Study Guide

Crash Cast

  • Detective Graham Waters (Don Cheadle)

    Crash Into Him

    Detective Graham Waters is a racially insensitive police detective who is sleeping with his partner, Ria, another racially insensitive police detective. These two should be perfect for each other—except for the fact that he makes insensitive comments about her race, while the racist remarks that come out of her mouth are directed toward Asian people. So it's not quite an equal partnership.

    We see these two argue when Waters says that Ria is Mexican. She explains that her father is Puerto Rican, while her mother Salvadoran. He snaps at her:

    WATERS: Ah. Well then I guess the big mystery is, who gathered all those remarkably different cultures together and taught them all how to park their cars on their lawns?

    How Ria can continue associating with this guy after such a remark, we have no idea. (On the other hand, we never see them reconcile, so maybe she doesn't.) She rationalizes his behavior like this:

    RIA: Why do you keep everybody a certain distance, huh? What, you start to feel something and panic?

    We think she's right. Waters has a distant relationship with his mother, a woman who thinks her younger son, Peter, is a saint, even though Peter is a carjacking criminal. She constantly begs Waters to find him and save him, as if Peter were his responsibility, and she blames Waters for not doing so. No wonder he puts people at a distance, right?

    Despite his mother's disdainful attitude toward him, Waters secretly puts food in her fridge and keeps her life tidy. She, of course, thinks Peter is the one doing it. Why doesn't Waters tell her that he does it? Is it her fault for misunderstanding if he fails to tell her? Maybe he wants to preserve his mom's ideas about Peter; it's not like she would be thrilled to find out the truth. But still, it's a bit of a mystery.

    As a detective, of course, the safety of others is also a priority for him, so it might be easier to deal with people if he isn't close to them. As wise man Nick Jonas said, "Space was just a word made up by someone who's afraid to get close." It's this space that inspires Waters to make the following remark:


    WATERS: It's the sense of touch. […] Any real city, you walk, you know? You brush past people, people bump into you. In L.A., nobody touches you. We're always behind this metal and glass. I think we miss that touch so much, that we crash into each other, just so we can feel something.

    That's at the beginning of the movie, but in the movie's timeline, it's actually at the very end of the story. Do you think the guy is on to something, or is he only talking about himself? It seems to us like he wouldn't have to crash into people if he were open and honest about his feelings—but maybe that's too much to expect of an Angeleno?

  • Cameron and Christine Thayer (Terrence Howard and Thandie Newton)

    Black or White or Red All Over

    We have to wonder if the casting call for Cameron and Christine Thayer asked for actors on the lighter end of the Starbucks Skin Scale. Maybe somewhere between "Café au Lait" and "Would you like some coffee with that milk?" More so than for any other characters in Crash, the exact skin tone of the Thayers is important.

    Their story begins after they are pulled over by Officers Ryan and Hanson. Ryan spots Christine, um, operating Cameron's gear shift, shall we say, while he's driving the vehicle. Ryan is hostile toward Cameron, and Christine accuses Ryan of pulling them over because he thought she was white and he was jealous that a white lady was engaged in a sex act with a Black man.

    Is she jumping to conclusions, or is she right? Would the Thayers have been treated this way if they were white?

    It doesn't matter, because Christine's reaction shows us that she has grappled with her racial identity before. Prior to this, we can infer that she has seen people treat her like they might treat a cup of coffee if they ordered it with cream but then got it Black. People treat her one way if they think she's white—her light skin tone and her accent allow her to "pass"—and then treat her in a different way once they discover she's Black. For her, race is a pretty nuanced matter.

    Undercover Brother

    Christine's internal conflict about her race becomes an external one in her relationship with Cameron. She is angry that he submitted to the white cop, and she taunts him for hiding his Blackness.

    CHRISTINE: Let me hear it again. Thank you, mister policeman. You sure is mighty kind to us poor Black folk. You be sure to let me know next time you wanna finger-fuck my wife.

