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Arts and Entertainment

LAist Watches: Crash

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The hook of Crash is its language. The characters, while archetypes and stereotypes through and through, sound real when they speak to each other and at each other, almost always leaving the conversations misunderstood. Outside of a Persian shop owner and his family, everyone in the film speaks English yet each character's assumptions about each other limit recognition and comprehension. More often than not, a character is too busy hearing his or her own self speak to listen to what is being said. That is what is accurate about life in Los Angeles. We all are so sure of what we know that it is difficult to understand the varying perspectives of our city, its wide expanse and its diversity.

When Michael Pena's Daniel Ruiz -- a locksmith, husband and father who is working desperately to keep his family away from the violence he grew up around -- is again and again mistaken for a gang member because of his white shirt, his shaved head, his tattoos and his skin color it rings true. When Sandra Bullock's Jean assumes the worst of two young black men (Larenz Tate and Ludacris) and it proves to be accurate it also plays true. They both play to our own personal prejudices. The kind of prejudice and bigotry that we all generally feel are both rational and acceptable even if those kinds of assumptions are wrong.

Where Crash breaks down a bit is that it spends the entire film using race as a cudgel. All of the characters act like they are just discussing race and racism and cultural identity for the first time. They are rarely able to laugh about race -- except for Larenz Tate's Peter whose happy-go-lucky attitude about country music, St. Christopher, and hockey are perhaps the only moments when a character plays against type -- and the tension that builds in all of them seem to have little relavence to the city at large. These are individual battles with the prickly problem of race and that doesn't seem accurate to how LA works.

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Los Angeles racial tension builds and builds before bubbling over to violence. We might all feel like we're alone in our cars in the city but the ebb and flow of how communities interact with each other, mistrust each other and fail to communicate with each other is where the true story of race in our city lies. We absolutely got caught up in these characters lives. Haggis's heavy handed emotional tricks and overblown soundtrack can't help but suck you in to the film's most tragic and tense moments. By the end, though, we're left a little flat. We didn't expect answers but we would've loved an attempt at insight. A moment of clarity in a sea of confusion would've been nice. A moment when racial identity wasn't a weapon. A moment when people were just people and talked like it and made a connection instead of breaking each other down. Things fall apart. We know this. Not always, though.

That said, Crash is recommended.

Check out some video from the film.