Crossing Over (dir/scr: Wayne Kramer)
Call it Crash II: Imported Lives. Wayne Kramer’s oh-so-self-important tale of the the poor, the tired, the hungry huddled masses escaping persecution and the starry-eyed showbiz hopefuls all grabbing for their piece of American dream plays like contribution to the franchise of multi-cultural clashes in the lumpy melting pot of Los Angeles. He makes a point of tossing his (drag)net wide; there are Mexicans who have illegally crossed the border to work under-the-radar jobs, young hopefuls from Britain and Australia trying to break into show business in the entertainment capital of the world, an Iranian family who fled the increasingly repressive Iran under the Ayatollah, a Korean family about to become naturalized citizens while the teenage son is pulled into a gang, an orphaned African girl awaiting some kind of adoption. Meanwhile Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents (led by Harrison Ford, who lends the film its only class with a quiet, understated performance as a sensitive agent who tries to walk through the morass with a modicum of empathy) sorts the illegal arrivals from the legal immigrants.
A few years ago, Kramer created a delightfully lightfingered character piece called The Cooler. That Kramer is nowhere in sight. This is directed with fists gripping a sledgehammer to pound his points home.
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.
Read the complete review here.