"Crossing Over" is an early contender for the most unsubtle movie of the year.
This is the kind of movie where an arrest is made during the singing of "The Star-Spangled Banner" during a citizenship ceremony, and the cop actually says to the detainee, "Walking out on the National Anthem? That's just plain rude," before he slaps on the cuffs.
At least three times during this film, I howled with laughter. All three times, I was supposed to be caught up in a dramatic moment.
Written and directed by Wayne Kramer, who gave us the excellent gambling romance "The Cooler," this is a "Crash"-like story with multiple, interconnecting storylines, all related to immigration in one way or another. (Critics often rip these types of films for having too many coincidences. No, they're not coincidences----the writer is simply introducing us to characters in a manner that doesn't immediately reveal how the stories are intertwined.)
Harrison Ford plays Max Brogan, perhaps the oldest field agent in the history of Immigration and Custom Enforcement. He's a softie who often gets involved in the lives of undocumented illegals, even going so far as to drive to Mexico to deliver a young boy to his grandparents' home, even as he tries to track down the boy's mother. Brogan's partner is Hamid (Cliff Curtis), an Iran-American whose father is about to become naturalized. Then there's the British musician (Jim Sturgess) who's faking his religious studies credentials so he can stay in the country, and the musician's sort-of girlfriend Claire (Alice Eve), an Australian actress who is forced into a sexual relationship by a sweaty, creepy immigration official (Ray Liotta) who promises he'll green-light her green card application if she'll submit to his every whim for two months.
A word here about Alice Eve's role. As much as I appreciate Miss Eve's lush figure and her willingness to bare all for the role, about the the third time she got naked in this film, we crossed the line from "integral to the part" to "utterly gratuitous." Her character is repulsed by the very touch of the predatory immigration guy, yet she lounges around completely naked as she chats him up about this and that? I don't think so.
The immigration guy, by the way, is married to an immigration lawyer played by Ashley Judd, who spends the entire movie either crying or on the verge of tears, as she confronts one Movie of the Week tragedy after another. Other subplots involve an Asian teenager who's getting mixed up with the wrong crowd; a Middle Eastern high school student who writes a provocative essay about 9/11 and gets her family into deep trouble; and an African girl who has been orphaned. (Eventually, just about every country but Iceland is represented.) Many of these story lines bump into each other. There are numerous tragedies and only a few triumphs, as we're reminded again and again of how people from all over the world want to live in this great land----even if the rules of this great land can be absurdly unfair, and those enforcing the rules can be criminally amoral.
The cast is uniformly strong and the writing occasionally touches upon a bit of insight. Mostly, though, we get pummeled with big message speeches and overwrought melodrama. In a scene that screams out for a rewrite, one character delivers a lengthy speech about immigration while standing in the middle of a multiple-murder scene, facing off against another character who's holding a gun. We keep waiting, and waiting, and waiting, for the cops to show up so the one guy will put the gun down and shut the hell up. It is one of the most ridiculous scenes in recent film history.
My favorite unintentionally funny moment occurs when an immigration official questions the Australian actress's credentials, noting that "according to the Internet Movie Data Base, you've had just a couple of walk-on roles."
Yes, and according to Rotten Tomatoes, those movies weren't even any good! You're deported!!