Kramer wants to create a multi-character tapestry showing many different aspects of this problematic situation. It is a noble effort because most of the performances are good and the film is watchable. But because the director tries so hard to connect each character with at least one or two more, the film seems unnatural and becomes less compelling. Ultimately, the film is forgettable.
Ford plays Max Brogan, an agent who has been at the job too long; he begins to look at some of the people he is trying to capture with compassion, something his fellow agents avoid. So, when he and Hamid (Curtis) storm into a sweatshop somewhere in LA, Brogan reluctantly listens to a young woman's (Alice Braga) pleas to help her son. Later, Brogan finds the son and transports him back to his grandparents in Tijuana. But what became of the mother? He tries to track her down and make sure she is reunited with her son. Hamid, Brogan's partner is a lot younger and comes from an Iranian family who immigrated after the Shah was overthrown. Dad and Mom are about to become naturalized citizens but Hamid shares the views of his father and brother; their sister Zhara (Melody Khazae), who was born in this country, is shaming the family by having an affair with her married boss. Brogan goes to the dry cleaners operated by the Korean family. And Hamid has an opportunity to help the young Korean son out. Whew. Exhausting. Imagine trying to keep track of everything as you watch it unfold.
And so it goes. Everyone is connected to everyone else by at least two connections. This technique worked in "Crash" because the characters leapt off the screen and became real. The writing was great and transported the material to another level. "Crossing Over" tries to do the same thing, but the skill level isn't there. And because we recognize what Kramer is trying to do so quickly, it robs the film of any intimacy the actors might be able to generate for their characters. This is a shame, because both the story and the performances are good. It just seems too contrived to make it a lasting testament to any message it might be trying to get across.
Ford is good as Max Brogan. He is beginning to question if he is doing the right thing and whether he can actually make a difference. Every time Ford appears on screen, we get the sense that Brogan is tired and needs a rest. Because he has been in the job too long, he has seen too much and begins to doubt if he can do any good. And this leads him to start to try to help people he sense might be in need of actual help. When he meets the young mother at their latest arrest site, he tries to be compassionate to her, but he bristles at the ribbing he gets from his fellow officers. "Oh, no. Brogan is about to 'help' another chica… into his bed". Of course, this isn't true; the other officers are mistaking his need to help for something more sinister and probably acceptable to them. Brogan is a straight arrow. About as straight as they come.
He takes the woman's phone number and then finds her son and takes him back. Throughout all of this, we see Ford try to give us the history of this character through slight facial expressions, body language and through subtle hints. It is a nice performance and gives me a renewed appreciation for the actor.
Ford's performance is the type that would probably garner him an Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actor. We see it frequently; extremely popular actors take smaller, more dramatic roles and prove they can still act. When the performance is good, it attracts attention often leading to a nomination and frequently to the coveted statue. I would be surprised if "Crossing Over" is still remembered next February. It is being released too early. And it isn't memorable enough. But Ford's performance is good.
Denise Frankel (Ashley Judd) is a saint; she works for the rights of immigrant children, trying to help them maneuver the many intricacies of our government bureaucracy. One of her current clients, a young Jamaican girl who was orphaned by her mother, is currently tugging at her heartstrings. Unable to find any relatives, the girl has spent a lot of time in an ICE holding facility. But Denise visits her regularly and soon begins to wonder if she should try to adopt the girl. Denise is also assigned to help Taslima (Bishil). Taslima, who was born in her native country, currently lives in the US with her two illegal immigrant parents and her brother and sister, both of whom were born in this country. When Taslima writes an essay for her high school class that seems to be in favor of the 9/11 terrorists, Homeland Security shows up at the door, ready to deport the whole family. But since her sister and brother were born in the country, matters are complicated and Denise tries to help Taslima and her parents sort out the options.
As much as Denise wants to adopt the young girl, she has to get her husband to go along with the idea. Her husband, Cole (Liotta) would rather use job to get pretty young women, desperate to stay in the country, into his bed…
See how everyone is connected in at least one other way to someone else? Unfortunately, this technique just keeps announcing itself throughout the film. "Look at me! Look at how "Crash" like I am." Because of this, we constantly draw comparisons between the films, comparisons that are unfavorable to "Crossing Over" and this puts our mind in a different place, distracting us from any interesting performances that may be contained within the film.