The film touches on a host of social problems, including racial inequality, racial profiling, and institutional racism. The film follows a dozen characters as their lives intertwine, and their dissatisfaction with life is exposed. Anthony and Peter are two black men angry at the world for its perceived anti-blackness. Rick Cabot is the district attorney of Los Angeles and his wife, Jean is a high-strung woman filled with contempt for the people who serve her. Two black men, Anthony and Peter, leave a coffee shop and discuss racism in our society.
They pass by a middle-class white couple, LA District Attorney Rick Cabot and his wife Jean. She clings to her husband, and Anthony points out that they’re the ones who should feel threatened, as they are the only black men in a sea of white people. They pull out guns, run up to the couple, and carjack them.
The scene switches to a white LAPD officer talking to a black insurance representative about his father.
He reveals his racism when she The same officer is driving in a car with his partner Tom, when they spot a black Lincoln Navigator. Despite it being a different vehicle, John decides to pull them over. Cameron, a TV producer is driving the vehicle. John tells Cameron to perform an exercise to prove his sobriety, and his wife Christine gets impatient and insists that her husband has had nothing to drink. After she continues to backtalk, John arrests both of them, and gives Christine an invasive pat-down, where he gropes her crotch. Tom talks to his superior and tells him he wants a new partner. In their bedroom, Christine chides Cameron for doing nothing while the police officer violated her.
At the Cabot home, Jean tells Rick she wants the locked changed in the morning, because she believes Daniel is going to give the keys to all his “gangbanger” friends. Meanwhile, Farhad hires Daniel to fix the lock to his store, and Daniel informs him that his entire door is broken. Farhad’s limited English and mistrust of others leads him to believe that Daniel is trying to “cheat” him. Later, Farhad’s shop is broken into and ravaged. Since Daniel had warned Farhad about the broken door, the insurance company denies payment, claiming negligence. He blames Daniel, and seeking revenge, he waits for Daniel at his house, and shoots him just as his daughter runs out of the house.
Detective Waters visits his ailing mother, who asks if he’s found Peter, his criminal brother. There is the sense that he is not giving his family the attention they deserve. He opens his mother’s refrigerator and notices there is almost no food.
John arrives at the scene of a horrific car accident, and runs towards an overturned car. He finds a woman stuck inside, who happens to be Christine. At first she angrily tells him not to save her, but there is a fire in a nearby car, and gasoline is spilled all over the road. She acquiesces and lets him break her from the car. The nearby car catches is engulfed in flames, and John’s fellow officers try to pull him out of the car before he can save Christine, but he risks his life and goes back into the car to pull her out just seconds before it explodes.
Jean is talking about her dissatisfaction with life with a friend on the phone, and later slips and falls. His Hispanic maid, who she has been treating poorly, drives her to the hospital. In the hospital, she tells the maid she’s the best friend she has.
Peter is hitchhiking on the road when Tom stops and picks him up. They start an awkward conversation, and Tom becomes suspicious of Peter. When Tom thinks Peter is about to pull a gun, he preemptively pulls his own gun and shoots Peter. His mother is devastated, and tells Graham that he responsible, because he didn’t help his brother.
The Chinaman is apparently survives being run over, and tells his wife to cash a check. Anthony goes back to the van to finds a group of people who were intended to be trafficked. He then drives them to Chinatown and frees them.
Clearly, the main social problem addressed in the film is racism, racial tensions, and racial stereotypes. The characters debate what it means to be “black”, the Social problems are often theorized by in the character’s own conversations, particularly Anthony and Peter. Before Anthony and Peter hijack the car, they talk about the service they received. Anthony claims that the waitress wasn’t attentive to them because she had a generalization that black people don’t tip. When Peter points out that the waitress was black, Anthony counters that black people can be racist against their own kind. As the film progresses, it becomes clear that everyone holds biases towards members of another race, whether they can acknowledge it or not.
The incident where Cameron’s wife Christine is groped and molested by the police officer addresses multiple social issues, including sexual harassment, gender roles and racial profiling. Christine is upset because her husband did nothing while she was being violated. This reflects society’s expectation for men to protect their wives, especially from other men. As they’re discussing the incident in their bedroom, Christine says that Cameron doesn’t know what it’s like to be black, and didn’t want to be arrested because his friends at the studio would realize “he’s actually black”, alluding to the racial profiling that African-Americans have to endure. He counter she doesn’t know what it’s like to be black either, since she was on the equestrian team, implying that blacks don’t engage in activities like that.
This deep dissatisfaction with life is the source of almost every character’s racist beliefs. In one scene, John goes in to talk to Shaniqua, the insurance representative, and asks for a new doctor his father, who has trouble urinating and hasn’t improved. When she refuses, he lectures her about the “more qualified white men” who could have her job. He tells the story of his father, who started his own company, hired all black employees and had a contract with the city of Los Angeles. When the city decided to give preference to minority-owned businesses, his father “overnight, lost everything”. John has to watch his father sit on the toilet for hours, trying to pee. He uses minorities as a scapegoat for his painful experience with his father in old age. Before Jean falls, she tells her friend on the phone that she is angry at everyone in her life, and she thought she would feel better in the morning. Instead, she still feels angry. She admits that she feels this way every morning. She expresses this anger through a fear of others, exemplified by her rant on minorities.
The impact of this bigotry varies from character. Farhad’s distrust of Americans, the Hispanic locksmith, Daniel in particular leads him to ignore Daniel’s advice to replace the door. This comes back to haunt Farhad when his shop is broken into and he loses his livelihood. Daniel is also hurt by Farhad’s racism when Farhad nearly kills his daughter right in front of his eyes. Peter ultimately loses his life because of Tom’s subconscious fear of African-Americans. Cameron is very much hurt by John’s racism, putting strains on his marriage to Christine.
The solution to the characters’ racism is seeing the common humanity in all of us that transcends race. When John finds Christine trapped inside of a car about to explode, he finds her in a situation is universal to all races, the risk of being in a car accident. Farhad’s dislike of Daniel is transformed when he nearly murder his daughter, seeing that his love for his family is just like his own. Jean is perhaps the most striking example of this phenomenon. Despite her poor treatment of her Hispanic maid, she comes to her aid when she is in a time of need. Despite believing that whites are morally superior to minorities, she was ignored by her white friends, and Maria came to save her. The sociological theory most supported by this film is symbolic interactionism. The characters’ interactions….
Crash is a movie that takes race and class head-on in a fresh, unpredictable way. The perspective offered. The coincidences in the film are somewhat unrealistic, but that is nothing unique in the world of Hollywood.