It’s telling that the Academy had to select a film from 2004 to compete (and win!) in their 2005 Awards ceremony. After much hype and hullabaloo about “the other” film specifically designed to pander to the mainstream media and a specific political agenda this one walked away with top honors – the Oscar for Best Motion Picture of the Year. Additionally co-producer Paul Haggis (with Cathy Schulman) who wrote this crime drama’s story shared the Best Screenplay (Written Directly for the Screen) Academy Award with Robert Moresco. Editor Hughes Winborne also took home the gold. Haggis’s direction the Kathleen York-Michael Becker Original Song “In the Deep” and Supporting Actor Matt Dillon were also nominated. With the exception of Haggis (Million Dollar Baby (2004)) these nominations represented the first (and only to date) Academy recognition for all concerned.
The plot contains several cleverly woven together story-lines featuring over-the-top or extreme characters (virtually everyone is a racist and/or a victim of discrimination) each with definite prejudices which represent the racial makeup and stereotypes one associates with (post 9/11?) Los Angeles California. Sandra Bullock plays the wife of LA’s district attorney (Brendan Fraser) – when their SUV is carjacked by two Black men their true viewpoints are quick to the surface; Don Cheadle plays a police detective who’s elevated by the DA per William Fichtner’s character to a token position in the aftermath; he’s “dating” (more like doing) a Latino police officer played by Jennifer Esposito to whom he derogatorily refers to as Mexican; Michael Pena plays a Mexican locksmith who’s “put down” by an Iranian (Shaun Toub) store owner; Dillon plays an over-the-line cop (with an initially hidden motivation) who hassles Terrence Howard’s television producer character and his light skinned wife (Thandie Newton) when he catches her giving her husband pleasure in their (similar model) SUV; the film’s title refers to an automobile crash central in the film in which Dillon’s character saves her life that marks the start of some realization and change; Ludacris plays one of the aforementioned carjackers who’s down on his “brothers” for Black on Black crime; Larenz Tate is his partner in crime who likes country music & hockey; Ryan Phillippe plays Dillon’s rookie partner whose idealism is challenged … and so forth. Even Tony Danza appears as a sitcom actor who’s got a problem with “Howard” for allowing one of his show’s Black characters to talk “White” (e.g. properly). What begins as a story of intolerance slowly becomes one of enlightenment for some (even without a requisite homosexual character!) in this well structured hyperbole to the very end (e.g. when Loretta Devine’s character gets her comeuppance).