    However, even when she tries to bring the issue up in a less aggressive manner, Cameron dismisses her concerns.

    CHRISTINE: I got scared, Cam. It's not like I haven't been pulled over before. You know? But not like that. And, yes, I was a little drunk. And I was mouthing off. I'm sorry. But when that man was putting his hands on me…

    […]

    CAMERON: I don't want to talk about it.

    Christine doesn't know that Cameron is struggling with his own racial identity. As a television director, Cameron benefits from being "whiter" than other Black guys. We imagine that if someone made a joke about him being an Oreo, he would laugh—but maybe feel guilty for doing so.

    His struggle is evident when Fred, who appears to be a TV producer, brings up the issue of race in the episode they're filming.

    FRED: This is weird for a white guy to say, but have you noticed he's talking a lot less "Black" lately? […] Like in this scene, he's supposed to say "don't be talkin' 'bout that", and he changed it to "don't talk to me about that."

    CAMERON: You think because of that the audience won't recognize him as a Black man?

    […]

    FRED: All I'm saying it's not his character. Eddie is supposed to be the smart one, not Jamal, right? You're the expert here, but to me it rings false.

    Fred tries to deflect the matter away from race, but Cameron accurately picks up on the racist undertones in Fred's criticism. When Fred says that someone is "talking a lot less Black," Cameron understands that underneath, what Fred means is that someone is "sounding a lot smarter." That means that Fred is equating Black with dumb, which offends Cameron. But to keep his job, Cameron has to submit to Fred's request. What show are they working on? Two Half-Black Men?

    Girl on Fire

    Cameron's and Christine's stories both culminate in tense encounters with the police. Christine is involved in a fiery car accident, after which she must be rescued by the cop who sexually assaulted her at the beginning of the movie. It's humiliating for her, and when she is being led away by paramedics, she looks back at Ryan and shakes her head.

    Why does she do that? Does she forgive him for what he did at the beginning of the movie? Or is she telling him that he doesn't deserve her thanks just for doing his job?

    As for Cameron, after he's carjacked by Anthony, he makes the ludicrous (har har) decision to flee the cops. The police chase him as if he were the carjacker. When they corner him, he gets out of the car and taunts them.

    CAMERON: You get on your knees and suck my motherfucking dick while you down there! […] That's what you look like, a fucking joke to me.

    Whoa. That feels like it comes out of nowhere, but it's really Cameron's simmering rage bubbling to the surface. Is there a different way he could have handled his anger? Christine has been wanting Cameron to be more "Black" for the entire movie, and Cameron expresses his Blackness in a "screw the police" moment. Is that because it's the only role our society allows Black men to take on? Is this the only language Cameron can use to make his point?

    Anyway, Cameron, like his wife, is rescued by a white cop. This time, it's Officer Hanson. The two have an exchange.

    HANSON: Look, I'm trying to help you.

    CAMERON: I didn't ask for your help, did I?

    Cameron has a point. He wants to stand up to the police, but Officer Hanson steps in with his white savior routine. Should Cameron be grateful to Hanson for intervening? Whose side do the filmmakers want us to be on?

    The scene ends with Cameron going from Ice Cube to Bill Cosby, lecturing Anthony on how he thinks Black people should behave. In the car, he tells Anthony:

    CAMERON: You embarrass me. You embarrass yourself.

    Cameron is angry with Anthony, because Anthony's actions make all Black people look bad in the eyes of the majority. But should every individual Black person feel responsible for making sure their race is viewed in a positive light? When Cameron chastises Anthony, which part of his racial identity is he speaking from? The Black side, or the white side? Is race ever that simple?

  • Anthony (Chris "Ludacris" Bridges)

    Robbin' tha Hood

    With his friend Peter, Anthony carjacks Jean and Rick Cabot. He takes their vehicle to a chop shop. We have no clue where to even find a chop shop, so we have a feeling Anthony has done this before. Why does he steal? We have no idea. Why does he rant for minutes at a time, spewing crazy conspiracy theories about Black and white people? We also have no idea. But at least he's interesting:

    ANTHONY: You have no idea, do you? You have no idea why they put them great big windows on the sides of buses, do you? One reason only. To humiliate the people of color who are reduced to ridin' on 'em.

