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CRASH (2004)

"Crash" is a unique mosaic of several vignettes that are all tied together by a series of car accidents, hijacks, etc. The story begins in medias res (in the middle) then flashes backwards in time and works its way back to the present and continues forward. Meanwhile several multi-ethnic characters all come into contact by some means involving an automobile in which the characters true racial prejudices are bluntly exposed.

The cast inlcudes: Don Cheadle, Sandra Bullock, Thandie Newton, Brendan Fraser, and Matt Dillon.

Directed and written by: Paul Haggis.

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Genre: Drama, Crime, Mystery.

2004's Best Picture Oscar Winner / Best Picture Index

Rated: R for language, sexual content, and some violence.

Tagline: Sometimes you have to hit head on to get back to reality?

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The film opens with Det. Graham Waters (Don Cheadle) foreshadowing the darkness of the film when he explains that the typical everyday car crashes in L.A. city are really a subconscious drive for people to reconnect with one another. Waters theorizes that L.A. has become so secluded behind walls of glass and fear that a car crash is the only tangible thing that can bring people together and shake them back into reality.

Of course this idyllic depiction of a car crash is simply an allusion to the psychological premise underlying the film and is continually undermined by people's violent reactions to the nuisance of a time-costly car crash which they blindly place racial accusations alongside. The first car crash occurs medias res (in the middle) of the storyline and involves Waters and his girlfriend/partner Ria (Jennifer Esposito). Rear-ended, Ria gets out of her car to approach local authorities when she is suddenly verbally attacked with one racial accusation to the next from a petite Asian woman. Of course her racial slurs only provoke Ria to slam them right back and the tension mounts and pans away to an eerie scene that depicts some sort of mystery surrounding the local area in which the cars collided.

Flashback to two local car thieves Anthony (Ludacris) and Peter Waters (Larenz Tate) who, after witnessing a white woman shy away in fear of their presence, hijack celebrity Dist. Atty. Rick Cabot's (Brendan Fraser) car, pulling Cabot and the woman, his wife Jean (Sandra Bullock), from the car at gunpoint. This action however, only provokes Rick's incessant worries about the upcoming election. Rather than turning his attention to his worried wife and their child, he dives his energies into finding a suitable African American man that he can publicly award for his socialist acts so as to make amends for the latest racial snafu surrounding his car hijacking.

Flash to a Persian man, Farhad (Shaun Toub) who is trying to by a gun from a white man who accuses him of being a menacing "rag head" responsible for the crimes of 9/11. Upset, Farhad leaves the store, with the gun purchase transaction occurring between the white man and Farhad's more even-tempered daughter. But Farhad's worries don't end there and he hires a locksmith, Daniel (Michael Pena), to come fix his latest worry, the lock in the front door of his store. Having just finished fixing the locks of the Cabot's household, where he overheard Jean's violent racial accusations about his illegitimate desires to sell their keys behind the Cabot's back, Daniel heads over to Farhad's store where, after explaining that the door and not the lock is the problem, Farhad releases a slurry of racial accusations on Daniel yet again. Disgusted, Daniel heads home where he tucks his young daughter in bed and eases her worries about the criminal noises occurring outside her window.

Meanwhile Sgt. Ryan (Matt Dillon) and Officer Tommy Hanson (Ryan Phillipe) are pulling over an African American couple after the former notices some unscrupulous conduct occurring within their vehicle. But Sgt. Ryan, as opposed to gracefully handling the situation, allows his racial prejudices to come between his professional and personal opinions and he deliberately insults Cameron Thayer (Terrence Howard) and his wife Christine (Thandie Newton) by publicly molesting her in front of her defenseless husband. Disgusted, Officer Hanson requests a reprieve from his partner and Christine Thayer unleashes her anger at her husband who refuses to take a stand.

With a marital rift shattering the image of their prefect marriage, Cameron heads to work to shoot the upcoming episode of his T.V. show. But when a certain member of his cast changes his speech from the scripted Ebonics slang to a standard English dialect, Cameron's fellow producer calls him out on his "unrealistic portrayal of an uneducated African American man". Startled, Cameron returns jadedly to his seat whereby he contemplates the true ugliness surrounding some of the social stereotypes of his people. After his wife approaches the set to make amends for the night before, Cameron coldly shrugs her off, leaving Christine to return home upset.

But on her way home she gets in a deadly car accident and none other than Sgt. Ryan is left to rescue her. A fit of screams protesting his help fly from Christine's panicked mouth as Ryan, for the first time, begins to see the disgust of his actions and their profound effect on people. Determined to save her life, Sgt. Ryan pulls her from her car just in time, and the two part without words.

