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Angelenos Struggle Through Crash Course on Immigration

Crossing Over (2009)

Dale Robinette/The Weinstein Company

“Crossing Over” tosses into one convenient grab bag all the political rhetoric and literary clichés from the recent public debate on immigration. Interspersed with sprawling aerial shots of Los Angeles, the film’s episodic narrative and interconnected characters weave together something akin to a mash-up of recent entries such as “Crash” by Paul Haggis, “The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada,” “Under the Same Moon” and “Gran Torino.”

Harrison Ford plays an immigration and customs officer who takes it upon himself to reunite a deported woman and the son she left behind. Ashley Judd is an immigration attorney with a Mother Teresa complex. Ray Liotta portrays a bureaucrat who coaxes an aspiring actress from Australia (here illegally, of course) into a sexual liaison. There are numerous others, among them a Bangladeshi student who faces arrest after delivering an incendiary essay on 9/11, and a Korean teen sucked in by the lure of gang life.

A native of South Africa who became a naturalized U.S. citizen only in 2000, writer-director Wayne Kramer has here incorporated what appears to be firsthand knowledge about foreigners in the creative and artistic fields maneuvering to stay in America. It’s certainly admirable for him to acknowledge that Caucasians from the western hemisphere are indeed capable of overstaying their welcome in this country. Beyond that, Mr. Kramer doesn’t seem any more plugged into the plight of immigrants than his contemporaries. “Crossing Over” operates on a plethora of assumptions about green cards, fake IDs, sweatshops and governmental bureaucracy. These aren’t mere simplifications to help streamline a two-hour narrative, but a complete trivialization of difficulties confronted daily by both immigrants and authorities.

Mr. Haggis’s Oscar-winning “Crash” both elicited liberal guilt and affirmed the worst racial stereotypes because of its stubborn attempt at ambiguity across the board. While Mr. Kramer does seem to believe in the decency of his characters, their individual stories eventually become so far-fetched that, in the end, they are virtually indistinguishable from Hollywood baloney.


Opens on Feb. 27 in Manhattan.

Written and directed by Wayne Kramer; director of photography, James Whitaker; edited by Arthur Coburn; music by Mark Isham; production designer, Toby Corbett; produced by Frank Marshall and Mr. Kramer; released by the Weinstein Company. Running time: 1 hour 53 minutes. This film is rated R.

WITH: Harrison Ford (Max Brogan), Ray Liotta (Cole Frankel), Ashley Judd (Denise Frankel), Jim Sturgess (Gavin Kossef), Cliff Curtis (Hamid Baraheri), Alice Eve (Claire Shepard), Justin Chon (Yong Kim) and Summer Bishil (Taslima Jahangir).


I applaud this film for trying to handle complex themes like immigration in a mature manner. Unfortunately, there is much more that could have been done with this story. As it stands, though, it is merely a passable viewing experience.

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