Study Guide

Crash

Crash Summary

  

A racist cop gets into a car accident with another racist driver. We flash back to the day before, when a racist gun store owner sells a gun to an angry Persian man and his not-angry, not-racist daughter. Elsewhere in Los Angeles, two kind of racist criminals carjack the maybe-not-racist-but-we're-not-sure DA of LA and his definitely racist wife. That night, racist wife says she wants a different locksmith because the one she's got is Mexican and she thinks he'll sell her house keys to his gang friends. Because all Mexicans have gang friends, right? (Wrong.)

Meanwhile, the racist cop and her racist partner from the beginning of the movie investigate a crime that may be motivated by race. (In a shocking twist, it's not, but it ends up being made about race, anyway.) And, finally, another racist cop pulls over a Black married couple, sexually molests the wife, and humiliates the husband.

The married couple fight all night because the wife thinks her husband should have stood up for her. To her, his refusal to stand up for them means he is complicit in the white cop's racism, making him just as bad as they are.

Whew, okay—we've met everybody. They might not all be racist, but really only five of them aren't totally racist—the Persian daughter, the white DA, the Black wife, the Mexican locksmith, and the racist cop's white partner.

All the racist people, and four of the not-quite-as racist ones, have anger issues, and they all act nasty for a while. Not-racist Officer Murphy (Ryan Phillippe) asks for a new partner after Racist Officer Ryan's (Matt Dillon) gross behavior at the traffic stop. Racist Jean Cabot (Sandra Bullock) yells at her Mexican housekeeper for not properly loading the dishwasher. Officer Ryan (Matt Dillon) is rude to racist insurance agent Shaniqua Johnson (Loretta Devine).

It goes on.

The two racist detectives Waters and Ria (Don Cheadle and Jennifer Esposito) are not only sleeping with each other, but they're racist to each other. Racist Fred (Tony Danza) makes racist remarks to the TV director Cameron Thayer (Terrence Howard), who still isn't listening to his wife, Christine (Thandie Newton). Iranian shopkeeper Farhad (Shaun Toub) argues with locksmith Daniel Ruiz (Michael Peña). The two criminals Anthony and Peter (Ludacris and Larenz Tate) keep preaching to each other about race.

Eventually, all heck breaks loose. Shaniqua Johnson denies Officer Ryan's dad's insurance claim. Officer Ryan saves Christine from a burning car, and she is not happy that it's the man who sexually assaulted her who's saving her life. Cameron taunts cops and almost gets shot, forcing Officer Murphy to intervene. In a misunderstanding, Officer Murphy shoots Peter and hides the body.

Peter turns out to be Detective Waters' brother, and Waters is sad about that. Waters agrees to send a racist cop to jail to get a promotion for himself. Farhad fires his gun at Ruiz, but it turns out his daughter puts blanks in it. And Jean Cabot falls down, like, two steps and hurts her ankle. Despite having literally the smallest problem of everyone, she whines the most.

And that's about it. Did anyone learn any lessons? Will these people keep crashing into each other? How expensive are everyone's insurance premiums going to be after this?

We want to see a remake of this movie starring Flo from Progressive. Get on it, Hollywood.

  • Scene 1

    Scene 1

    • It's raining or snowing—hard to tell in the dark. Whatever it is, there's water all over the road. This could be dangerous—and we don't see a "Slippery When Wet" sign, either.
    • Detective Graham Waters in voice over says that nobody touches you in L.A.
    • Waters thinks "we crash into each other just so we can feel something."
    • Waters' partner Ria thinks he hit his head a little too hard in the accident and now he's talking nonsense.
    • Ria gets out of her car to confront Kim, the driver she just hit.
    • Kim, who is Korean, blames Ria for being a "crazy Mexican."
    • Ria blames Kim for not seeing her "blake light." Is that Blake Lively's real name?
    • That whole not touching each other thing is looking pretty good right about now.
  • Scene 2