    Anthony is in some ways kind of a walking stereotype of the criminal Black man. But we get the sense that he's only doing what he thinks people expect him to do. He doesn't actually want to carjack the Cabots, for example. So why does he do it? Partly because he sees the way the Cabots avoid him and expect him to do something bad to them. It's just like when he gets mad at his server and doesn't tip her—he's playing right into the racist, stereotypical expectations of those around him.

    Anyway, we don't know why Anthony lectures Peter constantly, why Peter still hangs out with him, or where he gets his crazy notions from. We're never told what Anthony's backstory is. All we know is that he robs only from white people to get his money:

    ANTHONY: But you have never seen me steal from a Black person ever in your life.

    Yeah, well, it doesn't take long before Anthony steals from a Black man, even if it is an accident. When he carjacks Cameron, he later gets lectured by Cameron, who tells him:

    CAMERON: You embarrass me. You embarrass yourself.

    Cameron lectures Anthony the way a white man—or Bill Cosby—might. He's this close to using the phrase "Black-on-Black crime," putting a disproportionate burden on Anthony for representing his whole race.

    No one lectures the racist white cop Officer Ryan for "embarrassing" other white people. What makes Anthony's behavior different?

    Anthony later finds a van full of Thai and Cambodian slaves and frees them instead of selling them for money. Through the tender music and lingering camera angles on the looks of awe on their faces, the movie casts Anthony as some sort of savior, as if not engaging in human trafficking redeems him in some way. Do you think this signals the end to his life of crime?

  • Peter Waters (Larenz Tate)

    Troubled Waters

    Peter Waters tags along with Anthony, robbing white folks and making fun of Anthony's insane rants. We're not sure why he hangs out with Anthony, but it seems that when he isn't, Peter enjoys listening to country music, playing hockey, and ice skating. He's basically Anthony's sounding board, listening to and disputing all the crazy things Anthony says.

    At the end of the movie, Officer Hanson, off duty, gives Peter a ride, and Peter says this:

    PETER: That's some good music. […] Love the ice skatin'. When I was a kid I always wanted to be a goalie.

    Hanson thinks Peter is making fun of him. Why? Is he racially stereotyping Peter, thinking that Black people can't like country music? Or ice skating? At the same time, we have to consider why Peter is laughing. Is he laughing because Hanson is racially stereotyping him? Because he's been around Anthony so long that he's forgotten what a real sense of humor looks like?

    Their conversation is awkward, like many in this movie. Peter keeps laughing. Hanson wants to know why he's laughing. Peter laughs more. Hanson, chill out. Peter, stop laughing. But they don't do that. Their awkwardness escalates until it ends in Peter's death. Yikes.

    This movie wants us to think about race and ask certain questions. Would Peter have died if he were white? Would Officer Hanson have found Peter's behavior as strange if Peter had a different skin tone? Or is this whole confrontation—and its fatal consequences—the result of two people who are so awkward they literally can't have a conversation to save their lives?

  • Jean Cabot (Sandra Bullock)

    First World Problems

    Jean Cabot is a rich white lady who is the wife of DA Rick Cabot. Crash doesn't have a single character it doesn't want to stereotype, so Jean is the worst kind of rich, bored housewife. She has a son we never see. She complains about the smallest, most pointless thing: her dishes are still in the washer—the horror, the horror. She stereotypes Black people in front of her husband's Black assistant. She stereotypes Mexicans in front of her Mexican housekeeper.

    It goes on and on.

