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Total Crap66.67%

3 reviews, 3 user ratings

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Crossing Over
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by Erik Childress

"Culture Is Stupid"
1 stars

In the year 2000, we had Traffic, the Oscar-winning encapsulation of this country’s war on drugs and whom it effects. Five years later, audiences were introduced to Crash, the Best Picture-winning examination of racism amongst a select group of Los Angelians. 2006 brought us the story of Babel, Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu’s Oscar-nominated tale which took language barriers a leap further as it told connecting stories on multiple continents about our inability to communicate cross borders and cultures. Now after much delay since its shooting in 2007, Wayne Kramer’s Crossing Over finally arrives in theaters with virtually no threat of ever being preceded with the word Oscar and with a different sort of anger directed at the way it tries to use the template of those other films to tackle the ongoing debate of illegal immigration. For this is a film so mishandled, so desperately missing the key issues of the problems on both sides that it devolves into the kind of laugh-worthy resolutions that make legends out of failed statement movies.

The film opens with sensitive Customs Enforcement Agent Max Brogran (Harrison Ford) leading a sweatshop raid in L.A. He tries to give the hiding immigrant worker, Mireya Sanchez (Alice Braga) a pass but is forced to arrest her when another agent notices his catch. She tries to get Max to get money to her son and after a not-so-crisis of conscience he takes up the cause and an interest in Mireya’s safety getting back. Max’s partner, Hamid Baraheri (Cliff Curtis) is of Iranian descent and wants him to attend the naturalization congratulations party of his father, a businessman who has done very well in the states since escaping from the politics of his origin country. The Baraheri’s youngest though, Zahra (Melody Khazae), has taken to her All-American heritage (including piercings, cleavage and adultery) and is looked down upon by the family.

Across town you have Australian export Claire Shepard (Alice Eve) having trouble becoming an actress and getting her citizenship approved. Good thing she literally crashes into Cole Frankel (Ray Liotta), a green card adjudicator who immediately pieces together her situation and weighs her options – which basically comes down to screwing him for two months. C’mon, what’s a hot Aussie blonde with great tits going to do? It’s not like she can just marry the guy for a green card. Because he’s already got a wife (Ashley Judd, in a nothing role), an immigration attorney who wants to adopt the Nigerian child she’s working with. There’s also a Korean kid (Justin Chon) on the verge of naturalization who is going through Gran Torino peer pressure from a local gang, a Bangladesh teenager (Summer Bishil, going from Towelhead to this) who writes a school paper in defense of the criticism of the 9/11 hijackers and in what may go down as the biggest, who-gives-a-damn subplot of the year, a British folk singer and on/off boyfriend of Claire (Jim Sturgess) who can teach music at a Jewish school if only he learns the language and stay under the radar.

Crossing Over seems to intentionally ignore the elements of the issue that provoke any manner of rational thought on the issue. The taking of jobs that most of our countrymen wouldn’t want anyway, the economy that strains to support the growing, undocumented population and the crime that some illegals may turn to against the land of opportunity’s failure to welcome them. Any one of those would have been favorable even in a minimal capacity to Ray Liotta getting his shrimp on and Jim Sturgess painfully reminding us of the singing of Across the Universe and the disaster of 21 (his roommate from that film, Josh Gad, plays an accented Jew helping him cram for his Hebrew test.)

While the Patriot Act is never brought up by name, the whole subplot involving Bishil’s teenager is so overstacked on both sides of the fence that its impossible to feel any sympathy for her situation. Sure, freedom of speech is a cause worth fighting for and it would have been disingenuous to just make the character another white kid from the suburbs. But I imagine even the most ardent anti-Bushies will be wincing at Bishil’s full head-dressed classroom defense against those calling the hijackers “cowards” (part of the argument that got Bill Maher fired from Politically Incorrect.) Flying planes into buildings does take some pretty big stones, but she goes on and on with such an evil scowl on her face that I was looking for the “Deport” button on the arm of my theater chair. Just to show you it’s not a racial thing though, Kramer gives the officer investigating her school project and Islam-googled computer the surname of Phadkar (played by Ford’s Argentinian co-star from Six Days, Seven Nights, Jacqueline Obradors.) The most sensitive of the sensitive will have a hard time shedding a tear during all the goodbyes to her family, a series of moments that produces more visible snot than the Bracchiosaurus sneeze in Jurassic Park. Even the strictest ACLU member on her side might cringe when her incarceration consists of telling Allah-themed bedtime stories to the very child Ashley Judd wants to bring home. The film gets so ridiculous in its final act that it wouldn’t surprise you if Judd tucks the kid in during her first night home and is treated to an Al Queda manifesto. I’m guessing that scene got cut out though.

As did anything involving Sean Penn, who was once a part of this film but demanded he be cut out over the subplot involving an “honor killing.” We could be coy and assume Penn is an actor who only read his part and didn’t know what kind of a disaster he was getting into, but when you see the resolution of this particular aspect play out before your eyes it is stunning just how tasteless it is. If we hadn’t already received our fill of naked breasts from the Aussie, the flashback to this crime strips the victim down to her full birthday suit, flashes back a second time within the flashback to show precisely how she was getting it before the intruder busts in and is revealed after Kramer has already regressed back to the ultra-styilized violence of his last film, the insane Running Scared with Paul Walker, for a convenience store shootout that makes Death Sentence seem like Clerks. On top of all this exponential madness, Crossing Over begins its final revelations and six thousand character wrap-ups against the backdrop of (1) the swearing-in of all the film’s wannabe citizens (2) the National Anthem sung by Phil “Who?” Perry (3) a GIANT AMERICAN FLAG and (4) lines such as “that shit don’t stand in this country” and a capper by an arresting officer that may be the greatest unintentional laugh you will have at a theater in 2009.

The only debate that Crossing Over will inspire is whether or not it’s supreme awfulness is enough to qualify it for “so bad its good” status or if Kramer’s wannabe message turns out to have the exact opposite effect. Kramer, who initially found Sundance success with the Vegas-themed, The Cooler, has gone on record about the nightmare of completing this film. Alternate cuts by Harvey Weinstein and even stars Ford and Penn were presented to varying degrees of so-so and disasterous. But even in its current 114-minute running time there is no sense that any one expanded storyline would deliver the kind of emotional, thought-provoking impact Kramer intended, whatever that may have been. If he meant to find a way for us to laugh at our problems, then he succeeded.

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originally posted: 02/27/09 16:00:00
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User Comments

6/28/10 Tim Am I the only one who liked this film? Superb acting and wonderful direction. 5 stars
3/22/09 Jack I hated The Cooler & Running Scared. This guys just keeps getting worse. 1 stars
3/01/09 Aesop After this and the last horrible Indy 4 sequel, if Harrison Ford dies now he's so screwed. 1 stars
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  27-Feb-2009 (R)
  DVD: 09-Jun-2009


  DVD: 09-Jun-2009

Directed by
  Wayne Kramer

Written by
  Wayne Kramer

  Harrison Ford
  Sean Penn
  Ray Liotta
  Ashley Judd
  Summer Bishil
  Cliff Curtis
  Alice Braga
  Alice Eve
  Jim Sturgess

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