Paul Haggis, who penned the script for last year’s “Million Dollar Baby” follows up the Academy Award-winning film with his directorial debut, “Crash.” A drama about racism and class colliding in contemporary Los Angeles, “Crash” employs brutal honesty to stir a myriad of emotions. Critics and audiences alike are already buzzing over a possible Best Picture nomination, and it’s easy to see why.

The most attractive quality of “Crash” is the passion that Haggis infuses in every scene. He succeeds in directing a realistic and thought-provoking story. Haggis also has the uncanny knack for reproducing the rhythms and dialogue of everyday speech in his script. This is most evident in the scenes involving street-wise hustler Anthony (Christopher “Ludacris” Bridges, “Hustle and Flow”), a very opinionated and philosophical criminal. Casting a rapper like Ludacris can be a gamble, but he turns in a remarkably poised performance. However, he is just one role in an almost flawlessly cast film. Other exceptional performances are turned in from Don Cheadle (“Hotel Rwanda”) playing a black detective whose monologue at the beginning of the film instantaneously evokes a sense of poetic realism. This year’s breakout star, Terrence Howard (“Hustle and Flow”), fashions a powerful portrait of an identity-conflicted television director. This, for him, is a punctuation mark on a year marked by outstanding performances from Howard.

Lions Gate Films includes only a minimal amount of features on the DVD. The first is an audio commentary with Haggis, Cheadle and co-writer/producer Bobby Moresco. Haggis provides his personal accounts of the events which inspired him to write certain scenes. An interesting”Behind the Scenes” featurette includes several interviews with people associated with the movie who explain what the film meant to them and why they were attracted to it. The remaining features, including an introduction by Paul Haggis, promotional trailers from Lions Gate Films and a music video by Kansascali are negligible and not worth viewing.

There is brilliant camera work from cinematographer James Muro (“Open Range”), and the rich 35mm format that made the film so vivid in theaters is beautifully preserved on the DVD.

Although “Crash” may seem devoid of hope, it is ultimately a celebration of the tragic human condition. The relations and conflicts between people of varied backgrounds that allows the true soul of the movie to shine and makes “Crash” one of the year’s best films.

Ratings:

Movie: 5 out of 5 stars

Picture/Sound: 4 out of 5 stars

Features: 2 out of 5 stars

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