A few years back, Harrison Ford famously turned down Steven Soderberghs offer to star in Traffic, and the role went to Michael Douglas. Judging from his dour turn in this cut-rate indie knockoff, Fords obviously really sorry.

Cloddishly attempting to apply Traffics multi-storyline structure to our post-9/11 immigration dilemmas, Wayne Kramers Crossing Over is the most annoying kind of message moviea lifeless slog in which characters stand around spouting statistics, never discussing anything besides the hot-button issue at hand, often with all the wit and vivacity of a PowerPoint presentation. It feels not so much written as mapped outthe disparate character threads eventually coinciding in such a clumsy manner that similar groaners like Crash and Babel seem subtle in comparison.

Ford employs a single constipated facial expression as Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agent Max Brogan. He spends his days rounding up illegals for deportation and his evenings curled inside a bottle of scotch. Brogan cares too much about people to be very good at his job, or at least I think thats what we are supposed to infer after a calloused co-worker shouts: Everythings a goddamn humanitarian issue with you, Brogan!

For his part, Ford doesnt appear to have much stake in these humanitarian issues; he sort of just wanders across screen in a zombie stupor, letting other folks dialogue explain his character. (Remember how in that last Indiana Jones movie, Harrison Ford cracked a smile or two and looked awake for the first time in decades? It was a fluke.)

Much livelier is Ray Liotta, pushing papers across town as an INS bureaucrat, loving his job because he gets to exploit a hot young Aussie actress (Alice Eve) who he forces to have anal sex in exchange for a Green Card. Her boyfriend (the eternally dull Jim Sturgess) has a slightly easier time of things, taking his first steps on the path to citizenship by pretending to be Jewish.

Crossing Over


Starring: Harrison Ford, Ray Liotta, Ashley Judd Director: Wayne Kramer

Opens Fri., March 13

Ashley Judd turns up to spout a few facts as Liottas neglected wife. She wants to adopt an African baby, and then gets mixed up in the curious case of a devout Muslim teenager (Towelheads Summer Bishil) who incurs the FBIs bigoted wrath after delivering a classroom presentation sympathizing with the 9/11 hijackers.

But waittheres more. Cliff Curtis co-stars as Fords tightly wound Iranian partner. His slatternly sister is brutally murdered, presumably for bringing dishonor on the family because she wears short skirts and sleeps around. Brogan doesnt exactly have to do a lot of detective work in order to solve this particular mysteryits just a matter of guessing which Islamic stereotype in the supporting cast actually pulled the trigger.

We also follow a crazy bunch of Korean gang-bangers who make those Hmong thugs in Gran Torino look subdued. By the time Curtis engaged them in a graphic shoot-out that somehow became an impassioned monologue about the glory and dignity of American citizenship, this reviewer found it impossible to keep from laughing out loud.

Up until quite recently, Sean Penn was billed as a co-star, only to have his entire storyline removed in postproduction. My Hollywood sources still cant confirm if this decision was made due to creative differences or just plain old embarrassment.

Director Kramers previous films include The Cooler and Running Scared, ramshackle vehicles that boasted a certain brand of lurid, tabloid energy. (Particularly the latter flick, which offered the vision of Paul Walker being repeatedly pummeled in the face by hockey pucks.) But despite all the gratuitous female flesh and an occasional burst of exploitative violence, Crossing Over is weighed down by its own sense of self-importance and irritatingly symbolic shots of freeway intersections.

The movie matches nicely with Fords somnambulistic nonperformancetheyre both pokey, morose and dont really say much at all.


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