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A Brentwood housewife and her D.A. husband. A Persian store owner. Two police detectives who are also lovers. An African-American television director and his wife. A Mexican locksmith. Two car-jackers. A rookie cop. A middle-aged Korean couple. They all live in Los Angeles. And during the next 36 hours, they will all collide. 'Crash' takes a provocative, unflinching look at the complexities racial tolerance in contemporary America. Diving headlong into the melting pot of post-9/11 Los Angeles, this urban drama tracks the volatile intersections of multi-ethnic characters as they struggle to overcome their fears while careening in and out of one another's lives. In the gray area between black and white, victim and aggressor, there are no easy answers.
For more about Crash and the Crash Blu-ray release, see Crash Blu-ray Review published by Kenneth Brown on August 9, 2010 where this Blu-ray release scored 2.5 out of 5.
Director: Paul Haggis
Writers: Paul Haggis, Robert Moresco
Starring: Sandra Bullock, Don Cheadle, Matt Dillon, Jennifer Esposito, Shaun Toub, Brendan Fraser
» See full cast & crew
Crash Blu-ray Review
Can divisive Indies unite Blu-ray fans?
Reviewed by Kenneth Brown, August 9, 2010
In all the years I've been dragging my wife to the theater to catch the first screening of a much-awaited release, opening my house to hordes of people on Oscar night, and arguing with my friends and colleagues about the merits (or lack thereof) of any number of movies, I've never encountered a film that has divided audiences and critics more than Crash. Many declared their love in mellifluous prose that read more like poetry than a movie review – to them, the film was the second coming of modern cinema. Others were left scratching their heads and shaking their fists at the sky, cursing the Academy gods for getting it so wrong – to them, the film was a contrived abomination that lured fools and simpletons into its seedy clutches. Me? I was one of the smitten; one of the enchanted cinefiles who adored its scattershot portrayal of a hot-button topic, its surprisingly clever casting, its moralistic script, and its exquisite performances.
Not to be confused with David Cronenberg's 1996 bizarre sex-odyssey of the same name, Crash tells the initially convoluted tale of a group of lost souls in modern day Los Angeles who are affected by racism and prejudice in one form or another. We're introduced to Rick and Jean Cabot (an unexpectedly effective Brendan Fraser and Sandra Bullock), a District Attorney and his wife who are carjacked one evening by two young criminals (Chris "Ludacris" Bridges and Larenz Tate); Graham Waters (Don Cheadle), a somewhat morose detective who's sleeping with his partner (Jennifer Esposito) and searching for his missing brother; straight-laced police officer Tommy Hansen (Ryan Phillipe) and his partner, a remorseless racist named John Ryan (Matt Dillon); Cameron and Christine Thayer (Terrence Howard and Thandie Newton), a television director and his wife who are assaulted and abused by Ryan during a traffic stop; Daniel Ruiz (Michael Pena), a devoted father and locksmith; and Farhad (Shaun Toub) and his daughter Dorri (Bahar Soomekh), Persian immigrants who have a disagreement with Ruiz.
At least ten other minor players (portrayed by memorable character actors) make their way into the story as well, but writer/director Paul Haggis (Million Dollar Baby, In the Valley of Elah) doesn't overcomplicate things or allow his audience to become confused by this deluge of faces. Instead, his script unfolds like a languid novel, introducing each new character the moment we've become acquainted with the last and taking extra time to highlight the unseen relationships that unite them all. While not quite as effective as Paul Thomas Anderson's Magnolia, Crash manages to unite plot and character development into a single, unified whole, offering viewers the chance to examine both racism and the human heart at the same time. Better still, the pure-of-heart are often revealed to be the most hateful bastards, cold shrews become vulnerable victims, and the most vile antagonists actually earn a bit of sympathy. It's this sort of moral ambiguity that gives most of the film its punch. With each character in a constant state of transition and flux, it's possible to love and hate them all with equal fervor.
More importantly, Haggis massages brilliant performances out of all his actors, even from those who have been typecast in mismanaged genre flicks again and again over the years (namely Fraser, Bullock, and Newton). Of course, with a script that doesn't make any definitive statement and with a plot whose only goal is to establish the interconnectivity of mankind, the work of his ensemble cast had to be something special lest the entire film fall apart. I suppose you could take issue with the film's open-ended message, its rather convenient developments, and its at-times strained logic, but I also think that would be missing the point. Crash is meant to be a character study, a glimpse of the very best and worst that people can bring to the table. It brushes wide strokes of love, hate, racism, denial, and rejection onto its canvas, and fuses them with a arguably idealistic philosophy that empathy and forgiveness could settle the world's ills.
