Hate Crime

Tommy Stoval's Hate Crime is one of those films that tries to buck the trend by straying away from rote storytelling, but in doing so, still, oddly enough, manages to tell a story that's pretty predictable. Homophobia is front and center as Chris Boyd (Chad Donella, Shattered Glass, A Wondrous Fate) moves next door to Robbie Levinson (Seth Peterson, Can't Hardly Wait, Godzilla) and Trey McCoy (Brian J. Smith) in a nice, quiet suburban town. Boyd seems friendly enough, but this all changes when he sees Levinson and McCoy kissing. Boyd is a vicious homophobe, a fervent Christian fundamentalist who believes that homosexuality is a sin. His father (Bruce Davison, Evergreen, Runaway Jury) preaches a similar brand of hate from the pulpit of his church.

Tensions escalate until one day one night when Trey is savagely beaten to death. The most likely suspect is Boyd. After all, he did drop by to tell Levinson to repent. He claims he was at home with his parents, but on the night of the attack, his friends tried calling and could not reach him. Donella plays Boyd like a walking stereotype. He has a Southern accent, drinks a lot of beer, and wears a wife-beater. He looks and sounds like what people think an ignorant brute would sound like. Detective Elizabeth Fisher (Farah White, Single and Dealing With It, Serving Sara) believes him a prime suspect, but Detective Esposito (Giancarlo Esposito, Ali, Pinero) stymies her efforts in what seems to be a bias against gays.

The way that the story plays out is problematic. People who watch movies can probably guess the ending once the investigation starts, and it's no real surprise. It's a bit unfortunate, because the level of acting here is stronger than one would typically expect from a smaller production. Levinson gives the strongest performance. The death of his partner changes him profoundly, and the lack of justice frustrates him to no end. Esposito's actions and continued ignorance throw him into a rage, and it gets to the point where he feels he has to take the law into his own hands. Watching Levinson undergo this transformation from loving man to somebody completely at a loss, moving between grief and rage. Although the end of Hate Crime goes a little over the top, for the most part, Levinson's actions are believable.

Levinson and McCoy have the richest characters. Stoval refrains from imposing any of the typical stereotypes that seem to plague gay men in most mainstream movies. Yet, he does stereotype the Boyds, from the good ol' boy mentality of Chris to the fire and brimstone proclamations of his father. Late attempts to deepen their characters (to make things less black and white) do not come off as revelations, but more like plot tricks.

Mongoose Rates It: Okay.
1 hour, 45 minutes, Not Rated but contains language and violence, would be an R.

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