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March 3, 2009 |

By Dustin Rowles | Film | March 3, 2009 |

Thank God for Hollywood. Otherwise, I’d never understand foreign cultures. From the same white-guilt-sphincter that turdspersed Babel and Crash, Crossing Over splashes into the bowl of theatres. (Inarratu is Spanish for Frank Jones. Shut up, and let me make my fucking point, assfaces.) Blessed be that Hollywood is brave enough to completely bundlecunt a pastiche of National Geographic articles with a C-student’s current affairs report. The Weinsteins drop trough and speedfuck Wayne Kramer’s uber-cliched assortment of immigrant horror stories, leaving behind a sloppily interconnected web that looks like Charlotte got into the farmer’s still when spelling SOME PIG. It’s about time someone finally stood up and said, “Foreigners, illegal or otherwise, sure have it rough.” Bravo Wayne, you noble soul. Go back to making movies about Paul Walker getting hit in the face with iridescent hockey pucks and William H. Macy’s cock.

It’s not that I don’t think white people can tell someone else’s tale — Danny Boyle sure did. It’s that Kramer doesn’t even bother trying to raise captivating or challenging questions so much as soap opera-ing more ethnicities than a college admissions officer. If he stuck to just one or two — or even four — of his multitude of characters, there might have been a reasonably entertaining film somewhere. In fact, the original version was almost two-and-a-half hours and involved a subplot with Sean Penn. But if Kramer bothered to flesh out any of his characters beyond the barest generalities, the audience would notice the massive gaping holes in the logic of their behaviors. He paints everything in such stark black and white it’s as if Frank Miller illustrated a penguin orgy. Something in the neighborhood of ten individual character stories are slapped together like a junkyard pizza, the only thing keeping them together is gobs of cheese.

Harrison Ford opens the movie as Max Brogan, a weary cop on the ICE beat (ICE being the slicker renaming of INS in the same vein as “pre-owned” cars and “ultra-roasted” coffee). George Lucas and Steven Spielberg raped not just the action hero out of poor Ford but apparently his will to live. He frowns his way through every scene with his heart bleeding like the ears of the parents at the Jonas Brothers movie next door. Brogan marshals a squadron of crewcut frattards who love choke-holding brown people. He’s mocked for being too sensitive because unlike other cops, he cares if his charges have heart attacks on the way back over the border. During one raid, he ousts a young illegal mother (Alice Braga), whose abandoned son is at the babysitter’s. Brogan feels the need to pay the babysitter for hopefully the right boy and return him to Tijuana on his day off. But alas, the poor mother is not there. She’s attempted to follow another coyote back over the border into America. Dios Mio!

Brogan’s partner Hamid (the woefully underappreciated Cliff Curtis) is part of a successful Iranian family and his father is getting citizenship. His sister Zahra (Melody Khazoe) is the black sheep — because she’s doing her married boss at the copy shop. The sister and her boss are murdered in a seedy hotel, both shot through the forehead. Since the boss is some kind of Hispanic, the police assume it is gang related. Except it turns out Zahra’s death was actually an honor killing by her family. The film sets up this obvious point from the second Zahra dies: it never comes as a shock that her family had her killed or who did the killing. In fact, it gives Kramer a chance to have Brogan do an even more cliched investigation, because the cops have better things to do than track down some dead Iranian girl’s killer. Iran so far away!

Zahra’s boss had been selling fake IDs and green cards to illegal immigrants, including a young wannabe Aussie actress named Claire Shepard (Alice Eve). Claire is an illegal pursuing work on a temporary visa, and she happens to get into a car accident with Cole Frankel (Ray Liotta), who happens to have the power to grant her a working green card. The catch: two months of indentured fuckitude under the sagging hamhocks of Ray Liotta. This gives Kramer that chance to explore the gratuitous nudity and awkwardly disgusting sex scenes he’s been grossing us out with since The Cooler. Liotta is easily the greatest character and the most fleshed out (pun intended) since his is the most rational of corruptions: a dick to get a part. Crikey!

Claire’s boyfriend Gavin Kossef (Jim Sturgess) is trying a different tact to get citizenship: playing up his Jew card. He’s pretending to be ultra kosher and singing songs at the Hebrew school so he can qualify for some sort of Hebrew visa I wasn’t aware they offered. Gavin’s trying to be a musician, you see. His story is thoroughly unnecessary except it lends some much needed levity to the plot. I’d recommend cutting it, except without the mild buoyancy, this movie would have sunk in the mire of its own drudgery. Oy Vey!

Wait! I’ve only made it halfway through the characters. Liotta’s putting the pork to Faux Jew’s Koala because he’s in an unhappy marriage — to an immigration defense attorney (Ashley Judd). Surprisingly, Judd doesn’t take her top off. Instead, she plays the worst character in the film, whose entire purpose is to stare at young foreign girls and cry sympathetic tears. She’s working a case involving a young African girl who’s incarcerated in a juvenile detention center until her mother (who’s dying of AIDS, because she’s African, and saying she died of a cliche would be too much) comes to get her. Judd wants to adopt the little girl. Liotta goes through the roof, about five seconds before I did. Because all white liberals want black babies. Those shoulder purses aren’t going to fill themselves since they outlawed chihuahuas. I not only wish they eliminated Judd’s offensive character, I wish they stuck her full of crack and shoved her in a hotel room full of bugs. Hakuna Matata!

