"It's the sense of touch. In 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."
—Det. Graham Waters
If you're looking for the J.G. Ballard novel which inspired a completely different film, go here. If not, read on.Crash debuted at the 2004 Toronto International Film Festival. It saw general release the next year and was the Academy Award winner for Best Picture of 2005. This ensemble piece directed by Paul Haggis addresses racism affecting the lives of several Los Angelenos as they intersect over several days' time. The incident that starts it all off is the carjacking of a white couple, the Cabots, by two black carjackers, Anthony and Peter...
Adopt the Dog: Anthony releasing the vanload of illegal immigrants rather than selling them.
Embarrassing Cover Up: After the incident with the Thayers, Tom asks for reassignment to a single car due to his partner John's stark racism. However, since it would be incredibly detrimental to the careers of both Tom and his African American superior to go on record about John's racism, they use a cover story of uncontrollable flatulence so Tom can have his own car.
Fantastic Racism: The whole point of the film is what people, of all races, perceive of the different races.
Foolish Sibling, Responsible Sibling: Deconstructed rather brtutally even though they didn't interact through the movie. Waters is the detective who looks after his drug abusing mother, while Peter (younger brother) is out carjacking with a friend and is now dead.
Freudian Excuse: The reason for Officer Ryan's animosity towards black people, as he explains to Shaniqua Johnson, is that his father was a janitor all his life and helped African Americans through his career. Then, when better jobs started hiring, only the African Americans got the jobs, not his father.
Hypocritical Humor: Done rather darkly; most memorably, the carjacking that sets everything off is perpetrated after Anthony rants about why white Los Angelenos, the LAPD especially, would think the worst of them even if they aren't intimidating and vastly outnumbered by white people in the area with a danger of police harassment, so they should be scared instead.
Anthony: "So why aren't we scared?"
Peter: "Maybe 'cause we got guns?"
Anthony: "You could be right." (They rush off to carjack a rich white couple).
Anthony is a master at this. Just prior to the carjacking, he and Peter are leaving a restaurant and Anthony is complaining about the service, arguing that the waitress didn't serve them well because of the stereotype that blacks are bad tippers. When Peter asks Anthony how much of a tip he left, Anthony incredulously asks "You expect me to pay for that kind of service?"
Incoming Ham: Quite a bit, though Mrs Cabot's fuming racist tirade and Terrence Howard going Tupac on a cop who's stopped him stand out.
Karma Houdini: Hanson, who gets away with killing Peter and burns the evidence. Though to be honest Peter had carjacked people and had actually run over a man, he still could have admitted to accidentally shooting him.
Nice Guy: Daniel Ruiz, the locksmith. He's a hard worker, family man, and doesn't hurl one racist insult with and without people around him. Even when Farhad accused Daniel of trying to cheat him, Daniel yells, but only telling to change the door.
Spiritual Successor: To the 1991 film Grand Canyon, starring Steve Martin as a misanthropic Hollywood producer (playing against type) whose life intersects with characters from all walks of life in LA, which popularized the notion that LA was a Wretched Hive of Class Tension. A year before the Rodney King riots. If not, in fact, The Remake of Grand Canyon.
Taking the Bullet: After Farhad's store is sacked and his insurance claim is denied, he confronts Daniel, who he blames, and winds up shooting him. Daniel's daughter decides to save him with her invisible cloak. Nobody dies because the bullets were blanks. Farhad thinks it's a miracle, and that the little girl is his angel. In fact his daughter (wisely) bought them instead as she was afraid someone would be hurt.
The Unfavorite: Heavily implied with Waters's relaitionship with his mother during the last scene: She blames him for Peter's death and calls him [Peter] her only son.
You Are What You Hate: Averted when Anthony, who's entire worldview is colored by the inescapability of racism and the history of slavery has a chance to sell a vanload of Asian refugees into modern-day slavery. He ends up letting them go instead.