Monday, March 16, 2009

Crossing Over Looks Like A Sequel To Crash

Immigrants from around the world enter Los Angeles every day, with hopeful visions of a better life, but little notion of what that life may cost. Their desperate scenarios test the humanity of immigration enforcement officers. In Crossing Over, writer-director Wayne Kramer explores the allure of the American dream, and the reality that immigrants find--and create--in 21st century L.A

The struggle to achieve resident alien status, or gain full-blown citizenship in the United States, provides some thought-provoking material in this feature from director Wayne Kramer. Crossing Over is an ensemble piece that contains many overlapping storylines, most of which revolve around Max Brogan (Harrison Ford), a law enforcement official who specializes in arresting people who break stringent immigration laws. Joining Ford is Ray Liotta, who plays a corrupt immigration official who forces a wannabe Australian actress (Alice Eve) to sleep with him in exchange for a green card. The film also focuses on the rigorous guidelines laid down in post-9/11 America, with Kramer detailing the shocking maltreatment of a teenage girl who faces deportation after giving a misguided high school presentation on terrorism. These tales, and several others, all combine to present an intricate overview of the desperate and often overwhelmingly sad lengths people will go to so they can remain in the United States. Kramer’s film closely mirrors other harrowing ensemble pieces such as Paul Haggis’s Crash. Crossing Over carefully presents many different sides of this complicated issue and also examines how coincidence and good fortune can play a part in achieving resident status. Ford is perfectly cast as the downcast lead character who battles with the moral and ethical ramifications of his job, and frequently gets too close to the people he is required to prosecute. Kramer skillfully interweaves each tale and allows just enough screen time to each of his characters, with Cliff Curtis leading the supporting cast by playing an Iranian-American immigration official whose life is irrevocably altered by a series of tragic personal and professional occurrences. Crossing Over, Wayne Kramer's achingly earnest drama of immigrants (legal, illegal and on the road to naturalization) seeking their place in Los Angeles, feels an awful lot like the multicultural "Crash," complete with its crisscrossing stories, heavy ironies and even heavier moralizing. The film is more pedantic than personal, but Kramer puts on a good show of outrage as he slashes through the complexity of the issues with superficial stories and simple emotional responses. The expediency of ICE agents can be heartless and terrorist fears result in overreaction. Generational struggles between immigrant parents and their American-raised kids erupt in tragedy. Or redemption. Or whatever. With the film spread so thin over all these superficial stories, there isn't much time to get to know the characters beyond their symbolic value. And given the life-and-death stakes of the disenfranchised who came looking for a better life for their kids, it's hard to sympathize for the pretty, young show-biz hopefuls scheming to extend their visas. For all the bludgeoning insistence of Kramer's contrived plots and blunt direction, there's not much conviction to the outrage. Just wasn't as good at it could've been. A 3 on my "Go See" scale.

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