Crossing Over begs the audience to take it seriously. It wants to make an impact on you so badly despite its hollow shell of a narrative. Obviously inspired by the immigration “crisis” which had the United States broiling with racial discomfort, Crossing Over tries to capitalize on all of the stirred emotions still floating about – only to find the waters cooled and tempers no longer quite so high. The audience the film needed in order to succeed no longer existed; its opportunistic theme staled before Harrison Ford’s laughably clichéd first lines of dialogue rolled out. Perhaps that’s why the film feels like a mixed bag of preaching and shock and awe instead of a rational argument for or against strict immigration control.
Crossing Over spends its time divided between five connected narratives and attempts to ply its messages of cultural integration, manipulation and corruption with each one. Max Brogan (Ford) has worked in law enforcement his entire life and he’s finding his current assignment in immigration enforcement wears on his conscience after he deports a woman with her child left abandoned stateside. As Brogan goes about his job, he stumbles across a cover-up that his partner Hamid (Cliff Curtis) might be involved in.
Cole Frankel (Ray Liotta) has a fateful encounter with Aussie actress Claire (Alice Eve) and manipulates her into sexual acts in exchange for his expediting her visa renewal. On the opposite end of the spectrum, Cole’s wife Denise (Ashley Judd) fights for the cause of an Arabic immigrant girl after she delivers a speech showing sympathies for the terrorists of 9/11 and draws federal attention to her illegal status within the country. Two sides of the same coin, played against each other all too conveniently in a husband and wife dichotomy. Do you fight for the rights of immigrants? Or do you take advantage of them for personal gain. Crossing Over shows both acts to have undesirable consequences – proving that with immigration issues there’s no clear winner.
In yet another tangent, an Asian youth gets involved with illegal activities in an effort to establish his place within his community – with catastrophic results. At the same time, Gavin Kossef (Jim Sturgess) tries to finagle his way into citizenship by lying about his good standing with the synagogue. Once again the stories have striking parallels with each youth proving themselves only to end up with wildly different results thanks in large part to the methods they used to get there.
The twists plotted for each of the storylines never seem as shocking as director and writer Wayne Kramer clearly wanted them to be. When the Arabic girl delivers her speech, the feint at generating anger and emotion in the general American audience couldn’t be more blatant. The real issue that surfaces from her storyline is not whether one can understand terrorism without sympathizing (which gets a curt nod but is never explored), but whether illegal immigrants deserve our empathy. Should we be feeling pain for a girl so defiant to American values even though she’ll be forced to leave her family behind in deportation? The speech indicates the film knows its audience but then somewhere along the line it forgets itself when it strays so far over the line of rational argument into emotional hollering that any coherent message gets lost.
When a film loses sight of the message that formed the very basis for its creation does it still have any value? The dialogue of the film is so painfully cop-drama formula that characters with badges embarrass the country as they discuss their woes with all the predictable machismo of a Frank Miller character. But it doesn’t stop with the cops – even the general civilians in the movie speak with hackneyed precision. Ray Liotta’s bed-talk with Alice Eve could be replaced with any generic conversation between any talent agent and celebrity that has ever appeared in film.
Crossing Over came too late to the debate; but even had it gotten here on time, it still would’ve fallen flat thanks to a tangled and unintelligible message.
DVD Bonus Features
Nothing, nothing at all.
"Crossing Over" is on sale June 9, 2009 and is rated . Drama. Written and directed by Wayne Kramer. Starring Alice Braga, Cliff Curtis, Jim Sturgess, Ray Liotta, Harrison Ford, Ashley Judd, Justin Chon, Alice Eve.