What was Mookie's motivation for throwing that trashcan. To redirect the mob's rage and save Sal's life? To vent his own rage over Radio Raheem's death? If he was trying to vent, why didn't he join in on the actual rioting and looting with the other black people? If he truly was trying to save a life, why help start a riot, which could easily lead to plenty of other people getting killed? "I wanna clear up something once and for all," Spike Lee says in a commentary track on the 20th anniversary DVD of the film. "Mookie did not throw the garbage can through the window to divert the mob from jumping on Sal". Rather, he "threw the garbage can through the window because he just saw one of his best friends get murdered in cold blood by NYPD."
Discussed in the film Southside With You, in which a young Barack Obama, questioned on his thoughts about the scene by a white higher-up at his law firm, suggests the former interpretation, but later privately expresses his belief in the latter interpretation to Michelle.
Pino. An unapologetic racist and a bully? Or a hypocritical, insecure young man whose Italian friends make fun of him for working in a black neighborhood that, in turn, barely tolerates him only because he's Sal's son?
The insult montage, shown right after Mookie questions Pino on his racism. It should be insulting, but the degree to which the two of them insult each other quickly stops being offensive and starts being funny within the first few seconds.
Mookie shows up the day after the riot to collect his money (which he didn't earn) from Sal, after Mookie incited the riot which cost Sal his business. If one is of the opinion that Mookie did what he did in order to save Sal's life, however, his doing this makes a bit more sense.
Designated Hero: Mookie, who has zero work ethic and goes to have sex with his girlfriend when he's supposed to be on deliveries. Then after inciting a riot that destroys Sal's pizzeria, he has the gall to go back and demand payment.
Designated Villain: Sal. While Lee intentionally makes his conflict with the rest of the cast more nuanced than simply him being a bigot, he perhaps comes off as too sympathetic in the process, with most of the problems coming off as being the fault of other characters.
Radio Raheem's death through Police Brutality is similar to what happened in a police brutality case in 1991 in Los Angeles with Rodney King, a black man brutally beaten up by the cops. While Rodney King did survive the beatings, the riot that followed (which was a much larger-scale riot than the riot from the film) was considered to be one of the worst racial riots in United States history, to the point that the National Guard was called in. In 2014, meanwhile, Eric Garner died after being put in a chokehold by an NYPD officer, similar to how Radio Raheem died. And similar, even worse acts of unwarranted violence towards black people continue to happen in American on a daily basis.
In the film, a general store owned by a Korean man, Sonny, was spared during the riot as he pulls a famous Not So Different line with the black rioters stating the Koreans too suffered racial discrimination in America.note It Makes Sense in Context, considering the fact that, 1) most Koreans and other Asian-Americans often have high education college degrees from their own home countries that have much lower weight in American academia, thus many Asian-Americans are often denied academic and scientific careers (although this is no longer the case nowadays). 2) Asian-Americans are more willing to establish small businesses and restaurants in black dominated neighborhoods than white folks because they not only that don't have a lot of professional choices in America, but Asian-Americans do not share the same racial view with white people in regarding to color skin. Sadly, most of the businesses and stores destroyed during the riots were owned by Korean-Americans themselves. Because of this, the riots created a lot of racial tensions between black people and Korean-Americans in Los Angeles. Even today, if you meet up any Korean or African-American in Los Angeles (particularly the older generation that lived through the said riots), chances are many of them hold some negative grudges and stereotypical views towards each other.
In-Universe example: At the end of Sal's first scene he jokingly says, "I'm gonna kill somebody today." The statement's a little harsh, but he certainly did not mean it. The words become haunting when Sal "kills" Radio Raheem's radio, which causes Radio Raheem to attack Sal, which leads to the altercation in the streets, which leads to the death of Radio Raheem at the hands of a police officer. While Sal is not the only character who can be blamed for this tragedy, it can at least be said that he (along with Buggin' Out) helped kill someone.
Heartwarming Moments: Sal explaining to Pino that he has no issue with black people, that they've supported him for decades and he's proud that people in the neighborhood have grown up on his pizza. The mood is broken when Smiley shows up and Pino starts picking on him, but still.
Hype Backlash: Although the movie was intended to be a love letter to Brooklyn and help bring its plight to the world stage, residents of the real neighborhood it was filmed in were not amused at being forced to move out so that the set crew could paint their apartment buildings strange colors and knock down ancient buildings to create 'realistic' sets. They also had issues with the whole "fairytale" feeling of the movie's first act, feeling it cheapened their daily struggle.
Jerkass Woobie: Radio Raheem only supports Buggin' Out's protest out of petty spite over Sal telling him not to blast his boombox in the pizzeria. He didn't deserve to be killed, though.
Narm: It can be hard to take the movie seriously after you've seen the opening credits. Or it could be Narm Charm.