    And like everyone else in Crash, this lady is prone to really, really, really long diatribes, like this one after she is carjacked:

    JEAN: I just had a gun pointed in my face! […] and it was my fault because I knew it was gonna happen. But if a white person sees two Black men walking towards her and she turns and walks in the other direction, she's a racist, right? Well I got scared and I didn't say anything and ten seconds later I had a gun in my face. Now I am telling you, your amigo in there is gonna sell our key to one of his homies and this time it'd be really fucking great if you acted like you actually gave a shit!

    There is a lot of white guilt here, and maybe aspects of it are justified. But Jean goes from insinuating that she isn't racist—something only racists seem to do—to calling her locksmith an "amigo" and referring to his friends as "homies," thereby stereotyping him as a thug. She doesn't seem like a stupid woman, so she must be aware of her hypocrisy, right? Maybe she should feel guilty.

    But instead of taking a moment to shut up and do some introspection, she keeps complaining. And then she whines about how other people have made her feel angry (of course she takes no responsibility for her anger herself):

    JEAN: I am angry. Yes! At them! Yes! At them, the police, at Rick, at Maria, at the dry cleaners who destroyed another blouse today, at the gardener who keeps overwatering the lawn. I... […] I just thought that I would wake up today and I would feel better, you know? But I was still mad. And I realized... I realized that it had nothing to do with my car being stolen. I wake up like this every morning! I am angry all the time, and I don't know why.

    Oh, no, her lawn is overwatered—how can she live?

    Jean Cabot has everything. Well, except a decent personality. Why is she angry? We get a hint when she falls down, like, three steps and lies there on her side crying like a little baby. Jean's "friend" won't take her to the hospital, since she is having a massage—but Jean's housekeeper Maria does drive her.

    When this happens, Jean gives Maria a big ol' hug and says she is her best friend.

    Wut?

    What else would Maria do? Not drive her boss to the hospital, and then get fired? We hope Maria gets a raise along with her new "best friend" title. She shouldn't have to fluff her boss' pillows for free.

    But the point seems to be that Jean has no real connections with anyone. Her white friends turn out to be totally lame and superficial. One act of human decency is enough to show Jean how wrong she's been. Will she change?

  • Officer John Ryan (Matt Dillon)

    Trigger Finger

    Officer John Ryan is a racist LAPD cop. Considering the LAPD's history, "racist LAPD cop" might be a redundancy. More than being a racist, however, John Ryan is a power-hungry jerk. He molests Christine Thayer during a traffic stop, but we imagine he'd do the same to any woman who spoke to him the way she did. Or maybe it is because she's Black and he feels the need to "put her in her place."

    Whatever the reason, Ryan justifies his actions to his partner, Hanson, who applies for a transfer right after the traffic stop incident. How does Ryan react to that?

    RYAN: Wait 'til you've been on the job a few more years. […] Wait 'til you've been doing it a little longer. You think you know who you are, hmm? You have no idea.

    Basically, Ryan's just saying that the older you get, the more you realize that the world sucks, and it's someone else's fault. Especially if that someone is Black.

    Do you believe his justification for his racism? Would any cop behave the way Ryan does after years on the force? Consider Hanson's shooting of Peter Waters at the end of the movie. Was he acting like Ryan when he pulled his gun?

    Number One Dad

    Underneath the race issues is a problem everyone in Crash appears to deal with—specifically, the fact that they're all simply awful people. But awful people have a reason for being awful, right? Well, Officer Ryan's excuse for being a jerk is that his dad can't pee.

    Seriously. Dad has trouble peeing, so Officer Ryan takes it out on the world. Specifically, he takes it out on Shaniqua Johnson, an insurance agent who refuses to make an exception for Daddy Ryan so that he can get his prostate checked. Her refusal to help the man go number one sets Ryan off on one of the movie's biggest diatribes, which we have reproduced here, notated for your convenience.

