2009, R, 113 min. Directed by Wayne Kramer. Starring Harrison Ford, Ray Liotta, Ashley Judd, Jim Sturgess, Alice Eve, Cliff Curtis, Alice Braga, Summer Bishil, Justin Chon.
REVIEWED By Marjorie Baumgarten, Fri., March 27, 2009
Characters of various nationalities, all ensnared within the incongruous machinery of the American immigration system, are the subjects of the interlocking stories of Crossing Over. Framed as a multistrand narrative in the manner of Crash and Babel, Crossing Over also echoes those titles in the way its pastiche of stories creates a well-intentioned social message. The objective of writer/director Kramer (The Cooler) is to show us what a mess the post-9/11 U.S. immigration and naturalization process has become. Somewhat patronizingly, Crossing Over shows us how our government’s unfeeling and easily inveigled system sacrifices innocent human beings to the letter of its laws while exempting others through sheer dumb luck or willful chicanery. The individual stories seem tailored toward making points rather than creating realistic characters and situations. At the center of the drama is Ford’s Max Brogan, an Immigration and Customs Enforcement agent who’s having trouble sleeping at night after busting a Mexican seamstress in a California factory, whose son will be cast to the streets after she is deported without him. But even before his insomnia kicks in, we discover he’s a softie when a fellow worker bellows: "Jesus Christ, Brogan! Everything is a goddamn humanitarian crisis with you!" Max’s partner, Hamid Baraheri (Curtis), is of Iranian descent and has issues with his soon-to-be-naturalized traditionalist father and his sexually defiant American-born sister. In another storyline, Sturgess plays musician Gavin Kossef, who tries to get a green card by overinflating the importance of his Jewish faith. His would-be girlfriend, Claire Shepard (Eve), is an Australian actress who is willing to trade sex for a green card, which works to the advantage of dishonest immigration adjudicator Cole Frankel (Liotta). Cole, in turn, is married to an immigration lawyer whose heart bleeds for an African child trapped in a government detention facility. Also in the same lockup is adolescent Taslima Jahangir (Bishil, last seen in Towelhead), a Bangladeshi who is arrested by anti-terrorist forces when she reads aloud a school assignment which expresses her understanding of the frustrations that guided the actions of the 9/11 bombers. The movie practically grinds to a halt, however, with the story of Yong Kim (Chon), a Korean teenager caught up by peer pressure in a convenience-store robbery. Also in the store is ICE agent Hamid, who, after killing the other two robbers, delivers an unbelievably lengthy lecture to Yong about American values while the teen holds his cocked gun to an employee’s head. The latticework of social meaning that makes up Crossing Over is ultimately a flimsy structure that pays lip service to liberal values while only occasionally inventing anything of dramatic significance.