Judge Clark Douglas is willing to trade a moment of intimacy for a green card.
Every day thousands of people illegally cross out borders. Only one thing stands in their way: America.
"It's always family first, isn't it?"
Facts of the Case
As Crossing Over begins, it quietly introduces us to a wide variety of individuals from an equally wide variety of backgrounds and cultures. We begin by meeting an immigration officer named Max (Harrison Ford, Air Force One), a good man attempting to carry out the duties of his job in as compassionate a manner as possible. We also meet Gavin (Jim Sturgess, Across the Universe), an English Jew attempting to create a new life for himself in the U.S. Gavin is friends with Claire (Alice Eve, Stage Beauty), an Australian actress who is desperate to get a green card. In order to do so, Claire resorts to fulfilling the sexual desires of Cole (Ray Liotta, Goodfellas), a man who just might get Claire what she wants if she proves particularly satisfying. Cole is married to Denise (Ashley Judd, Bug), an immigration lawyer who spends the vast majority of her time defending the people her husband often hinders from achieving citizenship.
We also meet a couple of foreign teenagers. Taslima (Summer Bishil, Nothing Is Private) is a Middle Eastern student who makes the unfortunate decision to write a class paper that examines the 9/11 terrorists in a sympathetic manner. Yong Kim (Justin Chon, Twilight) is an Asian teen who is lured into a life of danger and violence by a street gang. Slowly but surely, Crossing Over connects the lives of these people, and in doing so attempts to tell a sweeping story about the melting pot that is modern-day America.
Wayne Kramer is a director who seems well on his way to being a forgotten director, and I think that's a shame. Kramer made a big impression on audiences back in 2003 with The Cooler, a superb Vegas flick that gave William H. Macy a tremendous leading role. Critics and audiences were far less enthusiastic about Running Scared, a feverishly inventive thriller that deserved much more credit than it received. Now Kramer has provided us with Crossing Over, an immigration drama that generated worse reviews (and weaker box office figures) than either of his previous films. It's certainly a departure for the director, offering a story that reveals itself very slowly and carefully. It can certainly be argued that the film lacks subtlety, but I found it an engaging viewing experience that makes an admirable attempt at examining the cultural challenges of the world that we live in.
The film bears a close resemblance to Paul Haggis' Crash in many ways, though the tensions here are less explicitly racial. If Crash was an examination of the racial stereotypes that affect the daily lives of many individuals, then this film is an examination of the cultural and political barriers that prevent the so-called "melting pot" we live in from truly becoming what we believe it to be. It is not a perfect film, but I admire the passion here. The film is a thoughtful if ungainly series of musings that quietly provides a lot of questions and a few answers. Some aspects of the film work better than others. I was particularly fascinated by the subplot involving the young Muslim girl, as it leads to some interesting conversations between Judd and a government official regarding the subject of national security. The government official sees the girl as a potential terrorist suspect; Judd feels that the she's just an innocent girl being who needs to be left alone. Both individuals are allowing their own predisposed political biases to get in the way of actually seeing this young woman for who she truly is.
Crossing Over is very much an ensemble piece, but I think it's fair to say that Harrison Ford is the anchor of the film. His star power and natural gravitas lend him a weight that makes his scenes feel like the center of the proceedings, and he does an excellent job in the role. This is probably the least mainstream film Ford has ever agreed to participate in, and he brings a low-key naturalism that is tremendously effective. His sad, weary face and aching growl set the tone for the film effectively. Cliff Curtis has some nice moments as Ford's partner, as does Jim Sturgess as an atheist attempting to gain employment in a religious institution. Ray Liotta is in full-blown a-hole mode, a note he plays with obnoxious realism.
The DVD transfer is effective and solid, providing surprisingly strong detail for a standard-def disc. Facial detail seems particularly sharp, and flesh tones are just about right. Darker scenes manage to achieve some notable depth and clarity. Audio is nicely immersive throughout, as Mark Isham's satisfyingly understated score is very well-distributed. Dialogue is clear and clean, while sound design proves to be surprisingly minimal. Disappointingly, no extras of any sort are included on the disc, not even an obligatory making-of featurette. Here's hoping that a director's cut with supplements appears somewhere down the road.
The Rebuttal Witnesses
Those who found Crash to be offensively patronizing and simplistic are undoubtedly going to have similar feelings about this film. There are undoubtedly numerous moments here that push it a bit far and some of the characters are perhaps defined a bit too broadly. When the film's conclusion arrives, it's hard not to feel at least a little bit manipulated.
Also, I understand that Kramer's original cut of the film was about 140 minutes long, but the infamous Harvey Weinstein pressured him into providing a running time of less than two hours. Sean Penn was apparently in the film at one point as well, but later requested that his role be cut for personal reasons. Perhaps these last-minute changes account for the somewhat awkward pacing of the film.
Crossing Over is a decent drama that has a few interesting things to say about the subject of immigration. Alas, the complete lack of supplements makes me lean towards recommending a rental rather than a purchase.
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Scales of Justice
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