Friday, August 22, 2008

HATE CRIME: a film review.

How do you find justice when the authorities are unable, or unwilling to do their job? That is the question that Robbie Levinson (Seth Peterson) faces in Tommy Stovall’s film, Hate Crime.

Levinson and his partner Trey (Brian Smith) are living a rather peaceful life in the suburban Dallas when the neighborhood changes. Their new neighbor is Chris Boyd (Chad Donella), a hate-filled, tormented fundamentalist who is youth pastor at his father’s church. Tension mounts as Boyd makes his hatred for the gay couple clear.

So, when Trey is severely beaten with a baseball bat while taking the couple’s dog for a walk, all signs point to Chris Boyd as the culprit. His history in antigay religious causes seems only to confirm his guilt.

But a new detective (Giancarlo Esposito) is brought in on the case and he has other ideas. Unable to find sufficient evidence to convict Boyd, and harboring his own dislike for gays, he instead directs his attention on Levinson.

Levinson, with his partner’s mother (Cindy Pickett) and a neighbor woman who warned him about trusting the police, concoct a plan to find the justice which the police are denying them. As the neighbor woman puts it: “Screw the justice system. It ain’t never about justice.”

It would be relatively easy to plot out a story of this genre that is predictable though interesting. But Stovall, who both wrote and produced the film, avoided that trap. There are enough surprises in the film to keep the viewer interested.

It would also be easy to present the terrified Levinson as arming himself, while also presenting the usual PC message about the dangers of self-defense, or suggesting that victims are better off disarmed. Hate Crime doesn’t fall into that trap either. The Pink Pistols would be pleased.

The story raises a lot of interesting questions. But even mentioning them will spoil the film for those who haven’t seen it.

Hate Crime is well worth a watch. With a title like Hate Crime the viewer is already clued in on part of the plot. But the plot development is not at all hindered by this knowledge. The real story only begins after the awful crime has already taken place.

The characters are believable. There are times that the Chris Boyd character seems too tormented and a tad bit overacted. But generally the level of acting is excellent, particularly Bruce Davidson who plays Boyd’s minister father. And the dialogue fits the story without long sermons about justice or injustice.

The trio seeking justice do not attempt to justify their actions to the audience -- another pitfall common in such films. Instead of explaining the actions, which is the cheap and easy way, the film shows the actions within a context that makes them understandable.

All in all I found Hate Crime to be well-worth watching. The story keeps one interested and it raises important ethical questions that are well worth considering. Here is a preview of the film.