“Hate Crime” (Image Entertainment) had everything going for it but somehow missed the mark of being a really good movie. It’s not a bad movie but it could have been so much better. I had anticipated so much more and was a bit let down. It had all the attributes of a top notch thriller but somehow it managed to sink into its own melodrama and my hopes sunk with it.
Robbie Levinson and Trey McCoy, a happy gay couple of six years, suddenly come face to face with intolerance and hostility at the hands of their new neighbor, a Bible thumping, hate spewing, Closet case, Chris Boyd, the son of a fundamentalist preacher. One evening as Trey sets out to walk the dog, he never returns. Immediately the blame is pointed at Chris and then Robbie becomes a suspect. When the authorities show they have no patience to deal with a crime concerning “fags”, Robbie takes matters into his own hands and uncovers a plan that will turn the state system topsy turvy and finally bring the perpetrator of the crime to justice.
Robbie and Trey seem to live the perfect life in suburbia when harassment from an evil neighbor begins and the hate that he has causes violence to come into play. Here is the start of what could have been an excellent thriller as well as a foray into the study of intolerance and its consequences. The story tugs at the emotions and there are scenes in which it is almost impossible to stay dry-eyed. And then there are scenes that you cringe at the hatefulness being mouthed by the fundamentalist church. Boyd’s father has taught him well to hate in the name of G-d, The open campaigns against gay rights are enough to make you get up and walk out of the film—until you realize that this is done to further the plot. When Trey is brutally beaten and dies, suspicion falls on the neighbor as he seems the obvious cause of the crime, or does he?
Tommy Stovall, the director, does a fantastic job of setting up the opposing forces at the very outset of the film. The extremely passionate denunciation of homophobia vs. the religious intolerance of the fundamentalism view are beautifully set up at the very beginning but as the plot begins to weave itself in and out of so many different crevices, it is hard to follow. Yet the performances are by and large excellent and when Robbie is declared a suspect in the murder of his partner, the plot becomes grounded again When it is grounded, the movie holds your interest and gives an in depth study of hate crimes but when it meanders, it is difficult to follow.
As “Hate Crime” explores the dark side of religion, it is thought provoking and gives us the background of how people are indoctrinated to hate. I find myself reflecting on parts of the movie and asking myself how I would handle the same situation. “Hate Crime” carefully handles a situation that most people do not understand and fear. It is almost impossible not to be moved by the movie as emotions run from anger, humor, love, revenge, and melancholia as well as pure unadulterated grief.
Even with its problems this is a film that should be seen. The production is A One and the acting is fine. Most important is the universal message parlayed by the movie. The appeal of the movie is for all people—not just a gay audience. The intelligence level of the movie warrants a look see and it avoids so many of the clichés we have become used to seeing so much of in gay cinema. You cannot help but care for the characters as they are like us—they have their flaws. It is a solid story and it deals with a very serious topic. There are scenes that are extremely intense.
I must commend Seth Peterson for the wonderful job he did in playing Robbie and Bruce Davison—who is usually playing on our team was brilliant as the hate mongering, filth spouting Pastor Boyd.
The movie makes you think and it keeps you thinking as it raises awareness about “acceptance” and “understanding”. I can’t help remark one more time about the heights to which this film could have risen if it had not been subjected to melodrama. Even with that fault, this is a fine film and it is recommended.