Review: “The Crash”

Posted by Michael Parsons on January 29, 2017 in / No Comments


Originally entitled “Jekyll Island”, in reference to the resort in Georgia where the Federal Reserve was established in 1905, “The Crash” is a fast-paced techno-thriller that envisions an imminent catastrophic  cyber attack on the global economy. To thwart it, the powers that be decide to employ Guy Clifton (Frank Grillo), a debt consolidation expert and economist who himself is facing indictment for hacking the markets some two years earlier.

Promising immunity for his help is the Treasury Secretary (Mary McCormack), who butts heads with the new Chair of the Fed (Christopher McDonald) when a hack on the back-end of the NYSE suggests that the country will be in bankruptcy within 48 hours. A slightly cartoonish McDonald lackadaisically sips green tea and insists that the market always bounces back, because of course it does. He’s a character that threatens to turn the movie into a satire as he rides in on his high horse.

But writer/director Aram Rappaport is far too efficient, and the majority of the cast far too convincing, to let things like this resonate. “The Crash” has somewhat of an unscripted, mockumentary vibe, shuffled along with the urgency of a Paul Greengrass movie or an episode of “24”. Being frugal with his minutes, Rappaport develops his characters as the procession of data flickers across our eyeballs, pumping blood into what could have been a strictly mechanical flick, and without much exposition.  Grillo, crashas Clifton, has that vein bulging in his forehead that indicates intense thought, whether it be about numbers or kicking someone’s butt. This is a non-violent movie, but he’s nonetheless intimidating, his appearance appropriate for a mobster or paramilitary type (or maybe I just have his character from “Captain America: Civil War” on my mind. Grillo is generally just an intense presence).

Clifton’s disposition proves otherwise, particularly  around his wife/business partner Shannon (Minnie Driver) and their daughter Creason (AnnaSophia Robb), who’s undergoing cancer treatment. They manage to fit in some genuinely emotional moments as Clifton sets up shop in their coastal Chicago manor, using an idle offshore server  for lack of available bandwidth.  The team he assembles to pre-empt the attack is composed of wheelchair bound George (John Lequizamo), Amelia (Diana Agron) and Ben, the guy whose algorithm Clifton  stole to manipulate the markets.

This didn’t align with Ben’s moral compass, who is not only the key to this new financial conundrum, but also happens to be sleeping with Creason.  That’s a sidebar that doesn’t get too dramatic—Driver comes to the rescue by halting her husband’s incessant protests  like a blunt force, though give the guys a break, he’s just doing what dad’s do. Grillo (who also executive produced) is terrific in this role.

Rappaport’s script is solid, and has that naturalistic feel of something that underwent some impromptu retooling  by the actors during filming. My problem with “The Crash” is the constant and overpowering score from Guy Moon, which crests and then crashes, so to speak, with every minor revelation and sideways glance. Also that the wonderful and energetic Maggie Q is limited to about three lines.

But to conclude on a good note, this fleeting thriller is worth its 86 minutes On Demand.

Select Cities and VOD

—M. Parsons 2017

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Michael Parsons

Father. Realtor®. Movie nut. After pestering my parents for their commentary on “Star Wars” when I was four years old, my mind went into a creative frenzy. I’d imagined something entirely different than the actual film, which I didn’t end up seeing until its 1979 re-release at the Uptown Theater in Washington, DC. This was my formal introduction to the cinema.

During that long wait, which felt like an eternity to a child, my mind was being molded by more corrosive stuff like “Trilogy of Terror” and “Rosemary’s Baby”, most of which I’d conned various babysitters into letting me watch on television ( I convinced one poor lady that “Jaws” was actually “Moby Dick”).

The folks were pretty strict in that regard, so the less appropriate it was for a kid to watch, the more I was fascinated by it. Horror staples like “Halloween” and “Friday the 13th”, as well as lesser-known low-budget fare like “Madman”, “Sleepaway Camp” and “Pieces” all ended up sneaking their way into the VHS on a regular basis.

Since then, I’ve developed an obsession with the entire film industry. Even though I watch and review a wide breadth of films these days, my appreciation for the campy, poorly lit micro-budgeters still lends itself to my evolving perspective on movies just as much as the summer blockbusters and Oscar contenders. As I recall my trips to the movie theater, I realize that this stuff is about much more than just a fleeting piece of entertainment.

A couple years ago, I was finally given the opportunity to lend my opinion on films to a publication, The Rogers Revue, with a subsequent run at Reel Film News. It's been both a privilege and a gateway to what we’re doing now. Most of my experience has come from interviewing independent filmmakers, who consistently promote innovation. The filmmaking process is grueling and relatively unforgiving.

Fellow film enthusiast Eddie Pasa and I have created DC Filmdom as a medium for film reviews, discussion, and (inevitably) some debate. And so, the creative frenzy continues.

(Michael is a member of the Washington, DC Area Film Critics Association).

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