Rotten Tomatoes Critics - Rotten 59%
Rotten Tomatoes Audience - Upright 61%
IMDb Rating 6.4 10 50271

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James Spader as James Ballard
Holly Hunter as Helen Remington
Rosanna Arquette as Gabrielle
Elias Koteas as Vaughan

Movie Reviews

Reviewed by Glaurung (academic dragon) 10 / 10

An anti-erotic exploration of the hollowness of modern life

Crash is a very sexually explicit film, but if you buy or rent this movie expecting it to be an evening's erotic entertainment, you are going to be disappointed, because it is also an anti-erotic film.

Even in the midst of frenzied lovemaking, the characters remain distant, their voices quiet and abstracted, their gazes directed inward. These are people who have been told all their lives by their culture, by TV and movies, that sex is, on the one hand, the most perfect form of communion and connection with another human being; and, on the other hand, that it is the ultimate in transcendent and transformative experiences. Instead, they discover to their horror that even during sex they still feel nothing. They crave connection, they are starved for a glimpse of transcendence, but no matter what they do, no matter who they do it with or how often, while their bodies may feel passion, their minds and hearts remain cold and empty.

In the more recent movie Pleasantville, the Jennifer/Mary Sue character is unable to feel anything either, and remains stubbornly black and white no matter how much sex she has, until her brother suggests that "maybe it isn't the sex" that is the key to moving from black and white to color, from passionlessness to feeling. Unfortunately, in Crash, there is no one to suggest to David and Catherine Ballard that maybe it isn't through sex that they will find the transformation and connection they are craving. So they instead seek more and more extreme forms of sexual stimulation, only to be disappointed again and again.

James is hurt in a car crash, and during his stay in the hospital he meets Helen (who was in the other car) and later Vaughan, a man who like James and Catherine is in desperate search of feeling, only he looks for it in the violence of car crashes. With Helen, at first James, then Catherine too is drawn into Vaughan's world, where sex and death (eros and thanatos for you Freudians) meet in the twisted metal of wrecked cars and the mutilated bodies of the victims of fatal car crashes and the survivors of near-fatal ones.

They attend staged recreations of famous car crashes, like the one that killed James Dean. They have sex in crashed cars, and start touring crash sites on the freeway as a form of foreplay. They begin to watch films of crash tests and fatal race accidents like other people would watch erotic films, and to have sex with people whose bodies have been mutilated by car crashes.

But not even the horror of mutilation or the adrenaline rush of near-death experience can lend James and Catherine's desperate coupling the depth of feeling that they so desperately crave.

Like all the people who buy expensive automobiles to give them a feeling of power and independence, only to discover that no matter how snazzy their car is, they still feel powerless and unhappy, James and Catherine have bought into one of our culture's Big Lies, that sex is the answer. This film shows us that it is not.

Reviewed by Skeptic459 8 / 10

What a bunch of weirdo's! Awesome movie!

Crash caused a huge stir in the United Kingdom. Many conservatives were outraged by the combination of sex, already an issue of danger because of aids, and traffic accidents. Dangerous driving is like smoking, a subject that you just can't touch without many moral watchdogs chasing you through a hellish puritan junkyard.

I remember seeing this and a middle aged to elderly man in the theater began to quite obviously...ahem...trouser cough. This was one hell of a way to clear the cinema! That moment is pretty much like this film. Crash has weird sex and masterbation, stuff that you do not really want to see. But David Cronenberg with the help of James Ballard drags us into a world that just takes the whole 'I love cars' boy racer thing way too far! It is just not healthy...

Ballard writes in a bleak monotone. A monotone that Chuck Palahniuk seeks to imitate unsuccessfully. All of his characters are alien because of their lack of emotion. Cronenberg takes this aspect and runs with it. This makes the film good not because of the familiarity and sympathy that the viewer can build with the characters. It is actually quite the opposite, the film strikes the viewer because of the sheer UNREALITY of what is happening. The complete and utter icy way that everything is presented just leaves the viewer going 'what?' Am I watching a bunch of jellyfish here? The characters are so jaded. Trying desperately to experience emotion in an industrialized emotionless world. A world that has become nothing more than a production line. Good Ford! Sorry, Huxley joke. Nerdy but necessary.

Also, Cronenberg is presenting a discourse that the famous intellectual Donna Haraway puts forward. That basically the human race has become cyborgs. The the human form is constantly changing. That machines are changing our humanity and crash seems to say that our own sexuality can mingle with the mundane machines that we hold so dear. Oh no! I am getting flashbacks of the crazed artist! Besides I bet in the future, terminators would make much more money as sexual partners, rather than as assassins. Imagine that, a beautiful spouse who always thinks your right and never argues with you. I LOVE THE FUTURE!

Sex is considered to be the ultimate joining of two people. The most intimate way that human beings can connect to one another. Wrong! This film suggests that sex means...well, nothing really. Procreation and a simple physical reaction. This is shown by James Spader and his wife's, Deborah Unger, relationship. These two are so jaded they tell each other their sexual adventures for attempted excitement but feel absolutely nothing. Certainly not some sought of emotional closeness to one another.

This film is just so incredibly empty. But it is also a comment on the human condition. How we make almost suicidal attempts to attain pleasure. If this was a film about heroin for instance, about junkies, this film would be much more understandable. Ballard has taken this addictive, self destructive behaviour and replaced it with an everyday object. The motor car. It is a brilliantly simple idea! But look at how many people it has horrified and offended! C'mon people, are we really this stupid? Sex and drugs, sex and violence. Sex, drugs and violence. These things are all o.k. Portrayed constantly in Hollywood movies. Van Diesel anybody? But sex and car accidents, how dare you? What kind of a sick freak are you??!! Consider how hypocritical this is when you watch something like Fast and the Furious.

