The Crash has an oddly unintended parallel-universe sense to it, an unreality that resonates in a specific way in January 2017 that was impossible to predict during production. This cyber-financial thriller imagines a November 2017 in which the president of the United States is a 60-something blonde woman helming the most powerful country in the world during an impending financial attack.
Written and directed by Aram Rappaport, The Crash, however, is not about the president, who remains as anonymous as the suggested identity allows, but about the disgraced tech entrepreneur who is contracted by the secretary of state (Mary McCormack) to combat a stock-market terrorist hacking and impending financial crisis threatened by ominous text messages sent from a shadowy organization.
Once a celebrated hometown hero who “saved Chicago from bankruptcy,” Guy Clifton (Frank Grillo) is facing prison time for hacking the market himself, and if he wants any hope of immunity, he has to help the government bypass impending financial chaos in two days.
What Guy has on his side is talent, so he assembles his trusty team of hackers and financial analysts at his sprawling Illinois lakeside home: George (John Leguizamo), a handicapped programmer who rolls with contentious nurse Hilary (Maggie Q); market analyst Amelia (Dianna Agron); and hacker Ben (Ed Westwick), with whom Guy shares a turbulent history, and who happens to be dating his teenage daughter Creason (AnnaSophia Robb), who has cancer.
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There’s the pomp and preparation surrounding a lot of important, dramatic work, but we never actually see what Guy and his team are doing — they say they’re routing the market to a shadow server, but that all goes belly-up when they uncover who’s actually behind the threats.
Mostly, The Crash focuses on the little interpersonal dramas that happen around the action — the marital discord between Guy and Shannon (Minnie Driver), his shrewd, flinty wife; the spats between George and everyone; the relationship drama between Ben and Creason; and the tortured history between Ben and Guy over the market hacking.
Somehow, the inevitable twists and reveals are both very obvious (when you cast the gloriously smarmy character actor Christopher McDonald in a supporting role, there are certain expectations that can’t be shaken) and completely muddled. You end up wondering less about the events of the attack and more about the unintended political statements throughout.
Grillo is a charismatic leading man who has remained on the cusp of stardom in his career. This character offers a meaty, emotional role for him to sink his teeth into — a protective, mourning father, absentee husband, overly ambitious entrepreneur — so it’s too bad that Driver walks away with the film in a smaller role, rivaled only by Leguizamo in a signature showy performance.
The Crash has a stronger grasp on the intimate personal dramas of its characters than on the details of the market attack in which they are embroiled, but the film does want to express a strong message about the possible corruption of the Federal Reserve and the repeated banking crises.
But a bit of post-script at the end of the film is just a hastily tacked-on message, not a strong concept that’s woven throughout. While it stakes a claim to a stylized genre and heavy material, it’s all just sketchy shadow puppetry, not the real thing.
Exclusive: AMC Grapevine Mills
☆☆ 1/2 (out of five)
Director: Aram Rappaport
Cast: Frank Grillo, Minnie Driver, John Leguizamo, Ed Westwick, Dianna Agron, AnnaSophia Robb, Christopher McDonald, Mary McCormack
Rated: R (strong language)
Running time: 84 min.