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Overall Rating
2.8

Awesome: 22.35%
Worth A Look: 27.06%
Average: 1.18%
Pretty Bad: 7.06%
Total Crap42.35%

6 reviews, 49 user ratings


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Crash (1997)
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by The Ultimate Dancing Machine

"Serene velocity"
4 stars

For a movie nobody bothered to see when it hit theatres back in 1996, this flick kicked up an awful lot of controversy—all of it basically tangential to its artistic qualities, of course, though no less entertaining for it. In summary: It was banned in parts of Britain; it won a special award at Cannes for "Audacity, Originality and Daring" (damning with faint praise if I ever heard it); it was denounced by Ted Turner as depraved. This last tidbit fills me with bitter mirth. I mean, you would think that somebody who married Jane Fonda would refrain from lecturing other people on matters of taste.

A half-decade later, the dust, as it were, has settled on Crash, leaving those of us who care about these things to ask the big question: How good is this movie? Now that we have collectively gotten over the admittedly horrid sight of James Spader fucking an open wound in Rosanna Arquette’s leg, is it now possible to find appreciable levels of artistry, intelligence, style in Crash?

Sure. Why not?

J. G. Ballard’s infamous 1973 novel wasn’t choice cinematic material; it’s a dense, monotonous (deliberately so), essentially undramatic read—it in fact blithely gives away its ending in the very first sentence. Told with little dialogue but lots of portentous digressions on sexuality in the machine age, it is in some respects an elaborate con: Ballard spins out the story in a perverse “true confessions” mode, even giving the main character his own name. Reading it, you get the uneasy feeling that he really is getting off on all these depictions of people getting their genitalia mutilated in car crashes.

To appreciate Crash—and this is actually possible, I think—it’s best not to judge it on irrelevant grounds; that is, don’t criticize it for dispensing of conventional notions of plot and characterization when Cronenberg has valid reasons for doing just that. Crash, as I see it, is more a style than a story; it's a pathology given post-modern gloss. If it seems to go around in circles, that’s part of the strategy. More than a few critics dismissed Crash as a porno movie—but what porno has ever looked like this? Characters kiss by smashing their faces together. They become aroused by watching crash-test videos. None of it is erotic at all--it is cold, loveless, empty. And that's the point. In parts, it is actually funny in that elliptical, hyper-cerebral Canadian manner.

To be sure, it isn't easy to watch. As the alienated couple, Spader and Deborah Unger don't exactly light up the screen. Their lack of chemistry, like everything else in Crash, is quite deliberate--note how they seldom look at each other while talking--but there's no escaping the fact that they're not very interesting to look at. Unger says all her lines in a breathy whisper that only becomes more annoying and mannered as the film goes on--you'd think she was afraid of being overheard.

But at the heart of Crash is a strong performance by Elias Koteas, offering a presence as compelling as the other characters are enervating. As the mad scientist Vaughn, he's a barely controlled maniac, charming and frightening in equal quantities. Whenever he's on the screen, the film comes instantly alive; he holds Crash together.

It's really extremely well-made. All that shiny chrome and static cinematography offer a compelling cinematic counterpart to Ballard's decadent musings.

And as a side note, you should at all costs avoid the R-rated version of Crash (it's on the DVD alongside the "real" NC-17 version). It is missing ten minutes--including part of the final scene.

I may not convince anyone with this review, but I really believe that this much-maligned film deserves a second look.

link directly to this review at http://www.efilmcritic.com/review.php?movie=299&reviewer=223
originally posted: 07/27/02 13:05:31
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User Comments