    Scene 2

    • Waters examines a shoe in a field. Is it his size?
    • Then we flash back to yesterday, where a guy buys a gun and gets a free box of ammunition.
    • But because he's Persian, the gun store owner declines to sell him a gun and has security kick him out.
    • Then, because he doesn't think he's being scummy enough, the gun store owner sexually harasses the Persian man's daughter.
    • The daughter puts up with it to get the gun and the free bullets. Maybe the guy throws in a free blender, too, for white people?
  • Scene 3

    Scene 3

    • Anthony and his friend Peter leave a diner, angry that they received poor service: they were the only Black people in the restaurant.
    • Peter tells Anthony that their waitress was Black, but Anthony says that Black women are also capable of racial discrimination, like when they believe that Black men don't tip.
    • Because the service was so bad, Anthony didn't tip.
    • Down the street, Jean and Rick Cabot walk side by side.
    • Jean's mad that Rick keeps taking business calls, so he takes the battery out of his giant 2004 phone and gives it to her.
    • When the Cabots walk by Anthony and Peter, Jean grabs her husband.
    • Anthony is insulted that Jean reacted to his presence with fear.
    • Because these two are one big walking self-fulfilling prophecy, Anthony and Peter then carjack the Cabots by pulling guns on them and forcing them out of the car.
    • Jean should have whacked this guy with that giant battery.
  • Scene 4

    Scene 4

    • Waters and Ria are investigating a shooting outside a convenience store.
    • It was road rage gone wrong (not that road rage ever goes right), but the rager didn't realize that he was raging against the machine.
    • By machine, we mean cop. Not the Terminator.
    • A guy in a Mercedes shot at a cop, who shot back and killed him.
    • Now the cop is enjoying a coffee.
    • "He looks very relaxed for just having shot somebody," observes Waters.
    • As if this were Han Solo v. Greedo, Waters wants to know who shot first.
    • Ria learns that the victim is William Lewis. How does she know this? She found his badge under the front seat.
    • Uh-oh. We've got a case of cop-on-cop crime.
  • Scene 5

    Scene 5

    • Jean Cabot has a locksmith smith her locks.
    • Then Jean tells her husband that she wants the locks changed again in the morning.
    • Why? The short answer: because the locksmith, Ruiz, is too brown for her tastes. The shorter answer: racism.
    • Jean seems to have no problem employing a brown maid, though. We see her racism and raise her hypocrisy.
    • Jean gets so loud that Ruiz hears everything, but simply gives her the new keys and leaves.
    • Rick is upset about being carjacked by two Black men, because as the DA of Los Angeles, he's afraid of losing the Black vote.
    • Time to drum up some positive PR and pin a medal on a random Black guy.
    • No really, that's Rick's idea.
  • Scene 6

    Scene 6

    • At a diner, a man makes a sketchy-looking deal with a guy at a table.
    • Meanwhile, Officer John Ryan calls a clinic about his father.
    • Ryan swears his father's painkillers aren't working.
    • The clerk on the phone informs Ryan that a urinary tract infection isn't an emergency.
    • Ryan asks to speak to the clerk's supervisor, and she tells him that she is the supervisor.
    • Ryan wants to know her name. It's Shaniqua Johnson.
    • Ryan makes fun of her name, and Shaniqua hangs up the phone.
    • With his partner, Officer Tom Hanson, Ryan goes on patrol.
    • Ryan pulls over an SUV because it looks like the woman in the passenger seat was performing oral sex on the driver.
    • That's not something you learn in driver's ed.
    • Ryan checks the driver's registration, then has him get out of the car. The couple in question? Cameron and Christine Thayer.
    • While Cameron is being forced to demonstrate he isn't inebriated, Christine, who has been drinking, gets out of the car.
    • Ryan orders Christine to get back inside the car, but she won't.
    • With his partner Hanson, Ryan pushes the couple against the car.
    • Cameron says he's a TV director, and he says he and Christine were just returning home from an awards show.
    • Christine accuses Ryan of pulling them over because he thought she was white and married to a Black man.
    • Ryan gets a little handsy while frisking Christine for weapons, as if the Emmys gave out knifes in the gift bags.
    • After forcing Cameron to apologize, Officer Ryan lets them go with a warning.
    • In the car, Christine is so embarrassed and humiliated that she doesn't want Cameron to touch her.
  • Scene 7

