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"Crash," or "Everyone's a Little Bit Racist"

June 11, 2005 – In the opening scene of "Crash," Graham, a detective with the Los Angeles Police Department, played completely convincingly by Don Cheadle, speculates that people have automobile accidents in Los Angeles as the only means of touching each other. He says in other cities, people brush against each other when walking. But in L.A., he says, "Nobody touches you. We're always behind this metal and glass."
Written and directed by Paul Haggis, who also wrote "Million Dollar Baby," this gritty, moving film captures the interrelatedness of a dozen people who do crash into each other over a period of a day and a half.
Mostly the film is a realistic and compassionate look at the nature of racism. It sends a strong message that, to borrow a line from the smash Broadway musical, "Avenue Q," – "Everyone's a little bit racist."
And everyone's a little bit good and a little bit bad. And everyone's at least a little bit angry and afraid.
The circuitous route, reminiscent of the 1993 movie "Short Cuts," taken to a tragic and at the same time hopeful ending, leaves a whole lot of people touching each other, some with crashes, some without.
For me, "Crash" was a breathtaking, though sometimes uncomfortable, look at human nature – sad and heartwarming and frightening in its revelations about the things we are all capable of.
The racist cop, played by Matt Dillon, draws repugnance when he uses his badge to molest the white wife of a multi-racial Lincoln Navigator-driving couple – and later he elicits sympathy when he risks his life to save the same woman from a burning car. As Dillon stands, seemingly stunned by his own heroism, with the burning vehicle as a back drop, watching the woman being taken from the scene by EMTs, she keeps turning back, looking at him, perhaps understanding for the first time that people cannot be pigeonholed – much as we'd like to be able to do that.
Then there's the winsome pair of carjackers who continue to be likeable even as they use guns to throw an L.A. district attorney and his trophy wife out of their Lincoln Navigator. The carjackers are far more appealing in almost every way than their victims.
Classes crash into each other, too, as blue collar meets white and Persian meets Hispanic meets bitch white woman in one of those painful and revealing glimpses of human possibility so rarely, but so craftily in this case, brought to the mainstream cinema. "Crash," is way up there with the classics of racism exposés, such as Warren Beaty's "Bulworth," and Spike Lee's "Do the Right Thing." It takes the genre to a whole new level.
Don't know how long "Crash" will play here in the V.I., but I strongly recommend you don't miss it. It's bound to be in the lineup for the 2005 Academy Awards for Best Picture, and probably a lot more.

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