Film Review: Speed (dir by Jan De Bont)


“Awwwww, Keanu and Sandra are so cute together!”

That was my main thought when I recently rewatched the 1994 film, Speed.  There’s a lot of reasons why Speed remains popular 28 years after it was initially released but I think a huge (if underrated) factor is that it’s just a good love story.  At this point, everyone knows that the film is about a bus that has been wired to explode if it goes under 50 miles per hour.  Most people know that Dennis Hopper plays Howard, the mad bomber, Keanu Reeves plays Jack, the cop who jumps on the bus and tries to figure out how to defuse the bomb, and Sandra Bullock plays Annie, the passenger who takes over driving the bus after the driver is incapacitated.  (If you’re fan of the work of John Hughes, you might also know that Speed was the film where Ferris Bueller‘s Alan Ruck broke free of his Cameron typecasting and established himself as a dependable character actor.)  Most people remember what the cops do in an attempt to trick Dennis Hopper and, for that matter, they also remember the one mistake that led to Hopper figuring out their ruse.

And yet, even though most viewers will know exactly what is going to happen, the film remains a fun watch because of the chemistry between Keanu Reeves and Sandra Bullock.  This was one of Sandra’s first major roles.  This was also one of Keanu’s earliest attempts to helm a big budget, major studio action picture.  (Director Jan de Bont insisted on casting him after seeing him in the film Point Break.  The studio preferred Tom Cruise.)  In Speed, both Keanu and Sandra are young, likable, attractive, enthusiastic, and they have smiles that light up the screen.  As soon as Sandra takes over driving and Keanu tells her that she cannot allow the bus to slow down under any circumstances, the two of them just seem to belong together.  The film’s enduring popularity is about more than just watching a bus try not to go under a certain speed.  The popularity of Speed is also about watching the characters played by Keanu and Sandra fall in love.

Who would have guessed it?  Well, certainly not whoever put together the film’s original theatrical trailer.  Check this out:

As you can see, the original trailer doesn’t feature much of Sandra Bullock.  For that matter, it’s not quite as Keanu-centric as you might expect it to be.  Instead, the trailer is dominated by things exploding and Dennis Hopper’s over-the-top performance as the bomber.  And make no doubt about it, Dennis Hopper is definitely an entertaining part of the film.  There’s not a subtle moment to be found in his performance and that makes him the perfect for the role of a man whose response to a cheap retirement present is to go on a bombing spree.  That said, the film belongs to Keanu and Sandra.

That said, it would be a mistake to ignore the other people on the bus.  One of the things that I like about Speed is that the other passengers on the bus come together to survive their ordeal.  They may start out as weary commuters but, by the end of the film, they’ve become a family.  They may get annoyed with each other but, when it comes time to climb from one bus to another, they hold on to each other and they hug one another on the other side.  The bomber, like all terrorists, thought that he could turn people against each other through his threats and his violence.  Instead, the people came together provided one another with comfort and protection.  There’s an important lesson there, one that’s even more important in 2022 than it probably was in 1994.

(On a personal note, I’m not usually a public transportation person.  However, in high school, I would occasionally catch the DART bus — that’s Dallas Area Rapid Transportation — if it was raining.  The buses were often not in particularly good shape.  One that I boarded actually had a hole in the floor and, since it was raining, the passengers would have to hold up their feet whenever the bus splashed through a puddle.  Personally, I was kind of amused by the weirdness of it all but I think I was the only one.  Would the passengers of that bus bonded together to defeat a mad bomber?  One can only hope.)

Speed may be a film about a bomb on a bus but, ultimately, it’s also a film about humanity at its best.  And that’s why, after all this time, it remains a classic.

Film Review: The Lost City (dir by Adam and Aaron Nee)


Last month, when I finally watched The Lost City, I had two thoughts.

