Test your own thinking | VailDaily.com

Test your own thinking

Shauna Farnell
AP photoThandie Newton, left, and Matt Dillion intertwine in ways that prevent Dillion from going from "bad cop" to "worse cop" in "Crash."

Thinking hard enough about all the subtle, or not so subtle, ways that people are racist, can do one’s head in. Alternately, don’t think about it at all and let “Crash” paint the picture for you.In the beginning of the film when a gun shop owner launches right into incisive generalizations when Los Angeles shop owner Farhad (Shaun Toub) comes in to buy a firearm to protect his shop, I thought the film’s point about how people are ignorant bigots, naturally driven to function through racial stereotypes, was going to be hammered home a bit excessively. Although Farhad is Persian, the shop owner mistakes him for an Arab, which (naturally, the film suggests) leads to name-calling “Osama,” threatening to “drive planes into mud huts” and insulting his broken English,

After Farhad leaves in a huff, the shop owner directs his hostile bigotry in the form of sexism to the daughter, whose English is impeccable, this time speaking to her about different kinds of bullets in not-so-veiled sexual terminology.Despite my initial doubts, the dominos effect of racism, interracism, intraracism and every other kind of race-related “ism” you can dream of, left my head full of emotional bullet holes.There are some highly unrealistic elements to “Crash,” like how, in the expanse of L.A., all of the characters’ paths coincidentally cross multiple times. Still, there’s no question that the interconnectedness is clever and the film overall lives up to its title in terms of impact. I mean “Crash” as in, riveting; not as in, flop.Screenplay writer Paul Haggis, who also wrote the equally provocative and intricate script for “Million Dollar Baby,” makes his directing debut in “Crash,” and the most recognizable names in the film – Sandra Bullock, Don Cheadle, Matt Dillon and Brendan Fraser – fall refreshingly out of their potential typecasts.

Each character slips under the race-related scrutiny of the camera’s eye – Officer Ryan (Dillon), a veteran of the L.A. Police Department, is the most overtly racist, harassing an upper-class black couple whom he stops for “performing fleet,” and making condescending remarks to every member of any racial minority who crosses his path. His partner (Ryan Phillippe) appears to be the good guy, until it becomes obvious that his quest for racial equality has a lot more to do with his own professional sense of civic duty than from genuine fair-mindedness.Rick (Fraser) is a famous district attorney whose supposed compassion towards minorities is directly tied with his personal marketing campaign and public image, and his wife, Jean, (Bullock) flaunts her fear of minorities like a white flag, openly suspecting her locksmith of stealing her keys to sell to “his homeys” and screaming an “I told you so” to her husband when two black men (Ludacris and Larenz Tate) hold them at gun point and take off with their super-swank SUV. Graham (Cheadle) is a detective, who, despite his distinguished role, encounters derisive commentary aimed at his minority status and in turn, exhibits his own interracial ignorance when he refers to his lover, whose family harkens from Puerto Rico and El Salvador, as “Mexican.”Aptly titled, “Crash” is a portrait of how things converge when whites discriminate against blacks, Asians, Hispanics and everyone else under the sun – also disregarding their fellow Americans as citizens if they don’t speak English perfectly; when blacks discriminate against each other; when minorities lash out after a snowball of fear and misunderstanding unfolds, thus perpetuating the stereotypes; and how, in the end, it’s just every man for himself. Besides escaping the realm of likelihood with characters bumping into each other all the time, a sickeningly melodramatic musical score, and packing a few too many parables into the interwoven nest, “Crash” leaves one mulling one’s own stereotypes and the potential dangers and hurt that might transpire from such.

Staff Writer Shauna Farnell can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 610, or sfarnell@vaildaily.com.Vail, Colorado

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