    Scene 7

    • The Persian store owner, Farhad, has his daughter, Dorri, show him how to load his new gun.
    • Meanwhile, at home, Christine Thayer wants to report Ryan.
    • Christine's furious at Cameron for not doing anything—and for apologizing, even though she's the one who was felt up.
    • Cameron doesn't know what he was supposed to do. Argue with the cop and get shot?
    • Christine blames Cameron's silence on the fact that he's famous and didn't want his name in the paper. People still read those in 2004?
    • Angry, Cameron says he should have let them arrest Christine. "You gotta find out what it is really like to be Black."
    • Christine says the closest Cameron's come to being Black was watching The Cosby Show.
  • Scene 8

    Scene 8

    • Ruiz returns home and sees that his daughter's light is still on.
    • How late was he up changing Jean Cabot's lock?
    • Ruiz finds his daughter hiding under the bed, scared. She says she heard a bang that frightened her.
    • Ruiz assures his daughter they're in a safer neighborhood now, but she's scared that a bullet that came through her window in the old neighborhood will find her.
    • We have an exclusive image of the police line-up of bullets at large.
    • Ruiz tells his daughter a story about a fairy that came into his room when he was a kid. To prove she was a fairy, she gave him an impenetrable cloak. He passes it on to his daughter for her protection.
    • Dude's so good at tying fake cloaks he should be a mime if locksmithing doesn't work out.
  • Scene 9

    Scene 9

    • In the car, Anthony calls hip-hop the "music of the oppressor." There's some sort of meta joke here, we're sure of it…
    • Anthony says that the FBI created hip-hop music so that Black men would stop being articulate.
    • While Anthony's ranting, he runs over someone in the street.
    • The guy under the truck begs Anthony and Peter to help him.
    • Anthony suggests leaving the man to die, but Peter wants to pull him out.
    • Peter wins. They try to pull the man out.
  • Scene 10

    Scene 10

    • Hanson wants a new partner, one who won't spew racism and grope women at traffic stops.
    • Hanson's superior plays a lot of mental gymnastics with him to keep him from revealing Officer Ryan's racism.
    • The superior suggests that Officer Hanson should admit to having flatulence and request a one-man car if he wants a new partner.
    • Meanwhile, Anthony and Peter dump the injured man outside the hospital and drive away.
    • Elsewhere, Ruiz is hired to fix the lock for Farhad, the Persian store owner.
    • Ruiz says that the lock is fixed, but the door itself is damaged and needs to be replaced.
    • Farhad thinks Ruiz is trying to cheat him and sell him a door.
    • Farhad won't pay, and won't stop yelling, so Ruiz leaves without collecting his payment.
    • At a chop shop, Anthony and pal drop off Jean Cabot's SUV, now with more bloodstains.
    • The chop shop guy wants the car destroyed. He can't do anything about it if it has hit-and-run blood inside it.
  • Scene 11

    Scene 11

    • Detective Waters is engaging in some under-the-covers work with his partner, Ria. But he answers the phone in the middle of it.
    • It's Waters' mother. Awkward.
    • Waters tells his mom, "I can't talk to you right now, okay? I'm having sex with a white woman."
    • Ria pushes Waters off her and gets dressed.
    • Waters thinks Ria is mad because he called her white. He says, "I would have said you were Mexican, but I don't think it would've pissed her off as much."
    • Ria's mad that Waters speaks to his mother the way he did.
    • Also, Ria tells Waters that her father is from Puerto Rico and her mother from El Salvador. Neither of those is Mexico.
    • Waters makes a racist crack about all of them parking cars on her lawn, and Ria leaves. Maybe she should park her car on his face.
  • Scene 12