Meanwhile the story flashes back to Det. Waters, who has become the latest selection for Dist. Atty. Cabot's publicity stunt. But Waters refuses to accept and it isn't until after they show him his estranged brother Peter's criminal file that he decides to step in and help. Meanwhile Peter and Anthony attempt to hijack Cameron's car on the way home from work and it isn't until Cameron fights back that he suddenly finds himself being chased by police. Disgusted by the illegitimate hate thrown his way he gets out of his car slinging racial arrows at everyone who stands before him. Recognizing the suspect, Officer Hanson steps forward to settle Cameron down and lets him go with a warning, calling him his "friend". Cameron heads home and kicks Anthony out of his car telling him that he is a disappointment to the black community. Meanwhile, Anthony's partner in crime, Peter, hitch-hikes a ride home from Officer Hanson. But Hanson, unnerved by the racially-imbibed pursuit earlier that afternoon, acts too hastily and ends up shooting Peter in fear of his safety when, ironically, Peter just wanted to show him his Saint Christopher.

Detective Waters hears of his brother's death and heads to his drugged-out mother's house where, after buying her groceries, he takes her to the hospital to identify her son. But, grief stricken, Water's mother accuses him of killing his own brother by being unable to bring Peter home. Teary-eyed Waters takes the insults from his intoxicated mother and listens to her tell him how her baby boy brought her groceries and came home to be with her before he was shot down.

But the drama doesn't end there as Farhad heads to Daniel Ruiz's home, gun in his hand, after finding his family's store completely defaced? The story reaches a climax that engages all of the characters and places an ironic underpinning on all of their fates. Having been brought together by either a car-crash, a hijacking, or an illegal case involving smuggled money in a spare tire, all of the characters are brought together to expose how, no matter the color or the age, racial accusations exist in all as a defense method against the dangerous backdrop of L.A. city.

"CRASH" is a powerful film that has the power to unnerve. It's raw language and blunt depictions can seem startling and hard to take at first glance. A film for more mature audiences, the film depicts the brutality of surviving in a crime-filled society. But furthermore "CRASH" spins the perspective on why crime is so prominent in a city like L.A. as the film suggests that the city's multi-cultural environment proliferates fear of the unknown and that crime is really a tactile defense mechanism against the alien neighbor. In fact "CRASH" gives a tangibly pitiful perspective on a thriving megalopolis's sad story that it strives to seclude behind external suburban walls. L.A. hides behind it's money and celebrity on a daily basis, but "CRASH" exposes the truths behind the fear, the loneliness, and the emptiness that surrounds a city where people are too afraid to even look one another in the eye; be it a person of a different or even the same skin color.

"CRASH" is a raw and edgy look at the power of human fear and its ability to provoke the most desperate and criminal actions in man. In "CRASH" the antiheroes are finally justified by noble or defensible acts, but the seemingly "heroic" characters of the story, Officer Hanson and Cameron Thayer, become so jaded that they too eventually succumb to the poison of racial prejudice; thus, the vicious cycle repeats itself. "CRASH" is a poignant and marvelously jaw?-dropping film that will leave you speechless and have you reconsidering your world perspectives by the time it ends.

"CRASH" can be a bit difficult to follow since there are several main characters, but so long as you remain focused throughout, the stories should all reveal quite easily how they connect.

Main Characters:

Don Cheadle plays Det. Graham Waters, an African American man masking the truths of his haunting family secrets behind a straight-faced legal position.

Matt Dillon plays Sgt. Jack Ryan, a weary cop whose painful struggle to help his ailing dad stay alive renders him hardened and prejudice.

Jennifer Esposito plays Ria, Det. Water's lover and partner who plays the scapegoat for his emotional and racial outbursts.

Thandie Newton plays Christine Thayer, an African American woman whose marriage to her husband Cameron is ruffled Sgt. Ryan illegitimately frisks her to make a point to her husband.

Terrence Howard plays Cameron Thayer, an African American TV producer whose wife is roughly handled by a racist cop so as to make a point to Cameron about his inferiority to his status.

Sandra Bullock plays Jean Cabot, Rick's angry wife whose aristocratic lifestyle unhinges her after the two are hijacked from their car one night in an L.A. suburb.

Brendan Fraser plays Dist. Atty. Rick Cabot, a man who seems to devote more time to his career than his family and who, after his car is hijacked, strives to elevate an African American man for publicity as opposed to addressing the fears of his wife.

Ryan Phillipe plays Officer Tommy Hanson, a naive cop new to the force who, after witnessing Sgt. Ryan's actions, requests a partner reprieve only to find himself becoming more jaded to the darkness of his job once riding alone.

Ludacris plays Anthony, L.A. car thief whose apprehensions about white people's racism only further provoke his own, illegitimate racial accusations.

Larenz Tate plays Peter Waters, Det. Waters's estranged brother whose illegal activities have provoked Det. Waters to shun him from his company, further proliferating Peter's precarious state.

Shaun Toub plays Farhad, a fiery Persian man who is just as quick to racial profile as the rest out of fear of people trying to bring damage to his small store, and thus, his family's only security in America.

Michael Pena plays Daniel Ruiz, a humble Mexican American who works a crummy 9-5 job as a locksmith so as to support his family and their new home and life in a lower-class L.A. suburb.