    RYAN: You know what I can't do? I can't look at you without thinking about the five or six more qualified white men who didn't get your job. (1) […] I'm saying this 'cause I'm hoping that I'm wrong about you. I'm hoping that someone like yourself, someone who may have been given a helping hand (2), might have a little compassion for someone in a similar situation. […] You know, you don't like me, that's fine. I'm a prick. (3.) My father doesn't deserve to suffer like this. He was a janitor. He struggled his whole life. (4) Saved enough to start his own company. Twenty-three employees, all of them Black. Paid 'em equal wages when no one else was doing that. (5) Thirty years he worked side by side with those men, sweeping and carrying garbage. And then the city council decides to give minority-owned companies preference in city contracts. And overnight, my father loses everything. His business, his home, his wife. (6) Everything! Not once does he blame your people. (7) Now, I'm not asking you to help me. I'm asking that you do this small thing for a man who lost everything so people like yourself could reap the benefits. (8) And do you know what it's gonna cost you? Nothing. Just a flick of your pen.

    All right. Let's break this down.

    1. How does Ryan know this? Did they call him? Did he review their résumés and compare this to hers?
    2. Why does he assume she would have been given a helping hand?
    3. Yes.
    4. Struggle should exempt someone from cancer? Who does deserve to have prostate cancer, then?
    5. He paid people a fair wage, you say? Someone get this man a medal. 
    6. Did minority-owned companies make this guy lose his wife?
    7. Good, because it was the city council that decided it, not them.
    8. Does he think all Black people are related? Why does he think his father deserves help, while if a Black person asked for help, it would be a handout?

    Shaniqua denies Ryan's claim, which only serves to reinforce the guy's racial stereotypes. But Shaniqua didn't deny the claim because she is Black and Ryan is white. She did it because he is a condescending jerk.

  • Officer Tom Hanson (Ryan Phillippe)

    Officer Mmmbop

    After dropping out of the band formed by his brothers Isaac, Taylor, and Zac, Tom Hanson became a cop. In Crash, he finds himself partnered with Officer John Ryan, whose gross behavior at a traffic stop prompts Hanson to request a different partner. He doesn't want to work with a racist.

    This is his lieutenant's response:

    LT. DIXON: I wouldn't be either, which is why I understand your need for privacy, just like I'm sure you understand how hard a Black man must work to get to stay where I am in a racist organization like the LAPD, and how easily that can be taken away. Now, that being said, it's your decision. You can put your career and mine on the line in pursuit of a just cause, or you can admit to having an embarrassing problem of a personal nature.

    In short, Dixon, who is Black, wants Hanson to pretend to have gas, not to file a complaint of racism. Why? Because as a Black man, Dixon doesn't want accusations of racism to hurt his own career.

    Also, it would probably take a lot of paperwork.

    So Hanson doesn't push it. He pretends to have gas, and he gets made fun of for it. That's a lot of ridiculousness to go through so that you don't actually have to file a complaint about racism. But that's the way the characters in this movie roll.

    Later, Hanson is put in the uncomfortable situation of having to stand up for Cameron Thayer. When Cameron refuses to back away from an armed officer, Hanson comes between them.

    HANSON: Do you wanna die here, huh? Is that what you want? 'Cause these guys really wanna shoot you. And the way you're acting, they'll be completely fucking justified.

    We said "uncomfortable situation," but really, the situation appears to be most uncomfortable for Cameron, a full-grown Black man being spoken to as if he were a child by a white cop. Still, is Hanson's attitude justified? He does save the man's life, even though Cameron didn't ask him to.

    Of course, after this encounter, Hanson goes from white savior to killer when he shoots Peter Waters after giving him a ride. Why does he do it? Well, To Hanson, Peter is acting suspicious—though, really, there's nothing that weird about anything he's doing. Things come to a head when Hanson asks Peter to put his hands up, and then Peter, who is really just trying to show Hanson that they have the same religious doodad, makes the mistake of reaching for the doodad to show it to Hanson.

    So Hanson, thinking Peter is going to pull a gun, shoots him. Now, there's some irony: Hanson kills Peter even though Peter is acting like Cameron, whose life Hanson just saved. What's the difference? Look at it from Hanson's perspective. How could the situation have gone differently?