First off, I thought it was a perfectly charming little movie, a well-made and unpretentious film that went out of its way to entertain its audience and which, for the most part succeeded.  The film, which features Sandra Bullock as Loretta Sage, a reluctant writer of sex-filled romance/adventure novels, and Channing Tatum as Alan Caprison, an earnest but not terrible bright cover model, strikes just the right balance of adventure and comedy.  Bullock and Tatum are charming together.  Brad Pitt has a fun cameo as an ultra-macho wilderness guide who is hired to help track down Bullock after she’s kidnapped by a wealthy businessman who wants her to help him track down the fabled crown of fire.  Daniel Radcliffe gives a nicely eccentric performance as the villain and, for once in his post-Potter career, actually seems to be having fun with a role.  The jungle scenery is lovely to look at.  Bullock’s purple sequin jumpsuit is to die for.  Tatum shows off his physique.  The jokes come fast, the action is exciting, and we get to watch two people fall in love.  What more could one ask for?

My other thought is that The Lost City is a film that Sandra Bullock could have made at any point of her  career.  There’s never been a time when Bullock wouldn’t have been convincing in the role of Loretta Sage.  It’s easy to imagine The Lost City coming out in the aughts, starring Sandra Bullock as Loretta and Brendan Fraser as Alan.  Or perhaps even in the 90s, with Bullock and Matthew McConaughey as Alan.  Much as Top Gun: Maverick does for Tom Cruise, The Lost City serves to remind us that Sandra Bullock is one of the last true film stars, someone who can effortlessly move from genre to genre without losing any of their onscreen charisma in the process.  For audiences who have just spent the last two years being told that the world was collapsing and that nothing would ever be the same again, there is something undoubtedly comforting about films like Top Gun: Maverick and The Lost City.  They are a reminder that yes, it is permissible, possible, and even necessary to just have a good time.

And have no doubt about it, The Lost City is definitely a good time.  From the opening scene (which literally takes us into one of Loretta’s novels) to Loretta’s disastrous book tour to the eventual journey through the jungle, The Lost City is an entertaining film.  It’s not a film that asks for much from the audience.  There’s no complicated backstory.  It’s not necessary to have seen 10 earlier movies and a miniseries to understand everyone’s motivations.  There’s no bad CGI to challenge the audience’s willingness to buy into the story.  The film gets the job done in a relatively brisk 112 minutes and, at a time when even comedies are regularly running over two hours, it’s hard not to appreciate the efficiency with which The Lost City tells its story.  There is a mid-credits scene but it’s actually kind of funny.  For once, the promise of a sequel feels likes something for which to look forward.

If you missed The Lost City in theaters, it can currently be viewed on Paramount Plus.

Film Review: The Thing Called Love (dir by Peter Bogdanovich)


First released in 1993 and directed by Peter Bogdanovich, The Thing Called Love takes place in Nashville, the city that, for many people, has come to define Americana.

Of course, for those who actually love movies, it’s difficult to watch any film about Nashville and the country music scene without being reminded of Robert Altman’s American epic, Nashville.  Much like Nashville, The Thing Called Love follows a group of wannabes, stars, writers, and performers.  However, whereas Robert Altman used the city and its residents as a way to paint an acidic portrait of a nation struggling to find its way in an uncertain new world, The Thing Called Love is far less ambitious.

The Thing Called Love centers around Miranda Presley (Samantha Mathis).  Miranda is from New York but she loves country music.  She comes to Nashville to try to sell her songs and become a star.  Instead, she ends up working as a waitress at the “legendary” Bluebird Cafe.  While she waits for her big break, she meets two other aspiring writer/performers, Linda Lu (Sandra Bullock) and Kyle Davidson (Dermot Mulroney).  Kyle falls in love with Miranda but Miranda falls in love with and marries James Wright (River Phoenix, brother of Joaquin).  Unfortunately, while James is talented, he’s also a bit of a jerk.

