Crash (1996)

crash poster 1996 movie
7.5 Overall Score
Story: 7/10
Acting: 8/10
Visuals: 8/10

If nothing else just a debatable film

Not for everyone, weird storytelling

Movie Info

Movie Name:  Crash

Studio: Alliance Communications Corporation/Recorded Picture Company (RPC)/The Movie Network (TMN)

Genre(s):  Drama

Release Date(s):  May 17, 1996 (Cannes)/November 9, 1996 (UK)/Mary 21, 1997 (US)

MPAA Rating:  NC-17

crash catherine vaughan elias koteas deborah kara unger

The carwash has never been this fun

James Ballard (James Spader) and his wife Catherine (Deborah Kara Unger) like to swing and try new things.  When James has a severe car accident with Helen Remington (Holly Hunter), he finds himself in a world of car crashes, fanatics, and sex.  Vaughan (Elias Koteas) leads a group of people who get their kicks from recreating famous car crashes, worshipping scars, and getting pleasure from the blending of metal and man…as James and Catherine and their fellow symphorophilians try to find more and more thrills, the danger grows and every crash could be their last.

Directed by David Cronenberg (who also wrote the screenplay), Crash is a sexual psychological drama.  An adaptation of J. G. Ballard’s 1973 novel, the movie premiered at Cannes and won a Special Jury Prize, but it was also very divisive for critics.  Following Cronenberg’s M. Butterfly in 1993, the film received an NC-17 rating for its content and faced bans around the globe.  The Criterion Collection released a remastered version of the film (Criterion #1059).

crash james spader scar sex roanna arquette

You won’t look at a scar the same

Crash came out when I was in college, and I had a professor that was really into it.  I get the joy of counterculture movies (Crash definitely classifies), but I also like it when they have meat or an idea that people aren’t willing to normally explore.  Crash has a little of that, but it could go deeper.

The movie has the characters getting more and more aroused by wrecks and the results of them.  While the endgame is a little vague (death is the only real outcome that ends their attempts), the reason and erotica has little explanation.  The characters you could argue are all already broken in various ways and the crashes are substitutions for previous addictions.  It is all in the movie, but it also feels it could go further into exploring this…it gets a bit hung up on the sex.

The cast is good.  Spader generally has a couple different character he plays and this is the slimy Spader character (which he plays well).  Deborah Kara Unger is the almost more sexual wife, and Holly Hunter is another person sucked in by fixation (though I feel her character doesn’t have enough to do).  Elias Koteas plays the leader of the car sex cult who is pushed to the edge, and I do like Rosanna Arquette who braces (and scar) become a focal point for Spader’s fascination.  All the characters seem to probably have good stories, but the script intentionally is pretty vague on them…you only get to see their sexual side.

crash ending james spader deborah kara unger

Was it good for you?

The movie is pretty graphic.  It has a lot of sex (you could argue it almost gets boring at points), but there are things you’ve never seen (and probably will never see again)…you might look differently at a person with a scar…and shudder.

Crash is one of those unforgettable movies in theory.  I saw it when it was new and had some vivid memories of it.  Over the years, I had forgotten must of the plot (because there isn’t much of one).  It is still is controversial, and it still has an edge.  If you like extreme movies, Crash still classifies as one.  Cronenberg followed Crash with eXistenZ in 1999.

Author: JPRoscoe View all posts by
Follow me on Twitter/Instagram/Letterboxd @JPRoscoe76! Loves all things pop-culture especially if it has a bit of a counter-culture twist. Plays video games (basically from the start when a neighbor brought home an Atari 2600), comic loving (for almost 30 years), and a true critic of movies. Enjoys the art house but also isn't afraid to let in one or two popular movies at the same time.

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