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Crash DVD Review

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by Chris McEneany Sep 1, 2005

    Crash DVD Review
    SRP: £17.97

    Picture

    Erroneously promoted as being an anamorphic 1.85:1 image - it even says so on the DVD case - Crash has an anamorphic 2.35:1 image that, sadly, does not do the film justice. Neither as sharp or as vibrant as I'd have liked, the disc does, however, manage to retain the wonderful framing of the film, with distinction. The overall softness of the image seems to benefit the neon-draped landscape, giving the movie a hazy, languid sheen. The grain, which is present during a lot of darker scenes, may be intentional for Haggis's neo-noirish vibe and, as such, I didn't have a problem with it.

    Colours are a little muted at times which, again, could be intentional - though the explosion of Newton's overturned car does look stunning - and the black levels are fairly strong and deep, without being too intimidating. This isn't a film where things lurk in dark corners, after all. Contrast is tested throughout, with many shifts from light to dark and vice-versa and the disc copes very well with these transitions. The two car-jackers taking a stroll to catch the bus in the crisp winter sunlight could have flared out terribly, given the otherwise subtle shadings of the film, but I found the disc handled such things with ease.

    Edges have been enhanced, and on the 44 inch screen, this was almost reaching the point of distraction. Apparently, there are few copies of Crash floating about that are stricken with obvious artifacting, as well. Whilst I noticed some with this review copy, it was only a very minimal amount and nothing that would trouble me.

    So, I'm afraid that Crash has not been granted the best of transfers, but it is still eminently watchable and really only problematic when you are viewing it on a bigger screen. Those with projectors may well suffer.
    Crash Picture

    Sound

    Lions Gate has given Crash both Dolby Digital 5.1 and 2.0 tracks. The 2.0 mix is actually quite tasty with plenty of depth and a fair degree of separation across the front. The full 5.1 mix is, by contrast, a bit of a letdown. We still get plenty of directional steerage across the front soundstage and a good level of clarity but there is little to command the respect of the rear speakers, or the sub. Obviously, the film doesn't intend to blast acoustics around the room as it is predominantly dialogue driven, and the speech always emanates clearly and crisply. Even the pivotal car explosion feels subdued and without the weight you'd get from the same thing in, say, a Jerry Bruckheimer movie. There are some good, though underplayed, steerage effects to occasionally jazz up the track - cars moving audibly across and around the room and some pretty convincing all-around babble in some scenes - though, overall, the tricks are kept to a minimum.

    But, what really comes across with a simply gorgeous presentation is Mark Isham's fabulously hypnotic score. A good set-up will have it reaching gently in from each speaker until its haunting ambient tones swirl soothingly around you. The score often reveals some soft echoing deep within its design and the 5.1 mix will, at least, show off its depth and beauty.

    Not at all bombastic, then, but Crash still provides an engrossing aural experience. Still, could have been a little more dynamic, though.
    Crash Sound

    Extras

    Well, somewhat perplexingly for a movie of this status, we don't get a great deal of extras for Crash. Forget Haggis's introduction - it lasts for 15 seconds and just has the man himself saying, “This is Crash ... and this is the DVD.” Erm, pointless.

    Crash: Behind The Scenes (10.06 mins) does exactly what it says on the tin and delivers us some talking heads from the likes of Haggis, Moresco, Bullock, Newton, Fraser and Cheadle. Higgis says the idea - which sprang from a real-life car-jacking incident - was to see how one person's actions could affect another, without them even realising it. Morescu thinks that the racism in the film gets ugly, but I agree with Cheadle's interpretation more - that it just has a natural, everyday feel to it. We are not talking American History X, here. Crash is far more subtle, despite its ever-present barrage of intolerance. Cheadle also makes the very pertinent point about the film revealing how much LA, itself, plays on people. Basically, this featurette hints at terrific debate and insight but it is wasted by being far too short and having half of its running time spent showing clips from the film.

    The Commentary Track which features Haggis, Bobby Morecsu and Don Cheadle is a lot more detailed but still suffers from overview and much praise for everyone involved. Higgis does like to point out little items of interest placed in shots for thematic relevance, and the connection of one set of events to another in the broad canvas of the film's plot. He also seems keen to play up the scenario of one man's actions causing a ripple-effect felt by many, as opposed to the racism angle that is just a convenient vehicle for the drama. It's not a bad track, but still felt a little dry to me.

    Next up is the Music Video for “If I ...” by Kansascali (4.18 mins), trailers for Crash's soundtrack CD's and theatrical trailers for Rize, Diary Of A Mad Black Woman, A Good Woman, the phenomenal Switchblade Romance and an incredible trailer for something called Killing Words.

    Crash deserves a lot better than this meagre assortment. I remember seeing Haggis mentioning a selection of deleted scenes that he was going to place on the DVD. Perhaps there's another edition in the pipeline, folks.
    Crash Extras

    Verdict

    If the review seems somewhat erratic, then that is because the film is, too. The heavy-handed first act pushes the realms of audience-involvement in its themes almost too far. Sometimes you are just begging for the screenplay to make just one slight deviation from its single-minded mission. But, Haggis wins hands-down with his cast, who deliver marvellous performances all-round. Shaun Toub excels, though and the film does benefit from a repeat viewing, as it helps to enmesh the somewhat ridiculous string of coincidences with a little more solidity. And that bravura sequence that had me shell-shocked? Well, it may be simple knee-jerk manipulation but the acting, and the pure cinematic verve employed is a revelation.

    Lions Gate's DVD is not that enthralling, though. In fact, it is downright disappointing. The extras are light on the ground, leading me to believe that there will be another edition along soon, and the AV quality is of only standard fare. Whatever your opinion of the film, it deserved a better treatment than this. Still, I cannot help but recommend the movie. Nowhere near as deep, traumatic or as flashpoint-confrontational as you may have been led to believe, Crash still packs an emotional wallop that, in the space of one sequence alone, could have you reeling.

    The Rundown

    Movie

    7

    Picture Quality

    6

    Sound Quality

    6

    Extras

    5

    Overall

    7

    7
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