There’s a scene in Bullets over Broadway where Tracey Ullman’s character tells David Shayne that she does not understand her character because she suddenly seems to mouth the playwriter’s philosophy – this is basically a perfect description of Crash in which every character at every moment speaks Paul Haggis’s thoughts on racism in today’s society. Crash, the upset winner of 2005, is a deeply flawed picture which I always expected to rank among the bottom of this list but it also has some strangely satisfying moments which helped it to achieve position 70.
Right at the beginning, Crash becomes almost unbearable as every character continuously talks about racism, about blacks, whites, Hispanics, Asians etc and none of these characters ever become true persons but rather they all sound alike and act alike while delivering one unnatural line after another but thankfully Paul Haggis was able to mix certain traces of awfulness with various interesting observations and scenes. Most importantly, he is able to create that important balance in an ensemble film like this – none of the stories overshadows the others, Paul Haggis keeps a strong flow and slowly develops each story, to various degrees of success.
Overall, Crash mostly suffers from obvious moments while it shines in quiet moments. Manipulative scenes like the car crash or the shooting (that scenes annoys me to no end – two parents think that their daughter is shot and instead of, I don’t know, seeing how bad she is hurt they simply break down crying with dramatic music in the background?) are almost laughable but other moments or ideas work very well. The idea that a black police chief can’t do anything against a prejudiced white cop because than he would have problems with his white superiors, a woman grabbing the arm of her husband when she sees two black men, another black man trying to ‘be as white as possible’, people from different cultural backgrounds all thrown together by the ignorance of others, the ongoing question how much racism is really in everyone of us – yes, there are themes, questions, moments that work but Paul Haggis’s script and direction lack any subtlety in a movie that desperately needs it to work. Instead, he went over the top too many times, hit the audience over the head with his messages. And Crash has also one of the worst endings of any Best Picture winners – it’s like ‘oh, look a car crash! How funny! Oh look, the black woman who accused Matt Dillon of being a racist is racist herself! How funny!’ Yes, as I said, this is a deeply flawed picture in its execution but what saves it from being a disaster are the ideas behind it – it’s a movie that makes you look for its positive aspects while throwing its flaws into the audiences’ faces. A more skilled director, a better screenwriter could have tackled all the themes better and in the end, Crash certainly isn’t a masterpiece in any way but it’s also not the mess a lot of people claim it to be.