    Scene 12

    • Officer Ryan helps his dad, in pain from a UTI, off the toilet.
    • Ryan's father is kind of a jerk, and we wish he'd fall in the toilet.
    • The next morning, Farhad finds his door open and his store vandalized.
    • Property is trashed, and racist graffiti is painted all over the store.
    • At the DA's office, Rick is preparing for a press conference on the Conklin shooting.
    • Elsewhere, Anthony is still busy lecturing Peter every time he opens his mouth.
    • On a day when people have been robbed and/or killed, Jean is mad that her maid didn't put her mugs in the cabinet.
    • Anthony's conspiracy theories—for example, he thinks that buses have windows in order to humiliate the Black people on them—are getting more ludicrous.
  • Scene 13

    Scene 13

    • At the TV studio, Fred tells Cameron that the Black star of the show is speaking a little too white.
    • Cameron agrees to do a re-shoot.
    • At the insurance company, Shaniqua Johnson has an appointment with Officer Ryan.
    • Ryan apologizes for the way he talked to Shaniqua the night before.
    • Ryan complains that his father's doctor is an idiot, but Shaniqua tells him that the only other option is to see a doctor out of network, which won't be covered by the insurance.
    • Ryan tells Shaniqua that a bunch of more-qualified white men didn't get her job because of affirmative action. So much for his apology.
    • Because Shaniqua got a helping hand, according to Ryan, he thinks she should be willing to do the same for his father.
    • Also, apparently Ryan's dad paid Black people fair wages. How charitable.
    • But due to minority businesses getting special treatment, says Ryan, his dad's business had to close.
    • So, by Ryan's logic, his dad deserves special treatment from Black people.
    • Shaniqua says Ryan's not getting it, and she boots him from the office.
  • Scene 14

    Scene 14

    • While Farhad yells at the insurance company, his wife attempts to scrub the graffiti.
    • Farhad's wife is upset because the graffiti includes anti-Arab slurs, but they're Persian.
    • Get your racism right, people.
    • Dorri wants to know if the robber took the gun, but she finds it secure in a drawer.
    • Elsewhere, Waters is being all nice to his mother for a change, helping her lie down and rest at home.
    • Waters' mother asks if he found his brother, and he says no. She asks him again. Sadly, her mind appears to have gone missing, along with the brother.
    • Before Waters leaves, he checks her fridge, dumping out the expired milk.
    • When Ria asks if Waters talked to his mother, he says she wasn't home. The lights were on, but…
    • At the TV studio, Christine visits Cameron, because he's been having a bad day.
    • Christine is still upset over the traffic stop. She says she didn't like seeing the cops take away Cameron's dignity.
    • At the shop, with his daughter as translator, Farhad talks to the insurance agent.
    • The agent says they won't cover it, because Farhad didn't fix the door.
  • Scene 15

    Scene 15

    • Officer Hanson tells Officer Ryan he's been reassigned.
    • Ryan tells Hanson, and we're summarizing here, that one day, he'll be racist, too. It's every little boy's dream.
    • Hanson gets into his car, where, over the radio, his peers make fun of him for his alleged flatulence.
    • Ria and Waters meanwhile find a surprise in the trunk of dead Officer Lewis' car. It's a spare tire.
    • Wait, that's not a surprise.
    • Oh, yeah: the tire has a secret panel, and inside it is a ton of cash.
    • Behind his store, Farhad dumps a bunch of stuff in the dumpster.
    • The camera lingers on the dumpster so long that we expect Oscar the Grouch to pop out.
    • But instead, Farhad returns and digs out the locksmith's receipt, to get his name: Daniel Ruiz.
  • Scene 16

    Scene 16

    • Officer Ryan arrives on the scene of a terrible traffic accident.
    • A car has flipped over.
    • What did Waters say about people crashing into each other because they want contact? Maybe this person really wanted to touch the street.
    • The victim is Christine Thayer, the TV director's wife.
    • Instead of groping Christine like he did before, Officer Ryan tries to rescue her.
    • When Christine realizes who Ryan is, she starts screaming at him. "Fuck you! Not you!"
    • Christine eventually agrees to let Ryan save her, but it's a close call.
    • The car catches on fire, and Ryan's barely able to get Christine out before the vehicle explodes.
  • Scene 17