    Whatever the alternative, we know Hanson wishes he could just go back to singing "MMMbop."

  • Farhad (Shaun Toub)

    Mall Madness

    Farhad is a Persian shopkeeper with anger management issues. When we first meet him, he's buying a gun to defend his shop. He has a reason to: the shop has been vandalized multiple times. But Farhad decides to take his anger out on the wrong person. He shoots his gun at Ruiz the locksmith after a misunderstanding.

    Maybe "Farhad" is Farsi for "misplaced anger"? Okay, maybe not. But Crash is a film full of misplaced anger, and Farhad is the poster child. When Ruiz tells him that the lock on his door isn't the problem, the door is, Farhad gets angry. He thinks Ruiz didn't fix the lock on purpose, leaving him vulnerable to be robbed.

    There are so many problems with Farhad's logic that we don't know where to start. First, there's the language issue. When we first see Farhad and his daughter, Dorri, in the gun shop, they are speaking Farsi to one another, subtitled in English. But for the rest of the film, Farhad and his family speak English to each other. Why would they speak Farsi in public, in front of a clearly racist gun shop owner, yet speak English in private?

    If Farhad speaks English to his family, why can't he understand basic concepts like "lock" and "door"? Unable to comprehend, Farhad doesn't try to peacefully understand. He gets angry. It's difficult to sympathize with him, because, as an adult, he should know better. But we'll try.

    To be fair, the guy's situation is scary. His shop is being targeted because of his race. Well, actually, his shop is being targeting because the criminals think he's an Arab, spray-painting "Towelhead" and other slurs on the walls. Perhaps all Middle Eastern people are the same to these guys, but still, you'd think they could at least get it right if they're going to be haters.

    MRS. FARHAD: They think we're Arab. When did Persian become Arab?

    No one in this movie seems to be very smart, Farhad included. Farhad's shop is vandalized by ignorant idiots who have the wrong target. In his own ignorance, Farhad then lashes out at the wrong target. This isn't just a race issue. It's a stupidity and anger issue.

  • Daniel Ruiz (Michael Peña)

    The Keymaster

    Rich white lady Jean Cabot says, within earshot of the locksmith, that she thinks he's a thug because he has prison tattoos. But when he goes home, we see that this guy is a family man working hard to raise his daughter.

    (And anyway, would it have been okay for Jean to say what she said if it were true, and Ruiz had been in prison? If he weren't a family man, would he not be deserving of our sympathy?)

    Ruiz and his family have recently moved from a bad neighborhood to a good neighborhood, but his daughter is still scared. Ruiz, competing for Dad of the Year, tells her a fairy tale about an invisible cloak that will keep her safe to help her sleep at night.

    The sweet story backfires.

    When enraged shopkeeper Farhad comes to shoot Ruiz for not fixing his door, Ruiz's daughter jumps between them just as Farhad pulls the trigger. She isn't killed, and they all think a miracle occurred.

    Not exactly. The real reason nothing happened is that Farhad's gun had blanks in it—unbeknownst to Farhad himself. His daughter put those blanks there secretly.

    Farhad goes to shoot Daniel because of a miscommunication. It's not just that Farhad has been a stupid jerk, though—he assumes Ruiz has cheated him based on the way Ruiz looks. He doesn't bother to ask. He doesn't even bother explain why he's shown up to kill the guy. He just shoots. And, luckily, nothing happens.

    And by nothing, we mean nothing. There's no communication after this event, either.

    In the end, if Ruiz and his family are left with any profound feelings after this unusual encounter, they're probably feelings of confusion.

  • Ria (Jennifer Esposito)

    Mo' Ria, or Less Ria?

    Ria is one of the first characters we meet, along with her police detective partner, Graham Waters. We get to know his full name, but she's always Ria. Is it short for Maria? Victoria? Alexandria?