1/25/10 Chad Dillon Cooper Drive my car takes on a whole new meaning. 1 stars
7/14/09 blah blah i wish kara unger would speak dirty to me while i fucked her.lovely hairy snatch 4 stars
7/06/08 dan halberg why the hate? decent movie 4 stars
3/01/08 Ivana Mann Probably the riskiest, most audacious movie ever made.Simultaneously repellant & compelling 5 stars
2/23/07 David Pollastrini Porn pretending to be art! 2 stars
10/21/06 Pritchett Fuck all of you! Cronenberg has never made a bad film! 5 stars
9/11/06 Sepi53 awful piece of crap 1 stars
5/09/06 K. Sear Wonderful. My favourite Cronenburg to date. 5 stars
3/10/06 Karri genuine freakfest 1 stars
9/03/05 Le Hembe SteeLe Highly "striking". Cronenberg takes no "backseat". dues ex machina! 4 stars
6/16/05 Naruto Piece of shit. Cronenberg should be executed for such crap 1 stars
1/20/05 Aaron van de sande compulsions (like pornography) are frightneningly detached.what did you expect? 5 stars
10/05/04 Jackie Saw *3* Xs b/f I *got* it. Only time char. are 'involved' is in a crash. Interesting idea. 4 stars
8/17/04 Herolder Well, not a film for everybody, but I loved it 5 stars
7/12/04 L.H Erotically fascinating, however, horrifyingly unrealistic 4 stars
6/08/04 Ryan Clark Cronenberg's worst: it's bizarre and kinky, but unfortunately uninvolving. 2 stars
4/15/04 Ingo Usual Cronenberg, which is always a treat. But not his best. 4 stars
12/26/03 ROY L. CAIN,JR. KINKY AS HELL. Great fucking , er I mean performances, from all! 5 stars
7/16/03 Fred Thumbs for the master of car crashes. 5 stars
7/09/03 natasha_theobald disturbing, hypnotic -- not for all tastes, but the cast is uniquely watchable 4 stars
3/20/03 Jack Sommersby Never manages to cross over and involve us in the characters. Cold, impersonal film. 2 stars
12/30/02 Fonq35 If the people involved in this film were burning to death, I wouldn't even piss on 'em 1 stars
10/15/02 Ken WTF? I"d rather eat my own eyeballs than watch that again. 1 stars
10/07/02 Mark Singer Beautiful to watch, and absolutely loathsome. DeSade would be proud. 5 stars
7/27/02 Charles Tatum Softcore porn dressed up with celebrities 2 stars
7/21/02 Zargo my first "sucks all ass" and it sure does deserve it 1 stars
4/03/02 Edfink Lombardo Uninspired sex scenes...The contraversy was more interesting than the film itself 1 stars
9/03/01 The-Dude cronenbergs worst film 1 stars
3/11/01 mad hatter This movie is awful. Nothing but a bad porn with car wrecks. 1 stars
12/08/00 Cristopher Revilla Hey, A Clockwork Orange is 100 times better than this shitbag 1 stars
11/17/00 D.C. Carnahan Good pit action. 5 stars
11/01/00 Damion Cain Worst movie I have ever seen in my life. 1 stars
10/15/00 Kathy Undeemable, empty people who fill their lives with ugliness 1 stars
8/16/00 Terrie Smith A boring film about boring people. Only Cronenberg could get away with making it. 2 stars
1/10/00 Will Other than the titty shots, this is worthless. 1 stars
12/02/99 Matt Thiel If you think this piece of shit is better than Lost World or ID4 you are a fucking idiot. 1 stars
10/05/99 Bozo movie had a real 'feel' to it, and i was drawn in. the book was way better, tho. 4 stars
9/30/99 John Roberson "I find this very fascinating. I'm not sure why." 4 stars
9/16/99 David Olson One of the best of the decade. A Clockwork Orange for the 90's 5 stars
5/08/99 BraveFan One of my least favorite films I have ever seen. Read: waste of film stock. 1 stars
2/03/99 James E. Laczkowski Very audacious and cold. A reflection of our increasing dependence on technology. 4 stars
1/27/99 Bishop Johnson Is Spader not the man? Erie, yet great film! 5 stars
11/26/98 Mr.Pink Now, that is sex in the '90's for ya!!!! 5 stars
11/26/98 Justin Excellant movie. It's very intriguing. One of the most unique films of the 90's. 5 stars
11/24/98 Annu Bannu Ballard & Cronenburg Great - but I'd Rather watch good Porn Forget this one!! 1 stars
11/17/98 Jules I kinda liked it 4 stars
11/05/98 Bad Kosh Sex and car crashes, now that's totally screwed up. God, I need a drink. 1 stars
10/25/98 Lord Of The Dunce What is it about Canuck movies where they have to involve a kink? 2 stars
8/19/98 {{{OZ}}} A film about people who can only get off when having sex in a car crash. Nothing new. 3 stars
IF YOU'VE SEEN THIS FILM, RATE IT!
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USA
  21-Mar-1997 (NC-17)

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