beyond the social or professional.  Here, Crash insists that even topical connections, as occurring all the time in an urban landscape, cannot take the place of genuine human intercourse.  If race is the subject, any other may serve as well because the problem is not bias, but a profound lack of familiarity.  Here, as elsewhere, Crash is not the treatment of inevitable violence created by urban, ethnic conflicts is may seem to be.  Rather, it presents is that any failure of genuine communication between people sharing an environment is unnatural, and will lead to extremes of conflict.

Works Cited

Haggis, Paul (Director).  (2004).  Crash  (Motion Picture). United States: Lions Gate Films.

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