“Jesus Christ, Brogan! Everything’s a goddamn humanitarian crisis with you!” No wonder Harrison Ford looks grim. His coworkers in the immigration department thinks he’s a wuss for the compassion he shows to the illegals, then he feels guilty for deporting a pretty young mother (Alice Braga) who has begged him to look out for her child. By the time he has returned the kid to its grandparents in south-of-the-border poverty, she’s already headed in the opposite direction.
The system isn’t working much better when the lawyers get involved. Defence attorney (Ashley Judd) is still trying to find a mummy for the little African refugee with HIV. Meanwhile her husband (Ray Liotta), whose job is to adjudicate on visa applications, has persuaded an Australian actress (Alice Eve) that her citizenship is worth three months’ motel sex.
Then there’s Taslima (Summer Bishil) a young Muslim woman who is reported to the department of Homeland Security when she expresses sympathy for the 9/11 bombers in class, and the British atheist (Jim Sturgess) who takes a job teaching in an Orthodox school.
And so on.
Written and directed by Wayne Kramer (The Cooler), Crossing Over traces seven or eight LA stories on the theme of immigration, from the Korean youth sucked into gang crime to the murder of a young American-Iranian woman (the sister of Brogan’s partner).
The issues are real and serious, but the movie’s Crash-like (and Crash-lite) approach only pays off in drips and drabs. Kramer hops from one dramatic short cut to the next, and while the situations are pungent, characterization is strictly skin-deep.
Put simply, Kramer isn’t a good enough director to find the flow of these multiple stories. Linking shots of LA freeways is about as far as he goes for connective tissue. And while he’s demonstrated an ear for stylised dialogue in the past, the gift has abandoned him here as he attempts a more naturalistic idiom. The semi-starry cast struggle to make these people more than case histories. (A few succeed: the Iranian story is predictable and overly contrived, but it is performed quite convincingly – not least by Cliff Curtis, as Brogan’s partner, who is in fact a Maori actor.)
Apparently another thread – featuring Sean Penn as an immigration officer who crosses over the biggest border of all (death) was cut late in the day, either (a) at the actor’s personal request or (b) because preview audiences laughed, or possibly both, depending on what you choose to believe. I’d be curious to see it, but can’t imagine it would much improve this overlong and disappointing drama.
Like Babel – though it’s far less accomplished across the board – Crossing Over falls into a sanctimonious trough that is earnest, preachy, and not much fun to be around.
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