The movie begins with Detective Graham Waters and his partner Ria being involved in a minor collision with a car being driven by Kim Lee. A subsequent exchange of racially charged insults occurs. Waters arrives at a crime scene where the body of a “dead kid” has been discovered. Earlier the previous day, Farhad, a Persian shop owner, and his daughter Dorri are in a gun shop arguing over what bullets they should buy. The gun store owner grows impatient and degrades the two of them by referring to Farhad as “Osama.” Farhad is forced to leave the store and Dorri becomes responsible for the choice.
Later that night, two black men, Anthony and Peter, carjack District Attorney Rick Cabot and his wife Jean. At the couple’s house, the Hispanic locksmith Daniel Ruiz overhears Jean arguing with Rick, demanding that the locks be changed again as she suspects that Daniel is a gangster due to his tattoos and outfit. Daniel places the keys of the new locks on the kitchen counter and leaves.
Sergeant John Ryan and his partner Officer Tom Hansen pull over an SUV being driven by director Cameron Thayer and his wife Christine, who was performing fellatio on him. After an intoxicated Christine mouths off to Ryan, he subjects the couple to a body search. Ryan molests Christine in front of her husband and Hansen, who watches in disgust. Ryan releases them with a warning after Cameron apologizes.
In the carjacked SUV, Anthony and Peter hit a Korean man while passing a parked van, dump him in front of a hospital, and drive away. Daniel’s next call is to replace a lock at Farhad’s shop, but when Daniel warns Farhad that the real problem is the door, Farhad won’t listen. The next day, Farhad finds that his store has been wrecked and defaced with graffiti. Waters gets a phone call from his mother with dementia while having sex with his partner, Ria, which leads to an argument about her ethnicity. Waters later visits his mother, who asks him to find his missing younger brother.
Ryan comes across a car accident and as he crawls into the overturned vehicle, he finds Christine trapped. Although she resists frantically at first, with the help of his partner and spectators, Ryan pulls the terrified Christine out just as her car bursts into flames. Anthony and Peter carjack another Navigator, which happens to be Cameron’s. Only after opening the door do they realize that Cameron is black. Police officers arrive on the scene and a chase ends with Cameron and Anthony in Cameron’s car on a dead end residential street. Hansen is one of the pursuing officers and, out of guilt for the part he played in the assault of Cameron’s wife, vouches for Cameron to be let off with a warning. Cameron expresses shame toward Anthony for his criminal lifestyle and drops him off near a bus stop.
Farhad locates Daniel’s house and waits in ambush, but as he confronts Daniel and shoots, Daniel’s daughter jumps into Daniel’s arms, attempting to protect her father. Everyone watches in horror as Daniel clutches his daughter, but they soon realize that she has not been shot and the family retreats inside. Farhad tells his daughter that he believes the little girl was his guardian angel, preventing him from committing a terrible crime. He gives the gun to his daughter who is then seen going over near the cash register to retrieve the box of gun cartridges that her father had not known were actually blanks.
Hansen pulls over to pick up a hitchhiking Peter, who fled from the carjacking that took place earlier. Throughout the drive Hansen becomes more and more suspicious of Peter’s intentions. Peter offends Hansen by suddenly beginning to laugh, and when Peter reaches for his pocket, Hansen shoots. In Peter’s hand is a statuette similar to the one on Hansen’s dash and, horrified, Hansen hides the body in some nearby bushes and burns his car. Waters arrives at the scene with his partner and the connection is made that Peter is his missing brother and the “dead kid”. Waters is disowned by his mother for not finding Peter alive.
Anthony decides to steal the van of the Korean man he accidentally hit and, when he drops it off at a chop shop he frequents, he discovers a number of Cambodian immigrants locked in the back of the van. The chop shop owner offers him $500 per immigrant but Anthony has other plans. After driving into Chinatown and setting the Cambodian people free, he passes by a car crash where, once again, an exchange of racially charged insults takes place.