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Crossing Over (R) **

Harrison Ford (Max Brogan) star in Wayne Kramer's Crossing Over.
Harrison Ford (Max Brogan) star in Wayne Kramer's Crossing Over.

By Rene Rodriguez, The Miami Herald

Taking a page — OK, the entire playbook — from the Crash school of filmmaking, Crossing Over uses the interlocking stories of a group of disparate Los Angeles residents to present a panoramic look at the state of immigration in the United States.

The Crash comparisons are unavoidable, not just because racism fuels several of the storylines, or even because one of the plotlines is kickstarted by an actual car crash (a fender-bender, but still). No, that Crash deja vu you get while watching Crossing Over is a result of the sledgehammer approach writer-director Wayne Kramer (Running Scared, The Cooler) takes to his subject matter — the same heavy-handed tactics that earned Crash three Oscars.

All Kramer has to show for such histrionics, though, is Sean Penn’s request to be cut out of the finished film (he once played a brief supporting role) and a token theatrical release after several delays (Crossing Over was originally scheduled to open last summer).

To be fair, whatever complaints one may level, at least the picture is never boring. In a more expansive approach to illegal immigration than the Hollywood norm, it presents a mosaic of characters that cuts across all ethnic and economic lines: A poor Mexican factory worker (Alice Braga); a middle-class Bangladeshi teenager (Summer Bishil); a wealthy Iranian family; an aspiring Australian actress (Alice Eve), and a British musician (Jim Sturgess).

Most of them are living in the United States illegally, and those who do have legal-resident status are still finding assimilation difficult. Part of the reason why Crossing Over doesn’t work is that too many of the hurdles Kramer places in front of his protagonists often feel like the product of a writer’s imagination instead of real-life experiences. As an immigration officer, Harrison Ford projects a world-weary guilt at separating yet another undocumented young mother from her young son, and his is one of the few narrative threads in the movie that rings true.

Too much of Crossing Over, though, borders on the sensationalistic, with people delivering summation speeches at gunpoint, committing uncharacteristic acts of physical, sexual or emotional violence for the sake of the plot, and behaving like inhuman cretins so the filmmakers can heave their shoulders and lament the plight of immigrants and those who would help them. Like Crash, Crossing Over tries to achieve profundity by emphasizing the worst in people, such as the stubbornness of the robotic FBI agent who is convinced that an adolescent girl who wrote a school report sympathizing with the 9/11 hijackers must be a terrorist that he wants deported. But all the movie achieves is a visceral inanity: The story punches you hard, but you can barely believe a moment of it.

Cast: Harrison Ford, Cliff Curtis, Summer Bishil, Ray Liotta, Alice Eve, Ashley Judd, Jim Sturgess, Alice Braga.

Writer-director: Wayne Kramer.

Producers: Frank Marshall, Wayne Kramer.

A Weinstein Co. release. Running time: 115 minutes. Vulgar language, violence, gore, nudity, sexual situations, adult themes. In Miami-Dade only: Regal South Beach.