Judd’s other case involves a young Generabic girl (Summer Bishil) who’s being deported back to her native country because she gave a speech in class commiserating with the 9/11 bombers. Oh, poor Summer Bishil. Until someone realizes how gorgeous you are, you’re forever doomed to play Arabs who get bombarded with racial epithets. The speech in the classroom involves her various shades of brown classmates berating her with slurs to the point I would have reenacted the “Jeremy” video just to shut them the fuck up. I can imagine Kramer getting a boner of edginess scribbling the scene. Just because people yell “sand nigger” and “camel jockey” doesn’t make you edgy, it means you’ve spent five minutes with my drunk uncle during the World Poker Championships. Alan Ball did it better last year with the same actress, dipshit. Kramer relishes in peppering his script with alternating “fucks” and slurs. Yur Hamok Allah!

Don’t worry my Asian friends, unlike the rest of Hollywood, he didn’t forget to include you. In fact, the Asian storyline has got to make Justin Lin want to have Paul Walker and Vin Diesel drive a muscle car up onto Kramer’s lawn. The Asian teen (Justin Chon) finds himself pressured by fellow Asians to rob a Koreatown grocery store. They’re presumably Korean, but why really focus on racial specificity when you don’t bother to do it with any other culture in the movie. The family is due to get citizenship. Kramer ties them in to the story because Harrison Ford uses their DRY CLEANERS. That’s right. The Asian guy runs a fucking dry cleaners. Better luck tomorrow. Domo arigato Mr. Roboto!

The movie keeps intersecting like that, getting more and more preposterous and chaotic as it tumbles to a cluttering stop like tennis shoes in a washing machine. The standoff in the Korean liquor store (which is the other career option when Asian in Los Angeles: dry cleaners, noodle restaurant, liquor store owner, or nail salon) is so outrageously overwrought, I’m surprised Clarence and Alabama didn’t run through the middle with Elvis. But Kramer needed to get his explosive bloodshed squeezed in. At least it wasn’t John Woo, motherfucker would have released doves. Every storyline has to be tied off in a terrible bow, including the showdown between Brogan and Hamid, which takes place AT THE FUCKING NATURALIZATION CEREMONY. While a black man sings a soulful rendition of the National Anthem. I was waiting for Brogan to stab his partner through the chest with an American flag while grumbling, “Don’t tread on me.” And then Ashley Judd can show up and cry.

Kramer does a disservice to every one of these characters by slapdashing their storylines. He should have cut three or four plots, and then he would have had just one kind of bad movie. It was like he was trying to recreate Kieslowski’s Decalogue or Trois Coleurs, only instead of individual strains of Red, White, and Blue, he swirled everything together to make Bleh — the purplish brown color of all kindergarten fingerpaintings. It’s not an effective film because we never once get bonded to a single character. Each one is a poorly made short film. Cobbling them together makes it a poorly made soap opera. Perhaps the 140 minute version explains things better. Sean Penn had a small part but backed out after protests over the honor killing from Iranians. I can’t imagine what cliche he was supposed to represent. He probably played himself, only douchier.

This film will hardly put a blemish on anyone’s career, since none of them have done anything much lately anyway. Plus, the Weinstein’s are burying this deeper than the hooker Harvey killed with a Mountain Dew bottle. Kramer can go back to making his angry little films like Neveldine and Taylor, only with more sorrowful music so you appreciate the artistry. Those two might be assclowns, but at least they don’t pretend to be studious assclowns. When they slap you in the face with their dicks, they don’t try to give you a morality tale to go with it. It’s just a shame about Harrison Ford. Maybe Eastwood will throw him a bone. They can do Gran Torino 2: Extremely Grumpy Old Men In Search For The Crystal Hip Replacement. Eastwood can shoot at Asians from his front porch and Harrison Ford can grumble at him not to. And then Ashley Judd can show up and cry. And then take her top off.

Brian Prisco lives in a pina down by the mer-port of Burbank, by way of the cheesesteak-laden arteries of Philadelphia. When not traveling in and out of books to stay narrowly ahead of the pack of Cannonball Readers, he can be found on a Wii Fit staying narrowly ahead of a massive coronary infarction. He catches what floats down in the sewers of the comments section and burps it up for your amusement. Any and all grumblings can be directed to priscogospel at hotmail dot com. He steadfastly awaits the day when Mayor McCheese comes up for re-election so he can finally bust up the porkbellies of McTammany Hall.

Crossing Over / Brian Prisco

Film | March 3, 2009 |

Dustin is the founder and co-owner of Pajiba. You may email him here or follow him on Twitter.

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