David Cronenberg's graphic adaptation of J.G. BALLARD's controversial 1973 novel doesn't work like most films. For one thing, the main character (James Spader) experiences no great change in his life. He starts out disturbed, and only becomes more-so after his near-fatal car crash. Lured into the world of Vaughan (Elias Koteas), who runs an underground group of car-crash enthusiasts, Spader finds himself adding technology to his already prodigious list of sexual kinks. In the process, his fatalistic wife gets to live out her death fetish, and Spader himself becomes immersed in the techno-erotic subculture along with fellow damaged souls Holly Hunter and Rosanna Arquette. The film starts out with three bizarre sex scenes in a row, and many more follow. Although they aren't strictly exploitive and are necessary to the plot, squeamish viewers may find the film rough going. Crash paints a disturbing and coldly revolting portrait of turn-of-the-century Americans, advanced in technology but retarded emotionally. For these numb, disconnected people, humanity has lost its appeal, and their only remaining thrills can come from twisting their useless bodies into a bloody wreck on the freeway of the millennium. Cronenberg has fashioned a brutally candid return to his favorite themes, as well as coaxing a surprisingly dark and perceptive performance from Hunter, who steals the film from its uninvolving star. It's not for the timid, but is well worth seeing.
by Robert Firsching review