Think of this as the “Crash” and “Babel” of illegal-immigration ensemble dramas. Set in Southern California, its stereotypical characters and structured story lines keep crossing and bumping into each other.
There’s Max Brogan (Harrison Ford), a gruff but wearily sympathetic Immigration and Customs Enforcement agent who is trying to reunite an illegal Mexican, Mireya Sanchez (Alice Braga), caught in a sweatshop raid, with her young son. His partner Hamid Baraheri (Cliff Curtis) comes from a wealthy Iranian family who fled the 1979 revolution and is dishonored by the behavior of his sister, Zahra (Melody Khazae), a sexy young woman who has become way too assimilated. And Hamid just happens to be there when a Korean teen, Yong Kim (Justin Chon), and his pals rob a convenience store. Then there’s a Bangladeshi Muslim teen, Taslima Jahangir (Summer Bishil), who faces F.B.I. deportation after she naively writes a school essay in which she says she understands the motives of the 9/11 hijackers. Her crusading defense attorney, Denise Frankel (Ashley Judd), wants to adopt an African orphan stuck in a detention center, despite the objections of her sleazy husband, Cole (Ray Liotta), an immigrations application adjudicator who is sexually exploiting an ambitious Australian starlet, Claire Sheperd (Alice Eve), whose visitor status doesn’t permit her to work and whose British musician boyfriend, Gavin Kossef (Jim Sturgess), is posing as an expert in Judaism to get his green card.
Problem is: none of these diverse micro-dilemmas are explored in any depth, although they culminate with a mass citizenship ceremony at the Los Angeles Convention Center. Writer/director Wayne Kramer (“The Cooler”), who emigrated from South Africa in 1986, skims over the surface of the interconnected issues, stressing the challenge of enforcing fair immigration legislation within an overburdened governmental system.
On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, “Crossing Over” is a lurid, contrived 4. So it’s understandable why Oscar-winner Sean Penn reportedly requested that his small role be eliminated from the final cut.