A black man, Detective Graham Waters, speaks dazedly about the nature of Los Angeles and the need for people to crash into each other. A Latino woman in the driver's seat of the car, Ria, mentions they were hit from behind and spun around. She gets out of the car and goes to the cop and the other driver, an Asian woman. The two women blame each other for the mishap and make racial jibes. The Latina identifies herself as a detective.
Waters gets out walks toward more police cars and a crime scene. Another cop mentions they have a body. Waters looks at something.
The scene flashes back to "Yesterday."
At a gun shop a Persian man Farhad and his daughter Dorri are buying a handgun. The shop owner gets upset with the Persians speaking Farsi and the two men quickly escalate into angry words. Farhad leaves fuming and Dorri selects a red box of free bullets as she takes the gun.
Two young black men, Anthony and Peter, leave a restaurant. Anthony claims they were victims of racism and poor service, Peter laughs it off. Jean and Rick Cabot, a white couple, walk down the sidewalk. Jean notices the two black men and clutches Rick's arm. Anthony takes it as a racial slight, but then the two young men suddenly draw handguns and carjack the Cabots' black Lincoln Navigator. Peter places a St. Christopher statue on the dashboard.
Detective Waters and his partner Ria arrive at a crime scene. A uniformed cop tells them there was shooting between two drivers. The surviving white man is identified as an undercover cop named Conklin. The dead driver in a Mercedes is also a cop, a black man named Lewis. The investigators are unsure who started the shooting in the road rage incident.
At the Cabots' house Jean is still upset, and even though a locksmith is already changing the door locks, she wants it done again the next day. Jean loudly claims the locksmith will sell the keys and they will be robbed again. The locksmith, Daniel, overhears and leaves two sets of keys on the kitchen counter as he leaves. Rick is talking to his assistants. He is running for District Attorney re-election and wonders how to use the car jacking to an electoral advantage.
In a diner two Asian men talk about pickup of items. Nearby LAPD Officer John Ryan phones an HMO Adminstrator about his father's medical ailment, the administrator seems sympathetic but remains bureaucratic. When she mentions her name is Shaniqua, Ryan makes an angry comment and she hangs up.
As he leaves the police station, a white van driven by the Asian man from the diner passes in front of Ryan. Ryan and his partner Officer Tom Hansen patrol and notice a black Navigator. Ryan follows but Hansen states it is not the same plates as the report. As they close up behind the SUV Ryans shines a light into the vehicle causing a woman to raise her head and look back. Ryan turns on the lightbar and pulls over the truck. The cops ask the well dressed black couple inside, Cameron, a movie director, and his wife, Christine Thayer, to get out. Cameron is overly polite and deferential, saying they are close to their home, Christine is slightly drunk and taunts the police. Ryan is angry and makes a point of slowly physically searching the woman, who is wearing a revealing cocktail dress. Hansen realizes his partner is out of line, Cameron remains quiet as his wife is groped. The cops finally let the Thayers go.
Farhad is a shop owner himself. His wife Shirin complains the door doesn't close properly. Dorri loads the pistol and puts it in a drawer.
At their home, Christine Thayer rips into Cameron for not standing up to the cops. Cameron attempts to rationalize why he didn't do anything as they erupt in a bitter argument.
At his home Daniel talks to his 5 year old daughter hiding under her bed. She is still afraid of bullets from the bad neighborhood they recently moved away from. To protect her from bullets, he gives her an invisible cloak, then lovingly puts her to sleep. He gets a page and goes out on another locksmith job.
In the SUV, Anthony and Peter continue to discuss race and country music. As the two joke and talk, they pass a white van with the side door open, feel a thump and realize they hit something. Getting out they find an Asian man stuck under the vehicle. After discussing what to do with the "Chinaman," they roughly pull him out.
Hansen talks to Lt. Dixon about changing partners. The lieutenant, a black man, tells Hansen that claiming Ryan is a racist will make the lieutenant look like a bad manager. If Hansen wants to change, he has to claim to have a flatulence problem himself and needs to ride alone.
The two young men in the hijacked SUV drop the injured man in front of a hospital emergency room.
Daniel replaces the lock but tells Farhad he needs a new door. Farhad, who can't speak English, expects Daniel to fix the door, thinks the locksmith is cheating him, and argues about the bill. Disgusted, Daniel just tears up the bill and leaves.
At a chop shop, the owner Lucien tells Anthony and Peter he can't buy the Navigator parts because of the blood stains.
Graham and Ria are having sex when the phone rings. Ria is upset that Graham stops to answer it, she gets up and dresses to leave. Graham attempts to make a Hispanic joke.
Farhad returns and finds his shop trashed and covered with anti-Arab graffiti. He is devastated.
Anthony and Peter walk and continue to discuss black people.
Jean Cabot is angry her Mexican maid Maria hasn't emptied the dishwasher.
Anthony refuses to take a bus, saying it is degrading, and claims he will never steal from another black.
Ryan goes to see Shaniqua in person. Initially apologetic, he tries to explain his father's HMO doctor is incompetent and he wants a second opinion, but Shaniqua says it wouldn't be covered by the plan. Ryan gets upset and says his father was a victim of affirmative action and that she, as its beneficiary, should help him. Shaniqua is not impressed, and calls security to kick Ryan out.
Shirin attempts to clean the graffiti at the vandalized shop dismayed that the haters didn't even know they were Persian rather than Arab.
Graham goes to visit his mother. She lives in a small apartment and seems slightly daft, worried about the younger brother who has run away and been missing. Graham again promises to find him. Before leaving, he notices a bottle of sour milk in the fridge. Outside, Ria tells him Internal Affairs found something in the Mercedes.
