The Los Angeles-based racial drama Crash (which opens Friday) may be a color movie, but virtually everything in it is black and white -- from the sprawling cast of characters to the police cars that patrol the area to the streets that become the backdrop for the simmering story. As the movie progresses, black and white become gray, shading motives, reasons, and intentions.
If it all seems a little facile, Crash's rich ensemble cast -- including Sandra Bullock, Don Cheadle, Matt Dillon, and Brendan Fraser -- pulls it off. Standing out among the group is Chris Bridges, better known as rapper Ludacris, who plays Anthony, a car thief and a guy just trying to survive. "It's all about the hate that's inside each individual," says Bridges.
Director and writer Paul Haggis (who penned Million Dollar Baby) stages Crash -- not to be confused with David Cronenberg's 1996 auto-accident/sexual-fetish flick -- as a morality drama that takes place over 36 hours, during which the lives of a district attorney, an immigrant store owner, a pair of detectives, a television director, a locksmith, a rookie cop, and two carjackers converge. Like one of Paul Thomas Anderson's epics, Crash is not so much about what happens as how it happens. "It's really different," says Bridges. "The way it goes back and forth with everybody's agenda and picks up all the pieces at the end. When I heard who was attached, I was like, 'Hell, yeah.'"
Bridges was in a few movies before -- most notably, 2 Fast 2 Furious -- but Anthony is his breakout role. "I was kinda nervous," he says. "But I'm always up for a good challenge." Unlike other rappers who've scored on the big screen (like Ice Cube, with his incendiary performance in Boyz n the Hood), Ludacris plays against type in Crash. For one thing, Anthony despises hip-hop and launches into a tirade against the music to his partner in crime, played by Larenz Tate. "That wasn't too hard, because I was playing a character," laughs Bridges. "I don't want to be called 'Ludacris' when I'm playing a part. I like character roles. I don't want anyone looking at me as Ludacris. So I don't think they have to be worried about what I say [in the movie]."
But that doesn't mean he disagrees with Anthony's philosophy entirely. "I believe what he says to some extent, only because I know our history and where the music comes from," Bridges says.
And the meaning of the movie's pivotal line -- "We crash into each other, just so we can feel something," muttered by Cheadle's detective -- isn't lost on Bridges. "Everything happens for a reason," he says.
In his final scene, Anthony makes a choice that affects the lives of a dozen or so people. It's accompanied by a smile that gets to the bottom of the film's optimism. "He's trying to become a better person," notes Bridges. "I can identify with that.
"People will find a part of themselves in each one of these characters. That's what's important about the movie. In order to get rid of the devils that you think are around you, you have to stop prejudging people."
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