Judge Brett Cullum can't take his eyes off this wreckage because Dennis Hopper is in it talking to...
Our reviews of Crash: The Complete First Season (Blu-Ray) (published September 10th, 2009), Crash (2004) (published August 29th, 2005), and Crash: Director's Cut (published April 24th, 2006) are also available.
A car wreck with an all too familiar concept.
Cable television is locked in a battle to come up with original series that get talked about, programs people seek out because they are sexier and edgier than the G-rated network fare. It used to be channels like HBO or Showtime only offered up lukewarm theatrical releases after they long faded from silver screens. Now with Netflix, Blockbuster, and any video store filling that need, the search is on to find the next Sex and the City or True Blood. Here's an interesting entry in to the original series on cable genre, one based on an Academy Award winning picture. It doesn't come close to matching the quality of the film, but it makes me wonder if we could get a cable series out of Slumdog Millionaire or perhaps No Country for Old Men.
Facts of the Case
An eccentric aging music producer (Dennis Hopper, Easy Rider), his limo driver (Jocko Sims, Turbo), an illegal immigrant (Luis Chávez, Delta Farce), a prissy Brentwood housewife (Clare Carey, Jericho), a sexy Latina cop (Arlene Tur, Last Exit), a Korean ambulance driver (Brian Tee, The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift), a gritty renegade investigator (Nick Tarabay, The Unit), and many more…all "crash" in to each other in Los Angeles. Sound familiar?
Paul Haggis, the guy who wrote and directed the feature film Crash, helped produce the concept to extend stories of racial tension in Los Angeles for a season's worth of cable channel episodes. We have a Starz original series that finds Dennis Hopper (Blue Velvet) heading up a good looking cast who take on stories about racial identity, class warfare, gender differences, and plain old sex. It makes sense to extend the concept to the small screen, because Haggis got his start in the televised medium. Surprisingly, Paul Haggis began on the lighter side of television, writing for shows such as Diff'rent Strokes and The Love Boat. He created Walker, Texas Ranger and The Facts of Life. Lately he has been known more for dramas, such as providing the script for Million Dollar Baby. You'll see a lot of the same drama and themes used in this program as you saw in the film. What's different, though, is that the show is missing any of the movie's star packed cast, and it concentrates on a tighter ensemble meant to embody all the people in Los Angeles. It follows a core group of racially and economically diverse characters as they face the realities of living in such a large city, where racial tensions run high. It's a morality play set in the City of Angels.
What I find amusing is that if you cruise over to IMDb and look at the "user comments," a lot of the people there cry foul when critics panned the show because it was not the movie. They state it's not fair to compare the two, since the mediums are so different. I can see their point in a fractured way, but the big problem is Crash is comparable to the movie because it uses the same premise and title. If they didn't want you to associate this with the film they should have called it something else and moved on. The movie did this kind of thing better in a shorter span of time, and had a better cast. Hell, it won an Academy Award for Best Picture trumping Brokeback Mountain. The television series commits the sins many accused the film of committing: pandering and simplifying race relations down to a silly melodramatic level. We see stereotypes constantly like Hopper acting like a crazy white man, his black limo driver getting him into rap, the high-strung Latinas, and the gritty cops who are skating on the edge of the law. It seems this project is intent on wiping out the good will of that Oscar win.
The Rebuttal Witnesses
You certainly can't fault the slick set that is packaged well and comes off fine when you play it. The DVD looks great with a crisp widescreen picture for the thirteen episodes, bouncy full surround sound, and overall a cinematic look that betrays its small screen origins. Included for extras are a behind the scenes featurette, quick character bios done by each actor, and an alternate ending to the series finale. Most of the supplements feel like something you would see coming out of a promotional department as they advertised the show, but all the major players are accounted for and it looks strong enough. Technically, I can't fault the DVD, which has a gorgeous transfer and offers okay extras.
What Crash doesn't do is justify itself as an extension of the source material. Sure we are addressing the same fears and ugly truths about racial tension, but we're doing it in a much more forced unnatural way than the film. Also the movie had a dynamite cast missing here in favor of a legend like Dennis Hopper set adrift in a sea of newcomers hoping to be discovered. You know it's all over once you see Hopper giving a monologue to his genitals in the first moments we see him. Let me just say the most impressive performance comes from Tom Sizemore in a four episode run—and that's a sign of big trouble. It's only interesting for being a travelogue of LA, and also a misguided trend I hope doesn't continue. I can't imagine taking critically acclaimed films and turning them in to cable series left and right. Imagine the Sundance Channel cranking out My Dinners With Andre.
Guilty of being a wreck of an idea, Crash is given a DUI for driving
around thinking it's important and interesting.
Give us your feedback!
What's "fair"? Whether positive or negative, our reviews should be unbiased, informative, and critique the material on its own merits.
Scales of Justice
Studio: Anchor Bay
• Alternate Ending
Review content copyright © 2009 Brett Cullum; Site design and review layout copyright © 2015 Verdict Partners LLC. All rights reserved.