    Whatever her full name is, Ria seems like one of the more level-headed characters in the film—on first impression. After a car accident, Graham spouts his weird philosophy about crashing into people to feel human contact. Ria's response?

    RIA: Graham, I think we got rear ended. I think we spun around twice. And somewhere in there, one of us lost our frame of reference.

    At least one of them is speaking sense, but that lasts for about, oh, four seconds. Pretty quickly, Ria starts spouting ignorant crap at Kim Lee, the woman who hit them. After Kim says "blake" instead of "brake," Ria—who, we must remind you, is a police detective—makes fun of her.

    RIA: I "blake" too fast? I "blake" too fast. I'm sorry you no see my "blake" lights. […] Officer, can you please write in your report how shocked I am to be hit by an Asian driver!

    Yikes.

    After this outburst, Ria seems totally hypocritical when we see her defend her own racial heritage later in the film. She makes a good defense of herself, reminding Waters that she is half Puerto Rican and half Salvadoran—not Mexican. But it comes across as self-serving when she plays into other offensive racial stereotypes later in the film's timeline.

    Other than that, Ria's character is pretty static. The most interesting thing is trying to guess what "Ria" stands for. Macaria? Valeria? Rumpelstiltskinria?

  • Kim Lee (Alexis Rhee)

    Li'l Kim

    Kim Lee is the woman involved in a traffic accident with Ria at the beginning of the film. She totally blames Ria, of course.

    KIM LEE: Mexicans no know how to drive. She blake too fast.

    We're not sure how Kim Lee is able to correctly pronounce "middle," "fault," and "drive," but not "brake," but whatever. Her pronunciation seems to play deliberately into a crude stereotype about East Asians being unable to differentiate between Rs and Ls.

    There's a more sinister mix-up at play with Kim Lee, though. The reason the accident happened was that Kim was in a hurry to get to the hospital and visit her husband, a man run over by Peter and Anthony halfway through the movie. The man turns out to be in possession of a check as payment for transporting Thai and Cambodian slaves. The wrong kind of Asians, apparently.

    Yes, Kim Lee is married to a human trafficker.

    The film doesn't really explore that, but you can check out Anthony's character profile for how that storyline turns out.

  • Flanagan (William Fichtner)

    It's About Ethics in Policing

    Flanagan works with DA Rick Cabot and Detective Waters on the case of Detective Conklin. Conklin shot another member of the force, Detective Lewis, who was Black, but Waters discovers that Conklin may have had a reason: Lewis may have been dealing drugs.

    We never know exactly what Conklin did, but Flanagan wants to put him away in prison.

    Yeah, Flanagan may have only one name, but he has lots of words. Here, for example, are his thoughts on why Black people bear a heavy responsibility to be "good" in reaction to the high rates of crime committed by Blacks

    FLANAGAN: Fucking Black people, huh? […] I mean, I know all the sociological reasons why per capita eight times more Black men are incarcerated than white men. Schools are a disgrace. Lack of opportunity. Bias in the judicial system. All that stuff. All that stuff! But still, it's gotta get to you, on a gut level as a Black man, they just can't keep their hands out of the cookie jar. Of course, you and I know that's not the truth. But that's the way it always plays, doesn't it? And assholes like Lewis keep feeding the flames. It's gotta get to you.

    It's interesting that Flanagan, who is white, is acting like he's asking Waters, who is Black, questions about his opinion on race. But he doesn't want to hear Waters' answers—Flanagan answers his own questions. He doesn't even let Waters speak. And when Waters does speak, Flanagan acts like he knows better, for example in the following epic monologue.

    FLANAGAN: What are you? The fucking defender of all things white? We're talking about a white man who shot three Black men. And you're arguing with me that maybe we're not being fair to him? You know what? Maybe you're right. Maybe Lewis did provoke this. And maybe he got exactly what was coming to him. Or maybe stoned or not, just being a Black man in the Valley was enough to get him killed. There was no one there to see who shot first, so there is no way to know. Which means we could get this wrong. Maybe that's what happened with your brother. Maybe we got it wrong. Maybe Lewis isn't the only one who deserves the benefit of the doubt. You're the one closest to all this. You need to tell us. What does your gut tell you?

