A Crash like Clash
Not often I watch a movie and end up not being entirely sure how I feel about it but that is the case of "Crossing Over". The reason why is that there seems to be a clash going on, we have this interesting look at the various problems faced when trying to achieve legal status in L.A. and this is presented in a multi cross character story where characters with no connection interweave but this adds a further dramatic storyline which leads to this clash. Now it is worth knowing that Wayne Kramer who wrote and directed "Crossing Over" made a version which was 140 minutes long but the producers then cut it down to 120 minutes and a part which featured Sean Penn was completely removed for various reasons. That re-editing maybe why this final version clashes between an interesting look at the difficulties of immigration and delivering an entertaining mainstream storyline.
I'm not going to go into detail as to what happens in "Crossing Over" because quite frankly this is a multi character movie with so many characters that it would take an age to go through them all. But to sum it up simply we see various issues of various nationalities trying to achieve legal status from an Australian forced into sleeping with someone to get a green card to a poor decision of a young boy which threatens his families chances of being allowed to stay. All these individual stories end up connecting in shall we say some unbelievable ways but at the same time highlighting various issues.
So in a way there are two things going on in "Crossing Over", we have a look at the various difficulties faced by those trying to attain legal status and then we have the multi character drama with a dramatic twist. The first of those two parts is where "Crossing Over" is best and whilst it feels contrived to be represented with so many different difficulties it is eye opening. Watching Australian Claire basically prostitute herself to an immigration official in return for a Greencard is entertainingly eye opening but then you have the emotional aspect of a young Mexican mother who gets caught and her son having nowhere to go. There are lots of these elements and we also see how traditions from other cultures leads to more difficulties for those trying to settle in America.
So we have all these different stories and characters and as mentioned they all end up linking together, yes you could say it is "Crash" like but in truth these multi character storylines have been about longer than "Crash". On one hand it makes it entertaining to see how they will tentatively link together but on the other some of the connections are too contrived to work. But we have another problem because rather than just focus on the issues at hand for some reason we have an additional dramatic storyline surrounding immigration cop Max Brogan and Hamid Baraheri. In fact a few of these storylines are delivered in a more dramatic and less realistic manner such as that of Claire sleeping with Cole Frankel to get her Greencard and it loses its impact. As I said it clashes so this interesting look at immigration issues then becomes a multi character Hollywood drama which stops it from being gritty.
It's because of this that for me some of the casting isn't right, whilst Alice Eve and Ray Liotta work together as Claire and Cole the casting of Harrison Ford seems wrong to me, he makes Max to much of a sympathetic good guy. It is that clash because Ford is perfect if this was just some Hollywood drama but then is wrong for the more realistic look at real issues. And it is the same through out, Cliff Curtis is spot on as Hamid dealing with issues of tradition and respect but then John Sturgess is too comical as Gavin Kossef who is trying to get a Greencard by making out he is a Jewish teacher.
What this all boils down to is that "Crossing Over" left me on the fence because there are parts of it which work and there are parts of it which clearly don't. It feels like a directors gritty vision has been turned into something more entertaining for the masses and it leaves it and me conflicted.