Filmed two years ago, Crossing Over, an immigration drama set in Los Angeles, has the vibe of a movie that’s been kicked around — hard. Reportedly everyone from studio chief Harvey Weinstein to star Harrison Ford had their hands in the editing. Sean Penn shot a small part that has now been eliminated. Why? We’ll probably never know. But I do know this: Wayne Kramer, the film’s beleaguered writer and director, is a natural — born provocateur. The Cooler, his 2003 feature with William H. Macy, Maria Bello and an Oscar nominated Alec Baldwin, gets even better with age. His 2006 film Running Scared went off the deep end, but you felt its power and went right with it.
Crossing Over, a series of vignettes that suggest a shotgun wedding of Traffic and Crash, runs the gamut from wonderful to what –the – fuck. But Kramer still gives the movie a pulse. There’s been a dust — up about an Iranian – American character involved in the honor killing of his sexually promiscuous druggie sister. But the scene, as it now stands, condemns a misguided individual, not an entire culture.
Ford brings a quiet intensity to Max Brogan, the immigration cop whose years on the job haven’t hardened him to the plight of the illegals he busts in sweatshops and ass – kicks back to Mexico. His partner, Hamid Baraheri (a terrific Cliff Curtis), has a meltdown during a store robbery that results in a monologue about citizenship that would stop a lesser movie cold.
Heck, sometimes the movie does stop cold, with too many characters spinning in too many directions. Trust Kramer, though, to spring surprises with the help of a risk –taking cast. Ray Liotta brings astonishing dimension to Cole Frankel, a piece of INS slime who helps Claire (Alice Eve), an Aussie actress wanna – be, get her green card by making her his sex slave for two months. Cole’s lawyer wife, Denise (Ashley Judd), is appalled. So is Claire’s Brit boyfriend, Gavin (a very fine Jim Sturgess), a musician who must persuade the authorities that he’s a Hebrew scholar to stay in the States. Liotta excels at showing the cracks in Cole’s facade, and his speech to Claire, in a burst of keen self awareness, cuts deep.
Kramer takes on a hot, unwieldy topic in Crossing Over — the dream that immigrants have of U.S. citizenship and the nightmare of achieving it, especially with shortcuts. I’m sure Kramer will be picked to pieces for trying something while Hollywood crap climbs the box — office ladder. There are all kinds of nightmares.