After shoddily plagiarizing countless casino and crime films with The Cooler and Running Scared, respectively, Wayne Kramer goes the Paul Haggis route with Crossing Over, a multi-strand saga whose contrived, inane narrative threads have been stitched together with Frankenstein ungainliness. Kramer’s overlapping tales center around the issue of immigration, though given that they’re all equally ultra-melodramatic make-believe, the wisdom they have to impart about the hot-button issue never proves more profound than that offered by your typical, hysterical TV movie.
Through stories involving Harrison Ford’s Immigration and Customs Enforcement officer, his Iranian partner (Cliff Curtis), and various Jewish, Australian, and Muslim illegals, Kramer offers the following dos and don’ts for anyone interested in obtaining or retaining citizenship: If you are a Muslim girl who wears a head scarf (Towelhead‘s Summer Bishil, again suffering xenophobic slanders), do not write high school papers that imply sympathy for the 9/11 attackers; if you are an atheistic Jew (Jin Sturgess) trying to pass yourself off as a religious scholar, make sure to learn your faith’s traditional songs; if you are an Asian teen (Justin Chon), make sure to watch Gran Torino before joining your peer-pressuring gangbanger friends on their nightly jaunts; and if you’re an American immigration agent, never lose your saintly empathy for the soon-to-be-deported.
Kramer’s protracted, wannabe-weighty sermon may be less visually flashy than Running Scared, but it’s no less aesthetically shallow, what with its lumbering slow-motion and cross-cutting (at one point between flashbacks of a killing and the singing of the national anthem), its copious stock aerial shots of Los Angeles, and its shameless lingering on the faces of wailing, drooling, grieving characters. Determined to exploit for histrionics as many cultural, social, or religious plotlines as 113 minutes will allow, Crossing Over moralizes about the dangers of border-traversing “coyotes” and Muslims’ misogynistic notions of honor and righteousness, all while throwing in some Hebrew humor and a liquor store robbery—replete with an egregiously on-the-nose speech about “the sublime promise of the moment” of nationalization—to lighten the mood.
No intentional stabs at joviality are necessary, though, since the film’s straight-faced presentation of its pap is pure hilarity, especially with regard to Ray Liotta’s green card official, who blackmails a beautiful, blond, Australian illegal (Alice Eve) into two months of sexual slavery, then comes home to a wife (Ashley Judd) eager to adopt a Nigerian child whose mother has AIDS, a storyline so outrageous and laughably self-serious it shuttles the entire film into the realm of parody.