    Waters thinks Conklin is innocent. Flanagan wants Conklin convicted for the good publicity, because that will ensure Rick Cabot gets a good chunk of the Black vote. Flanagan doesn't care about justice; he only wants to use a dead Black man as political propaganda.

  • Shaniqua Johnson (Loretta Devine)

    Like a Bad Neighbor, Shaniqua Johnson's Not There

    Shaniqua Johnson is an insurance agent who denies Officer Ryan's father's insurance request because Officer Ryan is a total jerk to her.

    That means Shaniqua Johnson is bad at her job. The father is her customer, not the son. The son's behavior shouldn't have any effect on her decision. But here is her justification for her actions:

    SHANIQUA JOHNSON: Your father sounds like a good man. And if he'd come in here today, I probably would've approved this request. But he didn't come in. You did. And for his sake, it's a real shame. Get him the hell outta my office.

    Shaniqua makes herself look petty with her response, and that almost justifies Ryan's treatment of her. However, considering how offensive some of the things Ryan said to her were, we can understand how she'd lose her cool when confronted with his racist diatribes.

    One of the reasons Ryan thinks his dad deserves special treatment is that his dad hired Black people and "paid 'em equal wages when no one else was doing that." Okay, yes, that is good. But treating a person of a different race as an equal doesn't somehow earn you special treatment from another member of that race.

    Ryan's justification for wanting to get special treatment is offensive, but Shaniqua doesn't tell Ryan why it is. Instead, their whole argument is reduced to a petty squabble between two people who are terrible at their jobs. Again, nobody's communicating with anybody else.

  • Rick Cabot

    George of the Urban Jungle

    We like to imagine that two Brendan Fraser characters, George of the Jungle and Rick Cabot, are the same. After swinging from trees in the jungle, George changes his name to Rick, trades the loincloth for a suit, and becomes the DA of LA. Rick, Rick, Rick of Los Angeles, watch out for that racially charged police murder.

    Overall, Rick takes a backseat to his wife in this film, what with her angry tirades and all. Basically, we just see him trying real hard to do a good job in a racially volatile political landscape. However, he has to walk the political tightrope of actually doing good things for his Black constituents, while still appealing to white ones.

    There is a man named Flanagan working for Cabot. Flanagan is a nasty piece of work, and it's impossible to tell how much about his tactics Cabot is aware of. Cabot also employs a Black assistant, but she barely has the opportunity to open her mouth, and we never even learn her name. We're not sure if that's because the movie doesn't have time to develop another character—it already has so many—or if she's a token hire by Cabot to make it look like he has a diverse staff.

  • Dorri (Bahar Soomekh)

    Finding Dorri

    Dorri is Farhad's daughter—and maybe the only character in this movie with common sense. When Farhad buys a gun, for example, here's what Dorri has to say to him:

    FARHAD: I don't know anything about guns.

    DORRI: Another good reason not to buy one.

    She then handles the gun store owner's sexual harassment with a kind of grace the man doesn't deserve. Dorri, knowing her father's anger issues, also loads that gun with blanks—a smart move.

    After Ruiz gives his daughter the invisible cloak, she thinks she's protecting her father when Farhad shoots him. But no one knows that Farhad's daughter, Dorri, has put blanks in the gun. So there was a miracle, but the miracle was that Dorri knew her angry father well enough not to buy him real bullets.

    Dorri, Patron Saint of Smart Daughters with Stupid, Angry Fathers.

    That's about it for Dorri. Maybe we only like her because she has so little screen time, which means she doesn't have time to make any mistakes. (Eagle-eye viewers might spot her as Peter's doctor at the end of the movie.) We'll leave you with one question: how is Dorri so level-headed, when her father is so unhinged? Heck, when everyone else in the movie is so unhinged?