Combustible Celluloid
 
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With: Sandra Bullock, Don Cheadle, Matt Dillon, Jennifer Esposito, William Fichtner, Brendan Fraser, Terrence Howard, Chris "Ludacris" Bridges, Thandie Newton, Ryan Phillippe, Larenz Tate, Nona Gaye, Michael Pena
Written by: Paul Haggis, Bobby Moresco
Directed by: Paul Haggis
MPAA Rating: R for language, sexual content and some violence
Running Time: 107
Date: 09/10/2004
IMDB

Crash (2005)

2 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

Race for Your Life

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Fresh from his Oscar nomination for Million Dollar Baby, writer Paul Haggis takes up the directorial reins for this effective, somewhat overwrought Los Angeles drama.

Like a mini-Nashville or Magnolia, the film follows an ensemble of L.A. dwellers, each succumbing to the frustrating, confusing pressures of racism.

Sandra Bullock knocks one out of the park with her performance as the rich, lonely wife of a D.A. (Brendan Fraser), who mistrusts other races and is sometimes right to do so. Don Cheadle turns in a heartbreaking performance as a detective with too much on his plate. But the most horrifying scene of all features Matt Dillon and Ryan Phillippe as white cops harassing a well-to-do black couple, played by Terrence Howard and Thandie Newton.

Haggis brilliantly constructs his screenplay, giving each character an arc and balancing the many storylines successfully, but the relentless nature of the subject matter and the high-pitched level of intensity quickly turns Crash into a preachy, soapbox movie.

Oddly enough, the gloriously old-fashioned and unpretentious Million Dollar Baby works in exactly the opposite way.