From director Wayne Kramer who made the too cool for words ‘The Cooler’ and the completely crazy over the top action flick ‘Running Scared’ comes a much more serious film for the auteur as he goes ‘Crash’ or ‘Syriana’ on us with his latest movie ‘Crossing Over’. However Kramer won’t be taking on race relations or terrorism in his film but immigration, delivering a multi threaded narrative with enough characters to fill Yankee Stadium in a heavy handed, manipulative tome that ultimately I did enjoy.
Allrighty then. Meet Max Brogan as flawlessly played by the legendary Harrison Ford. Max is an immigration officer who probably has a heart that’s just a little too big for his job. After a raid of some shop filled to the brim with illegal workers he spies out young Mireya Sanchez (Alice Braga) attempting to hide, but to no avail as Max takes her to the bus to have the little cutie deported. The problem is Ms. Sanchez’s five year old son is staying with some woman and if she doesn’t get this shrew her weekly fifty bucks she will put the five year old boy out on the street. This really is not Max’s concern, but we did point out that Max does tend to lead with his heart.
Max works with naturalized Iranian Hamid Baraheri (Cliff Curtis). Hamid is a very good officer and a good son but his baby sister Zahra (Melody Khazae) is something else. Born in America she seems to have little respect for the ways of her devout Muslim family as she behaves in manner, well, not fitting for just about anybody much less a Muslim.
Speaking of Muslim’s say hello to fifteen year old Taslima (Summer Bishil). We have a problem with the character of Taslima. Taslima has been in this country since she was three so she probably should have a pretty good feel about how certain Americans think, particularly the teenagers she goes to school with. Teenagers, generally speaking, aren’t critical thinkers but reactionaries so when she gives a passionate speech in class which practically champions the actions of the 9-11 bombers, we do question why the child would get all upset as her classmates uniformly turn on her. However our main problem with the character and the way she was written is that she is presented to us
as very intelligent. Thus she should know full well what the climate of Homeland Security America is like in 2009 and thus when a devout Muslim teenager turns in a paper sympathetic to an act of terrorism it’s going to get some attention. This is generally no major problem in a country based on free speech - unless your Muslim parents, and you for that matter, happen to be in this country illegally. Low profile baby. Low profile. And now we have a problem.
Taslima is being legally represented by immigration lawyer Denise Frankel (Ashley Judd) who has found the cutest little African girl who she would just love to adopt. However her husband Cole (Ray Liotta) is not on board with that plan even a little bit. The mid-level immigration pencil pusher is too busy extorting nasty sex from Claire (Anna Eve), a hopeful actress from Australia who is in desperate need of a Green Card. Claire will do what she has to do but she’d much rather be having nasty sex with her British boyfriend Gavin (Jim Sturgess) who is running his own scam trying to milk his Jewish heritage to gain permanent entrance into the U.S.A. to play his music. Being a non-Hebrew speaking atheist is making this a challenge.
Finally, I think, we have South Korean Yong Kim (Justin Chon). Yong is pretty much a hateful little brat who has hooked up with the wrong crowd and with he and his families naturalization ceremony just days away, he’s on the verge of ruining everything for everybody.
As you can see there is an awful lot going in ‘Crossing Over’ and that doesn’t even cover the murder mystery, the missing person mystery and a host of other little subplots and threads that writer director Kramer has tossed in his stew. As much stuff as was stuffed in this films it’s not nearly as unwieldy or as convoluted as it would seem because personally I had no problem following the branching story lines and how they tied together. Now considering how some of them came together and how they ended up being linked it did force one to suspend belief quite a bit.
The ensemble cast did a fine job in delivering Kramer’s messages across, especially Harrison Ford who might not be spry enough to be Indiana Jones anymore but still can command the screen when given the right part as he was here. I also believer Kramer did good job in handling the tone of the film which at times was grossly depressing but was also tinged with hope and even a little bit of joy.
The really interesting things about ‘Crossing Over’ have less to do with the actual movie than the controversy surrounding the movie such as the Weinstein’s forcing Kramer to edit 25 or so minutes off of his original cut and Sean Penn forcing the Weinstein’s to cut his scenes from the film after an Iranian action group protested about the inclusion of an ‘honor killing’ in the movie. This is disturbing on a number of levels. It is unsettling that a powerful actor can make such a thing happen and makes one wonder how many times something of this nature taken place before. Also, there was no ‘Honor Killing’ in this movie just the actions of one lone crazy cat. What can be more upsetting than folks protesting a movie they haven’t seen yet? Disturbing I tell you. I have been offended by some movies in my day but I did take the time to watch them first.
But back to ‘Crossing Over’ for we have to say that most of those who have and will see the film will observe that subtlety is not the order of the day here. It is heavy handed, it wears its emotions squarely on its sleeves and has some characters which I found to be highly unrealistic in addition to offering very few answers to the myriad of questions it raises. It is also a captivating film with great performances from a very well round rounded cast who made what was happening in front of me interesting to watch from start to finish. I think it would be better to see the movie that Wayne Kramer wanted us to see but it looks like this truncated cut is going to have to do, and as it is that stands, it’s not so bad.