This movie, written and directed by Paul Haggis, reminds me of The Fisher King (1991).
Unlike the latter with its New York setting, Crash is set in Los Angeles. Instead of following the pain of two people, it sets up a multi-racial microcosm of suffering Americans. Both, however, are poignant fairy tales about the way violence is ever-present at the edges of the American experience.
I call it a "fairy tale" because in telling his story Haggis makes use of coincidence and sequences that border on magical realism. Criticisms that these coincidences are unrealistic miss the point. For one thing, they are believable in the context of a big city. For another, the film is an allegory and therefore not to be judged by the criteria one would use for a film meant to be a realistic portrayal. Dan Schneider's virulent attack, for example, is way off base.
Cameron (Terrence Howard) and Christine (Thandie Newton) Thayer are an upscale black couple. Cameron has a high-paying job in television. They enjoy all the creature comforts, all the trappings of affluence, but at work Cameron must bend to the racial stereotypes of his white superior. On their way home one evening, elegantly dressed and driving their expensive SUV, they are stopped by a white policeman, John Ryan (Matt Dillon). Nursing a festering anger against a disagreeable black insurance officer, Ryan takes out his feelings on the Thayers. Cameron does not interfere as Ryan subjects his wife to an unspeakably degrading search. Cameron's servile behavior, undertaken to avoid worse treatment in jail, infuriates his wife and places their marriage in jeopardy.
Jean (Sandra Bullock) and Rick (Brendan Fraser) Cabot are an upscale white couple. Rick is a district attorney. Jean is a pampered non-working wife who spends her days shopping and attending spas while her house is managed by a motherly Hispanic housekeeper. When the Cabot SUV is taken from them by two young black men, Rick's immediate reaction is political while Jean's is hysterical. Rick, who as an elected official must be careful not to offend black voters in general, wishes the robbers had been white. Jean, who feared blacks in general before the hijacking, demands that all the locks on their house be changed. When the locksmith turns out to be a tatooed Hispanic, Jean insists, in his hearing, that the locks be changed again by a white locksmith. She says that the Hispanic will surely sell the keys to the new locks to his "homies."
Peter Waters (Larenz Tate) and Anthony (Chris "Ludacris" Bridges) are the car thieves. Anthony, an angry sullen racist, is constantly mouthing off about how everything whites do is intended to humiliate blacks. Anthony is criminal in his thinking, blaming everything that occurs in his life on someone else and never empathizing with others. Peter recognizes that what they do is reprehensible. He can see that he is responsible for his own behavior. Every time they steal a car, Peter places a statue of St. Christopher on the dash for luck. Anthony gets so incensed as he explains to Peter that rap music is an invention of the FBI designed to cripple the intelligence of black people that he takes his eyes off the road and hits an Asian man who has just put his key in the lock of a white van. The man is dragged under the SUV driven by the thieves. Anthony wants to drive on, but Peter insists upon rescuing the man and dropping him at a hospital. They take the stolen Cabot vehicle to a chop shop run by Lucien (Dato Bakhtadze). Lucien refuses to accept the van because it has been made useless to him by the blood evidence of the man they hit with it.
Michael Peņa as the Hispanic locksmith Daniel who stirs Jean Cabot's ire because of his tattoos, has the best scene in the movie. To comfort his little daughter Lara (Ashlyn Sanchez) who is hiding under her bed for fear of drive-by shootings, he tells her a long involved story about a fairy who gave him a magical cloak when he was five-years-old, telling him to give it to his daughter when she turned five.
This article is already too long for a Bella post so I'll stop. Crash is obvious and preachy, but that does not keep it from captivating an audience. I plan to watch it a second time.