Racism collides with its targets during one thirty-six-hour period in Los Angeles. Alive with bracing human drama and blistering wit, the film benefits from the strong directing debut of Paul Haggis, the screenwriter of Million Dollar Baby. In the style of Magnolia, Haggis and co-writer Bobby Moresco weave many stories (too many) into the narrative. But the rage sticks, as do the emotions underlying it. The district attorney (Brendan Fraser) and his wife (Sandra Bullock, strikingly uncongenial) are carjacked at gunpoint by two black men (Ludacris and Larenz Tate). At home, the wife orders the locks changed and then changed again because a Mexican (Michael Pena) did the first job. A black TV director (Terrence Howard), getting a blow job from his wife (Thandie Newton) while driving home, is stopped by two white cops. One officer (Matt Dillon) gropes the wife to humiliate the husband, while the other cop (a standout Ryan Phillippe) watches helplessly. A Persian store owner (Shaun Toub), taken for an Arab, buys a gun for protection. Don Cheadle plays a detective who ties these stories together when he finds a dead body in the road. The acting is dynamite, notably by Dillon and Newton in their shocking second encounter. Despite its preachy moments, the film is a knockout. In a multiplex ved for ambition, why kick a film with an excess of it?
From The Archives Issue 375: August 5, 1982