    Scene 17

    • Before Rick's press conference, a white guy at the DA's office named Flanagan wants to string up Conklin for his third shooting of a Black man.
    • Unfortunately, this case is a little complicated. The money was in the trunk of the car Lewis was driving, but the car belonged to Cindy Bradley. No one knows who she is, where she is, or why she stored her cash in a tire instead of under her mattress like a normal person.
    • Flanagan wants to ignore the money, but Waters believes that when the autopsy report comes back, Lewis will test positive for cocaine.
    • Flanagan blames this on "fucking Black people," because he's in this movie, so of course he does.
    • After his outburst, Flanagan attempts to assuage Waters by offering him a position as the DA's lead investigator.
    • Well, Flanagan was thinking of that…until he saw Waters' brother's file, which is thick with crime.
    • Flanagan suggests that the file will disappear if Waters agrees to incriminate Conklin.
    • Waters tells the DA that "it's pretty clear what happened," given Conklin's history.
    • And poof goes the file. Like magic.
  • Scene 18

    Scene 18

    • Farhad arrives at Ruiz's house.
    • Farhad's brought a little friend: the gun he bought at the beginning of the movie.
    • Down the street, Cameron sits at a stop sign, twiddles his wedding ring, and looks broody.
    • Cameron's too busy looking sad that he doesn't notice the carjackers approach. They drag him out of the car and are surprised to see he's Black.
    • A scuffle ensues, with Cameron fighting Anthony and quickly gaining the upper hand.
    • Anthony tells Peter to shoot Cameron, but Peter won't do it.
    • The police arrive, and Peter runs.
    • Anthony gets in the car, and for some reason Cameron gets in, too, and they speed away.
    • The cops chase Anthony and Cameron as the two fight over Anthony's gun.
    • The cops surround the car and order the men inside to get out.
    • One of the officers is Officer Hanson.
    • Cameron gets out of the car and approaches the cops, yelling obscene threats.
    • Hanson tries to defuse the situation before it explodes into violence.
    • It works, and Cameron is let off with a warning.
    • Cameron gets in the Navigator and drives away with Anthony still in the passenger seat.
    • Far away from the cops, Cameron returns the gun to Anthony and tells him, "You embarrass me. You embarrass yourself."
  • Scene 19

    Scene 19

    • Ruiz the locksmith gets out of his car.
    • Ruiz is approached by Farhad and his gun.
    • Ruiz's daughter watches the altercation from the window. She's afraid that her father doesn't have the impenetrable cloak, so she runs outside, in slow motion, to protect her father from the gunshot.
    • Ruiz's daughter jumps into Ruiz's arms, in slow motion, as the gun goes off.
    • Ruiz collapses to the ground, in slow motion, screaming, in slow motion, and a tear rolls down his cheek, in slow motion.
    • But nothing happened. The girl's fine. Everyone's fine. "It's a really good cloak," she says.
    • The family goes inside, leaving Farhad in shock in the street.
  • Scene 20

    Scene 20

    • Waters visits his mother and conducts his ritual of cleaning out the spoiled food from the fridge. He replaces it with new food, like way more tomatoes than one woman can eat before they go bad.
    • In the police station changing room, no one wants to talk to Officer Hanson, and not because of his supposed flatulence.
    • Meanwhile, at the DA's house, Jean is mad that her housekeeper left the house for two hours that day.
    • Jean's mad at all brown people, like her dry cleaners and her gardener.
    • Jean has realized that she wakes up angry all the time, and she doesn't know why. Why can't she wake up and have everyone serve her the way she wants them to?
    • Jean hangs up the phone and immediately slips and falls down the stars.
    • Have a nice trip.
  • Scene 21