The Thing Called Love aired on TCM last year and I can still remember checking out the #TCMParty hashtag on twitter while the film was airing.  The majority of the comments were from people who loved TCM and who couldn’t understand why the channel was showing this rather forgettable movie.  The answer, of course, is that the film was directed by Peter Bogdanovich and Bogdanovich was one of the patron saints of TCM.  Along with being responsible for some genuinely good films (Targets, The Last Picture Show, Paper Moon, Saint Jack, Mask, The Cat’s Meow), Bogdanovich was also a very serious student of the history of film.  Up until he passed away in January, Bogdanovich was a familiar and welcome sight on TCM.  Listening to him talk about John Ford, Alfred Hitchcock, and especially Orson Welles was always a delight.

Unfortunately, as Bogdanovich himself often admitted, the majority of his later films failed to reach the heights of his earlier work and that’s certainly the case of The Thing Called Love.  It’s not so much that The Thing Called Love is bad as it’s just really forgettable.  There’s very little about the film that suggests that it was directed by cineaste who was responsible for The Last Picture Show.  Samantha Mathis is likable but a bit bland in the role of Miranda while River Phoenix plays James as being such a jerk that you really don’t care about whether or not he finds success.  From what I’ve read, Phoenix based his performance on watching Bob Dylan in the documentary Don’t Look Back.  Dylan is notably mercurial in that documentary but, it should be noted, that Dylan eventually abandoned that persona once he realized that it was a creative dead end.

To be honest, I think the film would have worked better if Samantha Mathis had switched roles with Sandra Bullock.  This was one of Bullock’s first films and she steals every scene in which she appears, giving an energetic and likable performance as someone who never allows herself a single moment of doubt or despair.  As opposed to the self-loathing Phoenix and the bland Mathis and Mulroney, Sandra Bullock represents the hope and optimism that Nashville is meant to symbolize.  In the end, her performance is the best thing about The Thing Called Love.

Here’s The Trailer For The Unforgivable!


In The Unforgivable, Sandra Bullock plays a woman who has just gotten out of prison and who is searching for her long lost sister….

Sandra Bullock as an ex-con?  Well, okay.  She’s a good actress so I guess she could probably pull that off.  Still, I’d have an easier time thinking of Sandra Bullock as being one of those 60 Days In prisoners, who are just pretending to be criminals as opposed to being someone who has been through the court system and sentenced to spend time behind bars.

The Unforgivable is due to be available on Netflix in December.  For a film starring a big star and featuring several prestigious co-stars, I haven’t heard much about The Unforgivable.  It’s almost as if it’s been very much not hyped.  Make of that what you will.

Here’s the trailer:

 

Film Review: Murder by Numbers (dir by Barbet Schroeder)


First released in 2002, Murder by Numbers is one of those films that seems to be pop up on Cinemax every couple of months.  It’s not really that good, though it has its fans because if features Sandra Bullock being all self-destructive and one of the film’s villains is played by a young Ryan Gosling.

Ryan Gosling is Richard Haywood, child of privilege.  He’s handsome.  He’s funny.  He’s popular.  He’s spoiled.  He’s often high.  And he’s totally psychotic.  Richard wants to commit the perfect crime and, fortunately, so does his classmate, Justin (Michael Pitt).  Justin is a fiercely intelligent introvert who spends most of his time reading and writing and playing with his computer.  He’s got a crush on Richard’s ex, Lisa (Agnes Buckner).  From the minute that Lisa showed up and started talking to Justin, I was concerned.  I was like, “Is this another movie that’s going to feature someone named Lisa being murdered?  CHERISH ALL OF THE LISAS IN YOUR LIFE, PEOPLE!”

Anyway, Richard and Justin do end up killing a woman, though not Lisa.  They go through a lot of effort to frame the school’s pervy janitor, Ray (Chris Penn), for the crime.  And they nearly succeed, though Detective Cassie Mayweather (Sandra Bullock) is way too smart to fall for their tricks.  Unfortunately, no one believes anything that Cassie says because she has a shady past and a drinking problem.  Even her sympathetic new partner, Sam Kennedy (Ben Chaplin), thinks that it was probably Ray.