Ultimately, a flick like Crash is what film is all about. It divides us, polarizes us, and forces us to question things we'd rather not think about. It presents unlikeable people, disappointing heroes, and surprising villains. It refuses to answer our pleas, instead asking more from us than we're willing to give. Perhaps Haggis duped me into overanalyzing a pretentious ensemble piece, but Crash moved me, made me think, and left me wondering about the people in my life and the manner in which their experiencess have shaped their behavior. As far as I'm concerned, any flick that can do those three things is a great film.
Crash Blu-ray, Video Quality
As one of the first discs available on the Blu-ray format, Crash simply doesn't live up to the standards set by later high definition releases. Featuring an uneven 1080p/MPEG-2 transfer, the film's patchy presentation suffers from varying shot quality, inherent visual limitations, and a slew of technical issues. Colors are generally lush and vivid, but skintones are often flushed, bronzed, or washed out entirely. Likewise, contrast is gorgeous at times but, more often than not, whites are too hot, delineation is poor, and black levels are inconsistent (resulting in jarring transitions between deep interior shadows and unsightly nighttime skies). To make matters worse, fine detailing is unpredictable as well. Some scenes look fantastic, offering sharp textures, crisp edges, and impeccable clarity, while still others are soft, hazy, or cluttered with artifacts and source noise. To be blunt, watching Crash is like flipping back and forth between two different transfers.
Add to that some lingering edge enhancement, rampant crushing, and plenty of seemingly random transfer anomalies and you have a disappointing disc that begs for a new transfer. Sure, writer/director Paul Haggis's aesthetic style makes it tough to judge which issues are the result of directorial intent and which could be chalked up to a mediocre transfer, but it doesn't change the fact that the Blu-ray edition of Crash just doesn't look very good.
Crash Blu-ray, Audio Quality
Unfortunately, the film doesn't sound much better. 'Crash' comes loaded with a pair of underwhelming audio options – a rather timid Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround EX Audio track and a flat DTS-ES Discrete 6.1 surround mix that, for all intents and purposes, sound exactly alike. Dialogue is fairly clean and well prioritized, but sometimes becomes garbled and indistinct in exterior environments and tight interior spaces. In fact, every time the camera follows a pair of characters into a vehicle, effects suddenly sound muffled and the soundscape loses what little dynamic flair it had going for it. Conversations occasionally warble under the strain of invading road noise, a handful of words are left to the imagination, and ambience is annoyingly crammed into the front speakers along with everything else. By the time the film ended, I realized I had kept my finger on the volume button for the duration of the flick, tapping it up when characters would chat and dropping it back down when the film's musical score and third-act climaxes would storm in.
The tracks do exhibit moments of genuine LFE power and rear speaker presence… there were even scenes that invited me into the film and allowed me to immerse myself in its racially-charged vision of Los Angeles. However, the disc's audio selections were weak, unwieldy, and inconsistent. Hardly becoming of a next generation disc.
Crash Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
First released in June of 2006, the Blu-ray edition of Crash doesn't include any of the supplemental goodies afforded to the 2-disc Director's Cut DVD (among them an audio commentary, a series of deleted scenes, and a variety of other assorted production featurettes and documentaries). I generally get upset when studios double-dip and release the same film twice, but in this case I'd love to see Lionsgate give Crash another high-def go.
Crash Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
Despite anything you may have heard since its controversial Oscar victory in 2005, Crash is a film worth watching. It may not click with everyone, but its excellent performances and intriguing approach to its subject matter shouldn't be missed. Sadly, this early Blu-ray release is a mess. Not only does it feature an inconsistent video transfer and a pair of weak audio tracks, it doesn't include any of the supplements that appear on its 2-disc DVD counterpart. Ah well, hopefully Lionsgate will revisit Crash and give it a proper release in the near future.
Crash: Other Editions
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Crash Blu-ray, News and Updates
• Crash Season One Blu-ray Gets Announced and Detailed (Update) - June 15, 2009
Starz/Anchor Bay has officially announced and revealed details for 'Crash: The Complete First Season', which is scheduled to release on Blu-ray on August 25. This 13-episode TV series, loosely based on the Academy award-winning movie 'Crash', will hit shelves in ...
• Crash TV Series Gets Blu-ray Impact Date - May 1, 2009
In an early announcement to retailers, Starz/Anchor Bay has announced that it will bring 'Crash: The Complete First Season' to Blu-ray on August 25, day-and-date with the DVD release. Final audio and video specs and bonus features content are not known at this ...
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