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What to See – Crossing Over

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Written and directed by Wayne Kramer ( The Cooler , Running Scared ), Crossing Over conjures the kind of karmic kaleidoscope familiar to those who have seen Crash or Traffic or Fast Food Nation . As in those films, seemingly unrelated lives smash into each other in Crossing Over, with illegal immigration the propelling force here. Kramer’s film doesn’t work — it’s too spot-on, and characters like Summer Bishil’s Bangladeshi teenager are written with too specific a purpose in mind — but it does have one off-the-charts performance: Cliff Curtis playing an Immigrations and Customs Enforcement agent named Hamid Baraheri.

You know Curtis, even if you think you don’t — he’s on movie screens right now as the charming rogue in Push, and he’s played everything from an Iraqi refugee in Three Kings to a Latino gangster in Training Day , from a would-be world saver in Sunshine to a distant dad in Whale Rider . He’s good in everything, but, more importantly, he’s good as everything. Curtis is a New Zealander, but casting directors have turned him into a one-man United Nations.

If he weren’t such a good actor, his poly-ethnic look would simply ensure he’d disappear into the background. But he is good — light and loose where he needs to be and fully invested when it’s required. As Ford’s partner, he sells us the facts subtly — with a glance here, a pause there.

Hamid’s plotline bends toward darkness, and we are eventually given a scene too good to spoil, with everything inside Hamid bursting out like pus from a boil or blood from a wound. It’s a big, bloody mess — and Curtis makes you believe every moment of it, your heart and mind riveted by his passion.

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