In the studio a white producer tells Cameron the black character in a scene didn't speak with enough ebonics. He's supposed to be "stupid" and doesn't talk ebonics enough to sound stupid. Cameron thinks the man is joking but it is made clear they have to reshoot the scene. The racial bigotry confronting Cameron is starting to overwhelm him.
Christine arrives at the studio and tries to talk to Cameron about the previous evening; she concedes that he might have saved their lives, but he tells her to go home and leaves angrily. Christine is left in tears.
An insurance man tells the Iranians they aren't covered for the vandalism because the door wasn't fixed - exactly as the locksmith had said. Farhad therefore blames Daniel and tries to find out his name to exact revenge. The Lock company receptionist refuses to give it and hangs up on him.
Going out on shift, Ryan sees Hansen and wishes him well. He also prophetically warns Hansen that he may not know himself as well as he thinks he does. Ryan then cheerfully calls out to his new partner, Gomez, Hansen gets into a police unit by himself, and the dispatcher makes a fart joke.
Ria and Graham go to the impound yard and are shown a fake spare tire in the Mercedes' trunk with $300,000 hidden inside.
Farhad finds out where Daniel lives using the crumpled up lock workorder.
Arriving at an accident scene Ryan runs to an upside down car, someone is trapped inside. It is Christine Thayer and already scared, she becomes distraught when she recognizes Ryan, and refuses his help. The cop says he won't hurt her and tries to free her as there is spilled gas and a burning wreck nearby. The fire races toward the inverted car, other cops pull Ryan out. He goes back into the car and cuts out Christine from her seat belt, pulling her out just before it explodes in a fireball. Christine is taken away badly shaken as she looks back at now heroic John Ryan.
Flanagan, Rick Cabot's camapaign manager, talks to Graham. He says they know the white cop has a history of shooting black men and Cabot wants to go public blaming Conklin for the shooting. Graham suggests the black cop was up to something suspicious. Flanagan brings up details about Graham's missing brother and some criminal charges against him which could be dropped He also hints at a good job with Cabot if Graham agrees with the story to blame the white cop. Graham reluctantly agrees and Cabot immediately announces the lie to the press.
Driving alone his black Navigator, distraught from all the happenings, Cameron comes to a stop sign. Suddenly Anthony and Peter appear with guns drawn to carjack him. They are surpised he is black. This time, Cameron fights back and gets the gun away from Anthony, starts kicking him on the ground. Peter points his gun but doesn't shoot. A police car sees the scuffle from a distance and starts toward them. Peter runs off and Anthony and Cameron get in the SUV and drive off. After a short chase, two police cars corner the Lincoln. Anthony shrinks down in the passenger seat, afraid to get out, but Cameron does get out and confronts the police. Hansen is one of the responding officers and recognizes him; he tells the other cops he is OK and tries to calm down the excited Cameron, with the previous injustice clearly on his mind. Finally the two are let go. Cameron gives Anthony his gun back and tells him he is an embarrassment as he drops him off.
Farhad confronts Daniel in the driveway, pointing his gun at him and demanding money to repair the ruined store. Daniel tries to calm him down when his daughter runs out to protect him with her "invisible cloak." As she jumps into her father's arms, Farhad fires a shot from close range. A long pause... Daniel checks the girl and finds no blood. She is all right. Stunned and surprised he brings her inside leaving a bewildered Farhad in the street.
Graham returns to the mother's place with fresh groceries. He places them in the fridge as she sleeps unaware.
Jean Cabot talks on the phone to a friend, saying she doesn't understand why she is angry all the time. Hanging up she slips and falls down the stairs, lies whimpering on a landing.
Hitchhiking back to town later that evening, Peter is picked up by the off duty Hansen. They chat, but Hansen thinks Peter is mocking him and tells Peter to get out of the car. Peter begins laughing at the St. Christopher statue on the dashboard and reaches into his pocket to show his. A nervous Hansen thinks it's a gun, then draws his gun and shoots him dead. Shocked by what he did, he pushes the dead Peter out of his car on an isolated dark road.
Back to the scene at the beginning, Graham arrives on the crime scene and sees his lifeless brother, Peter Waters, by the side of the road.
Anthony has taken the step of riding a bus, without his faithful sidekick, but out the window he notices that a white van has the key left in the door. He drives off in it.
At a hospital the same Asian woman shouting in the accident at the beginning arrives, desperately calling for her husband. Her husband, the Korean man in the white van who was run over by Anthony and Peter, is wounded, bandaged up but coherent. He tells his wife to quickly go cash a check in his coat pocket.
Anthony brings the newly stolen white van to the same chop shop, where they find several Cambodian illegal immigrants chained up in the back. Lucien offers to pay Anthony $500 for each person.
At a hospital, a grieving Mrs. Waters sees her dead son, Peter. She blames Graham for not finding his brother earlier as promised and states that Peter's last act was to deliver fresh groceries to her. The detective takes it stoically.
Dorri comes to see her father Farhad. Placid, he says he found an angel and gives her the handgun. Dorri goes to check the red box of bullets. They are labelled ".38 Special Blanks".
Rick and Jean talk on the phone. Jean is OK as the maid had taken her to the hospital. Maria brings her a cup of tea and the two women hug, Jean calls the maid her best friend.
Hansen abandons his car after lighting it on fire. Cameron stops his car as it starts to snow lightly. He sees the burning car and goes to the fire to throw stuff on the flames. His phone rings, Christine is calling and they say they love each other.
Graham returns to the place his brother's body was found. He finds Peter's St. Christopher statue.
Anthony lets the illegal Asian immigrants out in Chinatown. Leaving them $40 for some chop suey, he drives off, feeling pleased with himself.
Across the street a minor rear-ender occurs and we see Shaniqua get out of her car, berating the other driver. Snow falls.