Literally everyone on the police force tells Sam that Cassie is unstable and not to be trusted, which leads to an interesting question.  If everyone’s convinced that everything Cassie says is wrong, why does she still have a job?  Why do they still assign her to cases?  It’s like, “We’ve got a murder that we have to solve!  Let’s give it to that detective who we think never gets anything right!”

Sandra Bullock does her best to bring the self-destructive Cassie to life but she kind of runs into the huge problem that she’s Sandra Bullock and she has such a firmly entrenched screen presence that it’s difficult to take her seriously as someone who spend her free time sitting on a houseboat, getting drunk, and obsessing on the past.  You really want her to give a good performance because it’s impossible not to root for Sandra Bulllock but she’s just too miscast.  You keep expecting Matthew McConaughey to show up, playing a bongo drum and trying to cheer her up.

Far more convincing is Ryan Gosling, who plays Richard as the type of guy that we all knew in high school.  You know he’s a jerk.  You know you should stay away from him.  But he’s just so much fun and he has so much money!  Unfortunately, Gosling is so charismatic that Richard quickly becomes the only compelling character in the film.  I mean, if you have the choice between watching Michael Pitt, Ben Chaplin, or Ryan Gosling, who are you going to go with?  You’re supposed to hate Richard and hope that justice catches up with him but instead, you find yourself hoping that he’ll sneak out of the country and spend the rest of his hiding out in South America or something.

So, as a result, the film really doesn’t work.  (It also doesn’t help matters that it’s directed in a rather detached fashion by the king of ennui, Barbet Schroeder.)  But it’s interesting to watch, just for a chance to see a future star in the making.  Gosling steps into a rather underwritten role and basically takes over the entire damn movie.

It’s also worth seeing for the scene in which Sandra Bullock gets attacked by a baboon.  It’s a weird moment and Schroeder screws things up by mixing in a flashback to Cassie’s past but still, it’s a baboon attacking Sandra Bullock.  That’s not something you see every day.

Back to School Part II #26: Terminal Bliss (dir by Jordan Alan)


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There’s been a long-standing rumor floating around the internet that, before she became a star, Sandra Bullock appeared in the 1992’s Terminal Bliss, a film about decadent, upper class teenagers.  Well, having watched the film on YouTube, I can tell you that, unless she’s an extra, Sandra Bullock is not in the film.

That said, she does have a connection to Terminal Bliss.  In 1987, when a 17 year-old aspiring director named Jordan Alan was attempting to raise the money for his film debut, he shot a few scenes and put together a promotional trailer for his unmade film.  Sandra Bullock does appear in that trailer.  Watch it below:

On the strength of the trailer, Alan was able to raise 3 million to make his movie.  (Charmingly, Alan has written that he raised the money while “playing hooky.”)  Alan shot the film in 1989 and there was even some news coverage about this teenager making his directorial debut.

As for the film itself, it appears that it wasn’t released until 1992, presumably to capitalize on the performance of Luke Perry, who, at that time, was starring on Beverly Hills 90210.  According to Wikipedia, the film was not particularly embraced by critics, nor did it do much at the box office.  It’s never been released on DVD or Blu-ray.

The only reason I knew about Terminal Bliss is because I like to collect those old Screen World Annuals and I came across Terminal Bliss in the back of the 1992 edition.  The name immediately caught my attention, largely because I once used the phrase “terminal bliss” in a poem and was rather unfairly criticized by a creative writing professor who felt I was “trying too hard.”

John Willis's Screenworld Annual (It may say 1993 on the cover but it actually covered the film released in 1992)

John Willis’s Screenworld Annual (It may say 1993 on the cover but it actually covered the film released in 1992)

However, Terminal Bliss is not an easy film to track down.  As I mentioned earlier, I finally found the movie on YouTube but it was the French-language version.  Though I do speak French (though, admittedly, with a Texas accent), I would hardly call myself fluent and, as I watched Terminal Bliss, I came to realize just how rusty my French has gotten.  (I’m definitely going to have to brush up on it, if I end up fleeing to Canada after the presidential election.)  Fortunately, I was able to follow the film enough to review it.

