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Thoughtful drama weaves together several stories as it examines immigration in Los Angeles, providing a harrowing look at border crossing, document fraud, asylum seekers, naturalization, counterterrorism and the clash of cultures in America.
For more about Crossing Over and the Crossing Over Blu-ray release, see Crossing Over Blu-ray Review published by Jeffrey Kauffman on June 24, 2010 where this Blu-ray release scored 3.5 out of 5.
Starring: Harrison Ford, Ray Liotta, Ashley Judd, Jim Sturgess, Cliff Curtis, Alice Braga
Director: Wayne Kramer
» See full cast & crew
Crossing Over Blu-ray Review
The immigration issue is certainly ripe for a brilliant filmic treatment. 'Crossing Over' isn't that film.
Reviewed by Jeffrey Kauffman, June 24, 2010
Before the Gulf of Mexico oil disaster replaced it as the headline du jour, the extremely controversial immigration law passed by the state of Arizona was burning up the airwaves. Was it an un-American attempt to "profile" people based on their appearance, in this case probably Hispanic? Or was it a justified attempt to ameliorate an influx of illegals, some of whom at least had committed horrific crimes throughout the state, making people afraid to leave the shelter of their homes?
Immigration has been a hot button issue for the past several United States administrations. In fact 2008 Republican Presidential candidate John McCain had his own John Kerry "I voted for it before I voted against it" moment during his unsuccessful campaign when he was forced to amend his own efforts to revamp immigration laws, as they evidently weren't hard line enough for conservatives in his own party. As any American can tell you, our federal government at least seems remarkably well constructed to get nothing done, and that has been its calling card for the past decade plus in terms of the immigration debate, despite the faltering attempt to build a border wall between our southern states and Mexico. One would think this important issue would be ripe for a film treatment, but Crossing Over, despite several high profile stars and the producing imprimatur of the Weinsteins, found itself consigned to an extremely limited theatrical release and is now appearing relatively uncelebrated on home video.
Crossing Over features Harrison Ford as Immigration and Customs Enforcement Special Agent Max Brogan. The film begins with Brogan rescuing the son of an illegal Mexican immigrant who has been deported, and who is soon murdered back in her native country. On the flip side of this heroic presentation is the duplicitous immigration official Cole Frankel (Ray Liotta), who is not above trading sex for a much desired green card. Frankel's character is perhaps a bit more shaded than basic "good guy" Brogan, and he soon becomes romantically attached to the woman he's using for his own gratification, though she does not return the emotion.
Playing out against these two main characters are a host of international émigrés, all with their particular problems. This "world stew" includes a misguided South Korean teenager (Justin Chon) who gets involved in a robbery and runs into Brogan's Iranian partner (Cliff Curtis), who takes pity on the youth and lets him go; a Bangladeshi teenager (Summer Bishil) who makes the mistake of defending the 9-11 hijackers at school, resulting in an investigation which uncovers the fact that her parents are here illegally; and a British teacher (Jim Sturgess) who attempts to fake being an observant Jew to get a job at a Jewish day school which will allow him to stay in the United States legally.
This quick précis highlights the biggest problem with Crossing Over: it beats the audience over its collective head with one example after another of an immigration policy gone horribly awry, ultimately leading to the audience not clearly caring about any one character in particular, or even the issue generally. Crossing Over would have done much better to have focused on one, perhaps two, stories, tying them into the Brogan and Frankel characters. Instead we're treated to a far from subtle political screed which seems to have been assembled by committee from a host of admittedly awful case studies.
Crossing Over wants to be a multi-character drama a la Crash or Traffic, but unlike those films (Traffic in particular), the intersections between these characters rarely illuminate other characters' stories, and instead we're left with an uneasiness that nothing (or at least hardly anything) goes right when it comes to United States immigration policy. Either you come here illegally and end up suffering any number of consequences, or you attempt to jump through what seem to be insurmountable hoops to arrive here with both your official papers and your dignity intact. While Ford's stolid presence helps give the film some semblance of moral authority, too many of the interlocking stories seem to be ripped from the headlines of some left leaning tabloid (and don't get me wrong, I am probably as left leaning as the next guy when it comes to immigration reform).
If Wayne Kramer errs a bit too much on the pathos side as a screenwriter, he has a firm hand on his directorial reigns, with a good grasp of both the dramatic and action sequences, as well as the overall tone of the picture, as lopsided as that might be. Performances are uniformly quite excellent, including the aforementioned Ford and Liotta, as well as the sometimes spotty Ashley Judd, who here turns in a nicely understated performance as Liotta's put upon wife. Crossing Over never really builds up a dramatic enough head of steam to lead to an overwhelming catharsis, despite its heartfelt depictions of so many characters caught in various crises. This is a film whose parts are greater than the whole. Some of those parts do indeed cross over into moments of impact, but taken together, Crossing Over is resolutely stuck at a red light.
Crossing Over Blu-ray, Video Quality
Crossing Over looks very good to excellent on Blu-ray, with an appealingly natural film appearance delivered via the VC-1 codec in full 1080p and an aspect ratio of 2.35:1. This isn't a "showy" film by an means, nor is it as intentionally gritty and post-processed as Traffic, for example. Instead we get a certain lo-fi ethos here which the Blu-ray very ably recreates. Grain is apparent, though never is it overwhelming, and colors and detail are always good, and often superb, especially in close-ups, where every wrinkle in Ford's gracefully aging and weathered face is fully on display. Colors are accurate looking, but the film opts for a subdued if not completely blanched palette, so there's little here that is going scream "wow" for videophiles. This is a solid looking transfer that won't disappoint but which won't excite, either.
Crossing Over Blu-ray, Audio Quality
Crossing Over springs to life sonically in a couple of loud and busy action sequences, when the Dolby Digital 5.1 mix finally gets a workout. Otherwise, we are offered a lot of dialogue, all of which is reproduced excellently, with good channel separation and a fine ear for directionality. There is actually a decent amount of ambient soundfield here, especially in the cityscape exteriors, where everything from natural sounds to traffic noise (featured in several aerial interstitials over area freeways) spills into the surrounds. The action scenes pump things up considerably, with gunshots zinging in from various directions, and some thundering LFE. But Crossing Over at its heart is a small-scale drama with not that much opportunity to exploit a high definition sound mix. Like the image quality, this soundtrack does its job very well, but aside from one or two sonically impressive sequences, there's not a lot here that is going to set audiophiles' ears on fire.
Note: Some members are reporting that there may be two releases with different audio options. We encourage these members to post their own user reviews for this title.
Crossing Over Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
No supplements are offered.
Crossing Over Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
Crossing Over has its heart in the right place, there's no question. Unfortunately, screenwriter Kramer loads the film with too many problems for its own good, until the viewer feels weighed down by the omnipresent foreboding. Several of the individual elements of this film are quite impressive, and some judicious cutting would have helped things considerably. As it stands, Crossing Over is too insistent on making its perhaps valid points. The performances are the best thing here, and certainly are worth checking out on an evening's rental, if you're in the mood for a somewhat dour and depressing experience.
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