    Scene 21

    • Late at night, Officer Hanson picks up a hitchhiker.
    • But it's not any hitchhiker—it's Peter, Anthony's carjacker buddy. L.A. is the smallest city ever.
    • Hanson and Peter talk about country music and ice skating, and Hanson feels like his hitchhiker is making fun of him.
    • When Peter actually does start laughing—after seeing a suction cup idol on the dashboard—Hanson pulls over and tells him to get out of the car.
    • Peter reaches into his pocket to show Hanson why he's laughing, which prompts Hanson to go into cop mode.
    • Hanson orders Peter to put his hands where he can see them.
    • But instead, Peter whips something out of his pocket.
    • Hanson shoots, killing Peter, before realizing that what Peter was showing him is the same idol. They had so much in common, after all.
    • Hanson does what is definitely not proper police procedure: dumps the body out the side of the car.
  • Scene 22

    Scene 22

    • Now we're back at the beginning of the movie.
    • Remember that shoe Waters was poking at? It belongs to dead hitchhiker Peter.
    • Sad music plays while Anthony sits on the bus. He hates the bus.
    • When the bus drives by the van of the man he hit yesterday, Anthony hops off the bus and takes the van.
    • Kim Lee, the woman who was in an accident with Ria and Waters rushes to the hospital.
    • Kim's husband is the man Anthony ran over.
    • Kim finds her husband alive in the hospital, and he orders her to cash the check in his wallet immediately.
    • Anthony takes the van to the chop shop. It proves to be a better investment than Jean Cabot's SUV: it's full of Thai and Cambodian slaves.
    • The chop shop guy agrees to pay Anthony for the slaves. He can keep the van. Way harsh.
    • At the hospital, Peter turns out to be Waters' little brother.
    • Waters' mom sees her son's dead body and collapses into tears. Why'd you choose this moment to be mentally present, Ma?
    • Mom blames Waters for his brother's death, for being too busy to find him.
    • Mom believes that the brother is the one who brought her groceries. Waters doesn't correct her.
  • Scene 23

    Scene 23

    • In Farhad's shop, Dorri sees her father with his gun. She asks him what's wrong, and he says he shot a little girl.
    • But she's okay.
    • He says the little girl is his angel, sent to protect them.
    • Oh, okay then. That's normal.
    • Farhad gives Dorri the gun, because what she needs is her fingerprints all over a weapon he used to shoot at a child.
    • Dorri goes to the counter to collect the bullets, and we finally see the box she bought: they were blanks.
  • Scene 24

    Scene 24

    • Jean calls her husband to tell him about her sprained ankle.
    • Jean's spirit is sprained, too, because her brown housekeeper drove her to the hospital when her white friend wouldn't do it because she was having a massage.
    • Maria helps Jean sit up, and Jean gives her a hug.
    • "You're the best friend I've got," Jean says to Maria. We hope that title comes with a raise.
    • In an abandoned lot, Officer Hanson sets his car on fire. Don't pass gas near the flames, man.
    • Continuing the sad montage of tears, Officer Ryan cries because it hurts when his dad pees.
    • Rick looks sad at his reflection for some reason.
    • Daniel Ruiz looks pensively out the window.
    • Cameron the TV director looks pensively out his car window. But he stops the car because it's snowing in Los Angeles. That hasn't happened since Angel was resurrected on Buffy.
    • Cameron stops to watch the car fire and calls Christine to say "I love you." ("Hey honey, this burning wreckage reminded me of our marriage…")
    • On the side of the road, Waters finds his brother's little dashboard idol.
    • In Chinatown, Anthony appears to have reclaimed the white van, and he releases the captured slaves.
    • One of the slaves stares into a DVD store with amazement. Maybe he'll own a store of his own some day…and go out of business in less than ten years.
    • Finally, as Anthony drives away, we see another accident.
    • This one involves Ms. Shaniqua Johnson, who immediately reveals herself to be just as angry and racist as everyone else in this movie.
    • At least the snow is pretty.