Terminal Bliss tells the story of two teenage friends.  They’re both rich.  They’re both neglected by their parents.  At the start of the film, they both seek escape through drugs.  Alex (Timothy Owen) is the one who often hides his sensitivity behind a wall of cynicism.  John (Luke Perry) is the charming and sociopathic one, the one who lives his entire life seeking to satisfy his own urges.  When he finds out that Alex has a crush on Stevie (Estee Chandler), John responds by introducing Stevie to cocaine and getting her pregnant.  When Stevie has an abortion, an angry Alex checks into drug rehab.  When Alex comes out of rehab, he’s still as angry and as cynical as he ever was.  He continues to hang out with his friends, the most recognizable of which is a drug dealer played by Alexis Arquette.  Alex also continues to be friends with John, despite the fact that John seems to be getting more and more out-of-control in his behavior.  Alex refuses to intervene, saying that John is responsible for his own decisions.  After John rapes Stevie’s sister, he invites Stevie and Alex to join him out at his family’s lake house.  When, over the course of the weekend, John drowns, Alex can only coldly watch.  Why help?  As Alex sees it, John would probably be happier dead anyway…

So, yeah, Terminal Bliss is not exactly a cheerful movie.  In fact, it’s such a dark and borderline nihilistic film that it reminded me of the type of stories that I used to write when I was 17 years old.  Terminal Bliss has “teen trying to be edgy” written all over it but you know what?  That actually works to the film’s advantage.  This is a film about teenagers that was actually made by a teenager and, while it may not be a perfect movie, it is a pretty good example of what the world looks like when you’re 19 and trying to be a cynic.  Say what you will about the film’s storyline, there’s an honesty to its outlook.  Only when you’re 19 would you have the guts to make a commercial movie that was this relentlessly bleak.  That bleakness sets Terminal Bliss apart from a lot of other films that I’ve reviewed for this series.

Because I was watching a dubbed version, I’m not going to try to judge the performances.  But I will say that I really liked the look of Terminal Bliss.  Jordan Alan — who, according to his Wikipedia page, is still working as an independent filmmaker — creates and maintains an almost oppressive atmosphere of ennui.  This is a film that often seems to take place in the shadows and even the liveliest of scenes (a party, a wedding reception) seem to be overcast.  When, at the start of the film, we see Timothy Owen and Luke Perry’s shadowy forms, playing lacrosse on a sunny morning, we’re put right into the proper existential mood.  When the camera focuses on Owen’s often passive face, we feel as if we are looking straight into the heart of ennui.

So, Terminal Bliss does not feature Sandra Bullock but it’s still an interesting artifact of the time in which it was made.

Film Review: Minions (dir by Pierre Coffin and Kyle Balda)


Minions_posterThe Minions, everyone’s favorite group of little yellow weirdos from the first two Despicable Me films, now have a movie of their very own!  Earlier tonight, Jeff and I braved a theater that was full of hyperactive little children and we watched Minions.

I have to admit that I was really looking forward to seeing Minions.  After all, I loved both of the Despicable Me movies and, much like Through the Shattered Lens co-founder Arleigh Sandoc, I thought the minions were pretty adorable.  Along with the fact that they were just so weird that you couldn’t help but love them, the minions were distinguished by the wonderfully cheerful approach that they took towards their work.  Even when one of them was accidentally launched into space during the original Despicable Me, he continued to smile.  He was just happy to be a part of the project.  Seriously, who wouldn’t want a bunch of minions to do her bidding?

Now, it was established during the first Despicable Me movie that the minions were specifically created by the super villain Gru.  However, Minions reimagines their origins.  Now, we discover that the minions have existed since the beginning of time and, apparently immune from aging, they have always sought to serve a villainous master.  During the film’s opening, we watch as they serve a Tyrannosaurus Rex, Dracula, and Napoleon.  Unfortunately, the minions’ combination of enthusiasm and stupidity proves fatal to most of their employers.

