April 26, 2008

300 Words About: Kicks

With all the talk about immigration and multiculturalism in the United States these days, you'd think someone would have the wisdom to look outwards for a minute and examine how the issue is affecting so many other countries in the same way. Spain, Germany, England, Ireland, and yes, even Mexico (from Guatemala and elsewhere in Latin America) are struggling with immigration, yet everyone thinks it's just our problem. Anyway, Kicks takes a multifaceted look at the the current situation in The Netherlands, where Moroccan immigrants have recently settled in large numbers. While Crash was both lauded and lamented after its release a few years ago, someone would have a hard time convincing me that it wasn't at least an important conversation starter (even if the conversation died too soon). Dutch writer/director Albert Ter Heerdt apparently felt the same way, and Kicks is made in such a similar style that he's practically begging for a comparison. Unfortunately, his version fails. It's an entertaining and very well-acted film, but the sheer number of characters (I counted 12 "main characters") in Kicks prevents us from getting a firm hold on the reality of the Dutch situation. Besides that, they're broad stereotypes: the racist cop, the depressed/drug addicted mother, the teen extremist, the naive socialite, etc. Ter Heerdt could have made an amazing film focused on just one of them (I thought the cop, the mother, the rude homeless man and the boxer all had potential), but he instead gives us 10 minutes with each. It's filmmaking in the style of speed dating, and everybody goes home alone. Regardless, Kicks still provides moments of real comedy and drama, and I imagine Dutch citizens would view it differently, for better or for worse. I appreciated the ambition and the acting, but ultimately found it a tame attempt at social commentary, and one that would have worked better as a television series.


  1. I'm an American citizen and I view Kicks differently--and for the very reason you cite at the beginning of your post: that Americans need to see that immigration isn't just our 'problem' alone.

    I agree that Kicks tried to mimic Crash in many ways, and didn't quite live up to that standard. Every art form that doesn't go beyond mimicry fails in the end, but I hope to see another by this director. Eventually, I think, he'll go beyond the freshman instinct to copy things he loves and he will create something new and fresh, and similarly important for Dutch and Americans to see.

  2. Great review.

    Makes me really want to see this film now, just to get a little flavor of the Dutch situation, incomplete though it may be. I really liked Crash a lot, and was pleasantly surprised when it won the Best Picture Oscar.

    Awesome description of the line "It's filmmaking in the style of speed dating, and everybody goes home alone." I have felt that way about other movies also, that introduce too many characters, themes, and/or subplots -- but your analogy is spot on.

    And as you said, any film which can start or keep the conversation going in understanding immigration issues is a good thing -- and one that will be more and more valuable for all of us as global citizens.

  3. Thanks for stopping by, Jeanne. Glad to have another local around.

    Perhaps I didn't give Ter Heerdt enough credit for his attempt, but I think we both agree that it's an important film in spite of its weaknesses. I also look forward to his next project.

    Thanks, Josh. I've been known to champion Crash in public before, though I know a lot of people hated it. Maybe I'll work up the energy to write a full defense of it someday.

    Anyway, yeah the characters were necessary to add scope the story, but we just didn't get enough time with them, which is unfortunate because they were pretty interesting. That's why I think it may have been better for TV episodes over the course of a season - or even several seasons.


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