Tuesday, December 11, 2007

CRASH: Blu-ray (Lion's Gate Films 2005) Maple Home Video

In essence and tone, Paul Haggis’ Crash (2004) plays very much like a Robert Altman movie, with its interweaving and overlapping story lines  - all serving one fundamental theme: the purity of the human spirit, its tainting from the outside world, and recovery from learned prejudices. Yes, it could be an Altman film, if only the script and the characters had something more meaningful to say! But Crash is a cliche unto itself, a heavy-handed 'message picture' whose own moral ambiguity deals superficially with themes of drug abuse and racism, disastrously thrust together rather than fully critiqued and explored.

Set in present day Los Angeles – Police Det. Graham Water’s (Don Cheadle) family tree provides the flimsiest cohesion between these various story threads. At times the film can be a sobering reflection on racism harbored under false pretenses, as when interpreted from an underlying collective mistrust between the various social classes that make up American society but are generally dictated by common fear.

That fear begins for D.A. Rick Cabot (Brendan Fraser) and his wife, Jean (Sandra Bullock) when their SUV is taken at gunpoint by carjackers Anthony (Ludacris) and, Graham’s younger brother, Lucien (Dato Bakhtadze) – good natured bad boys destined to meet with an untimely end. En route from their latest heist, the boys accidentally run down Park (Daniel Day Kim), a night worker whose laundry truck is stocked full of illegally smuggled Chinese refugees. Anthony and Lucien decide to save Park’s life by dumping his body off at the local hospital – unaware of the cargo they’re carrying.

Once safely at home, Jean freaks out about getting the locks changed on all their doors; employing her own misguided racial profiling to convince Rick that locksmith Daniel (Michael Pena) will sell one of their master keys to thieves, just because he is Hispanic. Responding to an APB on the Cabot’s stolen vehicle, Police Officers John Ryan (Matt Dillon) and Tom Handsen (Ryan Phillippe) pull over a similar vehicle carrying upscale married couple, Cameron (Terrence Howard) and Christine Thayer (Thandi Newton).

Ryan’s prejudice toward blacks in general cause him to overreact to the situation. He terrorizes the couple, physically assaulting Cameron and sexually abusing his wife before letting them off with ‘a warning.’ Shaken and disgusted by the incident, Handsen attempts to apply for a transfer; a request denied by Lt. Dixon (Keith David).

The narrative next picks up Daniel, who has been called in the middle of the night to fix the lock of a local Persian merchant, Farhad (Shaun Toub). Farhad’s daughter, Dorri (Bahar Soomekh) has bought him a gun as a precaution against intruders. However, owing to Farhad’s rather hot-headed temper, Dorri has also loaded the weapon with blanks – foresight that will figure prominently later on.

There is a lot more to each of these lives, best left unsaid for the first time viewer to discover. The film is fluid and evolving – or that is, unraveling as the various plot elements spin together to form one compelling ball of tension. Like Tarantino’s Pulp Fiction, the screenplay by Haggis and Robert Moresco provides mere snapshots at varying intervals before moving in other directions; only to return and pick up each thread later on. Yet, on the whole the resolution to many of these threads proves a little ‘too kismet’ – becoming inbred and too predictable. These characters, however hard they try, cannot seem to get away from one another.

Praised for its frank and hard hitting honesty, its bold critique of bigotry and racism, Crash is indeed an interesting exercise – or perhaps, ‘lesson’ is a more fitting descriptor. But as pure entertainment, it does tend to be rather short-sighted.

Maple Home Video’s Blu-ray exhibits exemplary mastering. The stylized visual elements are razor sharp. Contrast levels are blown out, as intended. Blacks are jet black. Whites are often blooming – again, as intended. The grain structure varies throughout but is well preserved in 1080p. On the whole, the visual quality of this disc will not disappoint. The audio is 5.1 DTS and delivers an aggressive sonic characteristic.

Extras include an ‘introduction’, an audio commentary by Haggis, several interesting deleted scenes – with or without director’s commentary; several additional featurettes on the making of the film; a music montage and storyboard and script to screen comparisons.

FILM RATING (out of 5 - 5 being the best)



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