Eventually, the minions find themselves exiled to Antarctica.  After several centuries, the minions find themselves suffering from depression and ennui.  Finally, three brave minions (all voiced by director Pierre Coffin) volunteer to go out into the world and find a new master to serve.  Kevin is the responsible leader.  Bob is the cute, enthusiastic one who always carries a teddy bear with him.  (Bob also has heterochromia, just like me!)  And finally, Stuart is the one who likes to play his guitar.

Kevin, Bob, and Stuart get in a rowboat and eventually, they reach New York City.  However, it turns out that the year is 1968 and there is a serious shortage of evil super villains to serve!  Not only is Gru just a child but Bill Clinton hasn’t even launched his political career yet!  Eventually, though, our three minions learn about Villain-Con, being held in Orlando, Florida.  Hitching a ride with a family of aspiring bank robbers (Micheal Keaton is the voice of the father), the minions reach Orlando and eventually, they end up working for Scarlet Overkill (Sandra Bullock) and her husband, Herb (Jon Hamm).

Scarlet explains that, ever since she was a little girl, she has wanted to be the Queen of England.  But she doesn’t have the crown!  She orders Kevin, Stuart, and Bob to get that crown and reads them a bedtime story about three minions who failed to get a crown and were subsequently killed by an angry wolf.  AGCK!

This leads to our three minions going to London and, since it’s 1968, that also leads to a lot of good (if predictable) songs on the soundtrack.  As a result of several odd incidents, Bob is briefly the King of England.  And things only get stranger from there…

The children in the audience loved it but, at the same time, I could never bring myself to like Minions as much as I wanted to.  Minions just doesn’t have as much heart as Despicable Me.  There’s no moment in Minions that’s anywhere close to being as joyful as the “It’s so fluffy” scene from Despicable Me.  The minions are fun supporting characters but they don’t quite work as well as protagonists for a 91 minutes film.  Sandra Bullock tries really hard as Scarlet Overkill but she just doesn’t have the right voice for the character.  Part of Sandra Bullock’s appeal, after all, is that she not only looks but sounds like she’s totally down-to-earth and that’s one thing that Scarlet definitely is not.  Jon Hamm, however, is hilarious as the vacuous Herb.

Minions is a cute movie that doesn’t really make much of an impression.  Kids will love it, though.  And, even though I would never actually eat there, I’m still going to go by McDonald’s and order a Happy Meal so I can get the little minion that’s inside.

(Especially if it’s one of those cursing minions…)

Cursing Minions

Trailer: Minions (Official)


 

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BANANA!

The Minions are back and all is right with the world. What better way to decompress from a month full of horror and everything horror than to get back to our helpful, little yellow henchmen.

Minions stars Stuart, Kevin and little Bob. They go on a journey in search of the ultimate master villain to pledge their race’s allegiance to. We’ll find out in July 10, 2015 if their search is one of success.

Embracing the Melodrama #53: Crash (dir by Paul Haggis)


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For the past two weeks, I’ve been reviewing, in chronological order, some of the most and least memorable melodramas ever filmed.   We started way back in 1916 and now, after 52 reviews, we’ve finally reached the year 2004.  And that can only mean that it is time to review the worst film to ever win an Oscar for best picture of the year.  I am, of course, talking about Crash.

Crash is an ensemble piece that follows a multi-racial cast of characters as they deal with issues of race, crime, and — well, that’s about it.  In Crash, everyone’s life revolves around race and crime.  Well, I take that back,  There is at least one character whose life revolves around being a good maid to the white woman who employs her.  But otherwise, it’s all about race and crime.  The film is set in Los Angeles which, from what I’ve read, is actually a pretty big city but you really wouldn’t know that from watching Crash.  All of the characters in Crash are constantly and randomly running into each other.  I think director/screenwriter Paul Haggis is trying to make a statement about the power that coincidence plays in the world but, often times, it just feels like lazy plotting.

