An all-star cast playing characters from all walks of life who, over a period of a couple of days, become intertwined with one another’s lives through circumstances distressing, joyous, criminal and fatal. No, I’m not talking about a masterpiece lovingly crafted by Paul Thomas Anderson or Robert Altman, instead a thoroughly commercial, awards-baiting crowd-pleaser from Paul Haggis, largely depicting themes of racism and prejudice in Los Angeles. Featuring a pair of car jackers (Chris ‘Ludacris’ Bridges & Larenz Tate), a racist cop (Matt Dillon) and his rookie partner (Ryan Phillippe), dating police detectives (Don Cheadle & Jennifer Espoisto), a TV director and his wife (Terrence Howard & Thandie Newton), the LA district attorney and his socialite wife (Brendan Fraser & Sandra Bullock), a Persian storeowner and his family and a Mexican locksmith (Michael Pena), as well as secondary characters including William Fichtner and Keith David, it is clear that Haggis wanted to make a film to be discussed, to be seen by many and considered for awards a-plenty, but not necessarily a good film. The issues he discusses are important and the situations topical, for example a black director being told to make one of his characters ‘talk blacker’, or a district attorney concerned about his public ratings after being mugged by two black criminals, but the revelations are shallow and the characters stereotypical, none of them deep enough to warrant a great deal of screen time, in contrast to Anderson’s Magnolia or Altman’s Short Cuts. That said, the film is enjoyable, the cast do well and some of the dialogue is excellent, so go ahead and watch it anyway. I could argue that it didn’t deserve the Oscar for Best Picture, but up against Capote, Good Night and Good Luck, Munich and Brokeback Mountain I don’t really know who is more worthy.
Choose film 6/10