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  Crossing Over

Starring: Harrison Ford, Cliff Curtis, Ray Liotta, Ashley Judd, Summer Bishil

Directed by: Wayne Kramer

Produced by: Kathleen Kennedy, Frank Marshall, Wayne Kramer
Written by: Wayne Kramer

Distributor: The Weinstein Company

 
     Crossing Over is a left-wing polemic on the alleged emotional savagery of United States Immigration Customs Enforcement efforts to deport illegal aliens. The filmís sheer inaccuracy and skewed depiction of ICE officers and officials is enough to make it one of the worst of the year, but writer/director Wayne Kramer and the cast also ensure that itís manipulatively made and terribly acted. Crossing Over ends up such an unintentionally funny riot that even the direst bleeding-heart liberals will see it for the piece of hackwork it is.

     The movieís complete failure is something of a surprise coming from Kramer, whose The Cooler and Running Scared were deft, high-adrenaline entertainments. The first apparent problem in Crossing Over is that Kramer made no compensation for the different tone of the material. Kramerís previous two features were largely about their stylistic over-kill and dark comic relief. The filmmaker has essentially employed the same techniques here, only they donít work at all when he expects us to take them seriously.

     Kramer clearly conceived the picture in the vein of Crash, using intersecting Los Angeles lives for his storytelling palette. The viewer first meets Max Brogan (Harrison Ford), apparently the only ICE officer in the city with a heart. Max chokes up on a raid when forced to take undocumented worker Mireya Sanchez (Alex Braga) into custody despite her pleas that she has a young son with no one to look after him. Maxís partner, Hamid Baraheri (Cliff Curtis), has his own ties to immigrant life: his Persian family are about to become naturalized despite secret violent intentions. (Rest assured: these have nothing to do with terrorism because, after all, it would be racist of us to assume a connection between Muslim violence and terrorism.)

     Also in the mix is Claire (Alice Eve), an Australian actress trying to become a citizen so she can audition. She gets in a freak car accident with immigrations processor Cole (Ray Liotta), to whom she blurts out her life story in an emotional moment, providing him the perfect blackmail leverage to make her his sex slave. Meanwhile, Claireís musician boyfriend (Jim Sturgess) tries to get himself a green-card essentially by pretending heís Jewish (yeah, you read that right) and Coleís wife Denise (Ashley Judd) works as an immigrations attorney defending Taslima Jahangir (Summer Bishil), a 15-year-old illegal who pops onto FBI radar after her school principal reports a class-speech she gave humanizing the 9/11 hijackers. In order to cover every race, a story-thread about Asian gangs is also haphazardly inserted into the plot.

     Not one thread in Crossing Over seems even remotely credible. Harrison Ford turns Max into such a melodramatic softie that heís completely unbelievable, as are his fellow ICE agents, who are depicted as ignoble nutcases who just want to inflict harm on illegals. The movieís degradation of the profession reminded me of In the Valley of Elahís despicable portrayal of American soldiers. Then again, these characters are probably depicted more credibly than Cole, who is comes off hysterically due to Ray Liottaís unintentionally hammy acting, especially during the sex scenes with Claire (ďGet down on all fours, now!Ē). By comparison, a contrived scene in which the Jim Sturgess character fakes his way through a Hebrew song in front of a Rabbi and an employment officer in a job interview seems forgivably lackadaisical; unlike the rest of the characters, he is at least kind of charming in his stupidity.

     The segment with Hamidís family feels undercooked and very confusing, which makes sense given that it was chopped up and glued back together in post-production. After complaints from Iranian groups on the inclusion of a certain violent plot-point, the studio agreed to make some cuts. (Although given the plot-point itself remains, I would be interested to know if theyíre still angry.) This same issue led Sean Penn, who initially appeared in the story-thread, to demand he be edited out of the film. Controversy aside, Penn did the right thing to save his resume from a blemish of this magnitude.

     All of the above aside, the worst scenes are those with Taslima, who Kramer constantly tries to humanize as a young girl undeserving of deportation. The viewer is supposed to sympathize with her because, after all, she was only exercising the distinctly American value of free speech in saying the U.S. should consider the motives of the 9/11 terrorists! This feels like a patent insult to audiences. Why should we have any sympathy for a girl who is in the U.S. illegally and spouts the kind of nonsense that all Americans should condemn? Kramerís use of long-takes and manipulative music in the arduous scenes in which Jasiraís family make decisions on what to do about her impending deportation represent liberal guilt-tripping in its crudest form. The movie couldíve instead examined the one interesting angle of Jasiraís story: that she was brought to the United States at three years old, not choosing to do anything illegal on her own. How that dilemma relates to immigration-policy is a fascinating issue; unfortunately, it does nothing to advance Kramerís emotionalizing so he allots it only a few glib seconds.

     For all its narrative complicatedness, Crossing Over really only has one point to make: illegal immigrants are people, just like American citizens. This has long been the party-line fostered by liberals, but I have never been able to understand why itís relevant to debate on the issue. Every one of the illegal aliens in Crossing Over, however sympathetic, deserves to be deported. Filmmaker Kramer doesnít want to accept this and takes huge narrative liberties to compensate. Beyond all of his artistic faults, Kramerís greatest sin in Crossing Over is that he embellishes and distorts the policies and people involved in the story as much as he needs to support his unfounded argument.

-Danny Baldwin, Bucket Reviews

Review Published on: 3.2.2009

Screened on: 2.28.2009 at the Laemmle Playhouse 7 in Pasadena, CA.

 

Crossing Over is rated R and runs 113 minutes.


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