Anyway, here are the characters who are meant to bring Los Angeles to vivid cinematic life:

Brendan Fraser and Sandra Bullock play rich white people Rick and Jean Cabot.  Rick Cabot has just been elected District Attorney of Los Angeles County.  (Because when I think of a successful urban politician, I automatically think of Brendan Fraser…)  Jean is his materialistic wife.  At the start of the film, they’re carjacked by two young black men, which leads to Jean suspecting that every non-white she sees is secretly a gang member.  Later, Jean falls down a flight of stairs but she’s helped by her maid, who happens to be — surprise, surprise — not white!  Apparently, this teaches Jean an important lesson about tolerance.  The message, I guess, is that white people can be redeemed by interacting with their minority servants.

And then there’s Cameron (Terrence Howard) and his wife Christine (Thandie Newton) who are upper class and black.  Cameron directs sitcoms for a living and, at work, he has to deal with Fred (Tony Danza) constantly double guessing him and demanding that he reshoot scenes.  One night, as they leave an awards ceremony, Cameron and Christine are pulled over by two white cops — the racist Ryan (Matt Dillon) and his idealistic partner Hansen (Ryan Phillippe).  Ryan proceeds to molest Christine while giving her a pat down.  The next day, Christine is involved in a car accident on the freeway and is pulled from the burning car by none other than Officer Ryan.  The point here, I suppose, is that the same pervert who finger rapes you one night is just as likely to be the same guy who comes across your overturned car on the freeway.  For that scene alone, Crash deserves the title of worst best picture winner ever.

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But that’s not all!

There’s also Detective Graham Waters (Don Cheadle), who has been assigned to investigate a police corruption case that would not be out of place in an episode of … well, just insert your own generic cop show title here.  Graham also visits his mentally unstable mother who demands that Graham find his younger brother.  Now, of course, as soon as we hear this, we know that Graham’s brother is going to have to turn out to be one of the other characters in the film.  Since there are only three other black males in this film (and since Cameron appears to be the same age as Graham), it’s not difficult to figure out who it’s going to be.

It’s either going to be Anthony (Ludacris) or Peter (Larenz Tate), who also happen to be the same two men who carjacked the Cabots’ car at the start of the film.  Larenz Tate probably gives the best performance in this whole sorry mess of a film, even if his role is ultimately a thankless one.

There’s also a locksmith named Daniel (Michael Pena), who finds himself being stalked by an angry Middle Eastern man.  Daniel’s story contains a hint of magic realism, presumably because Paul Haggis was reading something by Gabriel Garcia Marquez while writing the script.

Crash

You can fault Crash for many things but you also can’t deny that it’s far more ambitious than the typical bad film.  In the space of 112 minutes, Paul Haggis attempts to say everything that needs to be said about race and class in America.  Unfortunately, while watching the film, it quickly becomes obvious that Haggis really doesn’t know much about race and class in America.  Hence, the film becomes a collection of scenes that think they mean something while actually meaning nothing.  Crash is less about race in America and more about how other movies have traditionally portrayed race in America.  Unfortunately, director Haggis does not have the self-awareness to truly bring the subtext of screenwriter Haggis’s script to life.

The main theme of Crash seems to be that everyone has a good side and a bad side and that you can the hero of one story while being the villain of another.  That’s not a bad theme, it’s just an incredibly mundane one.  The film illustrates this theme by continually having a character say something racially offensive just to then have him do something heroic in the very next scene.  As a result, the characters don’t come across as being so much complex as just incredibly inconsistent.  Crash is never as deep as it thinks it is.

Reportedly, Crash was inspired by Paul Haggis’s own experience of getting carjacked.  Haggis has said that being a victim of crime led to some intense soul searching on his part.  Hopefully, Haggis got something better than just Crash out of the whole experience.

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