This is also a film that features the psychological nature of fetish heavily. Instead of having the common fetish for breasts or bottoms, which again people might find more understandable. The fetish is actually for wounds and crash test dummy videos! That scene with Rosanna Arquette, ewww! Would that work? This is definitely something that no one should try at home.

David Cronenberg really deserves credit for making this film. He really has some big balls and respects the intelligence of the audience, which I however do not. All of the actors deserve much credit for taking on some truly difficult material. They must really trust the director. I'm surprised no one said 'no David, you are out to lunch on this one!' This film could have become a parody so easily. Never have I seen a film where everyone in the audience seemed so uncomfortable with the material. In fact, when I saw this film without the trouser coughing, people still walked out. It hasn't been since Salo that I have see a movie upset so many people. I give this 8 out of 10 for sheer weirdness. A great moment in a major auteur's career who is not afraid to take risks. Hollywood take note!

Reviewed by derekpond1962 9 / 10

A Brilliant Analysis of Our Relationship with Technology

In 1996, Crash (1996, Cronenberg) won The Jury Special Prize at Cannes. However, this proved to be a rare positive response. In other quarters, the picture was almost universally loathed and condemned as perverted and repulsive. Westminster Council in London banned it outright. The Daily Mail and Evening Standard in particular saw the film as threatening to public morals, criticising it regularly, often on their front pages. Christopher Tookey, writing in The Daily Mail, caused outrage amongst the disabled lobby by using the phrase 'sex with cripples'. This seems to have caused more offence than by anything in the film. Alexander Walker described Crash as "a movie beyond the bounds of depravity." So what's really been going on? Crash is David Cronenberg's third masterpiece. However, unlike Videodrome and Naked Lunch there is no confusion between reality and hallucination. The protagonists actually engage in even the more extreme behaviours in Crash. The characters engage in seemingly random acts of dangerous driving, crashing cars and sex but there is more to Crash than "sex and wrecks". The film is also a deeply disturbing analysis of the interplay between these obsessions in the lives of a group of emotionally damaged people.

Crash is a movie about unsatisfying relationships, in particular the flawed relationships between the main characters. The empty relationship between Catherine and James Ballard; the strange relationship between the protagonists and their cars; and the tortured relationships between the characters and their body modifications (crash injuries).

Vaughn's relationship with his car is extremely personal – he lives in it and "f**ks" in it. His car is described by Catherine as a "bed on wheels". Ballard tells his wife that it "smells of semen". Crash asks us: what relationship do we have with our vehicles? Is it our mobile office? Or is it perhaps our refuge from reality, a place of safety and seclusion when we want to be alone? Are we relieved when we are able to escape from daily pressures into the safety of that mobile metal womb? With reference to Crash, Cronenberg has remarked: "A car is not the highest of high tech. But it has affected us and changed us more than anything else in the last hundred years. We have incorporated it. The weird privacy in public that it gives us. The sexual freedom – which in the '50s wasn't even subtle! So we have already incorporated the car into our understanding of time, space, distance and sexuality. To want to merge with it literally in a more physical way seems a good metaphor. There is a desire to fuse with techno-ness." The sex in Crash is mundane and boring, a joyless experience for all involved ("Did you come?" asks James of his wife as she tells him about her latest conquest. "No", she replies.) The participants seem distracted, cold and distant. They rarely even face one another during sex, with the action being mostly from behind. The characters seem distracted, looking off into the distance, their eyes dead and empty, such as when James and Catherine have sex and discuss Vaughn. There is a third person involved in their actions.

The cars end up as twisted and damaged as the people involved. The wreckage that Vaughn and company leave behind symbolises the wrecked and soulless relationships they have with each other. After a crash, the driver and passengers are removed, effectively removing the car's beating heart. Vaughn and his companions inject temporary new life into the wrecks by reclaiming them, either as drivers or as a place to have sex in. Conversely, the broken and smashed vehicles seem to give life to their new inhabitants, who only seem to be really alive and able to connect with their feelings when they are either behind a wheel or having sex in the back.

As an uncompromising comment upon how our lives and behaviour have been affected and altered by modern technology, Crash is exceptional in its bravery and honesty. The film's characters find their bodies being altered and twisted by modern science in the form of cars. Advancing technology, Cronenberg tells us, alters us, and will continue to do so as it becomes more integrated into our lives and our personal and collective consciousnesses. Our world, our behaviour and our bodies will continue to change as technology invades our flesh and our minds.

These themes of metamorphosis, mutation and 'treacherous flesh' have been explored by Cronenberg in practically every one of his previous movies, perhaps most successfully in Videodrome (1982) and The Fly (1986). Videodrome considers the impact and influence of broadcast media on human behaviour and sexuality and implies that "you can actually change what it means to be a human being in a physical way" (Cronenberg, 1997). The Fly studies these same themes, but replaces technology with disease. The potential of illness to transform the physical shell is contrasted with the changes forced on our bodies by the aging process. "We're used to our bodies changing. First we grow up, then we grow down. There's only a moment where there are a few years of the illusion of stability. It doesn't last long" (Cronenberg, 1997) This singularity of vision confirms Cronenberg as an auteur with imagination, single-mindedness and power, as well as a disturbing new vision of the world. Indeed, 'Cronenberg-esque' has become a term describing a specific and unique genre, one that is unlike any other associated with typical horror cinema.

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