Crash | Kingdom of Heaven

Crash | Kingdom of Heaven

Though the executives of movie studios need to make tons of money to keep their jobs, they also want to hang on to their self-respect. So every other month, among the scores of chop-sockey action films, horror movies, lighter-than-air comedies, and gross-out farces, we find a Big Serious Exception playing at the nearest multiplex.

In May, the BSE was Crash. Its theme could not be more timely or important: the way Americans bedevil themselves and torment one another with racial stereotypes. As writer-director Paul Haggis (scriptwriter of Million Dollar Baby) sees it, racist speech and actions are the byproducts of the frustrations of the way we live now. Here are some examples from this multi-character, episodic Los Angeles drama. A rich housewife, recently carjacked by black criminals, doesn’t feel safe when the locks of her house are changed because the locksmith (soon to be shown as an honest family man) is Hispanic and has tattoos. A cop, whose ailing father received indifferent treatment from a black medical insurance bureaucrat, works out his anger by sexually humiliating a rich black married couple. An African-American detective gets pressured into suppressing evidence during a murder investigation so that his white superiors can look like good liberals by the next election, then vents his frustration on his Hispanic squad-car partner (and girlfriend) by making slurs about Latinos. And so on. It is a...

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About the Author

Richard Alleva has been reviewing movies for Commonweal since 1990.