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Capone Considers HATE CRIME!!

Hey, everyone. Capone in Chicago here.

I'm sure it's different for every critic, but for me, the most difficult films to review are films aimed at gay audiences. And it's not because the films aren't necessarily aimed at my demographic (30s, straight, married...did I mention straight?), it's because a lot of them aren't very good, but saying that they're not good makes you feel homophobic.

A few weeks ago, I negatively reviewed a film called Adam & Steve, and although I applauded the intention (to make a romantic-comedy featuring two men), the movie just wasn't that funny. A good movie is a good movie, and there are plenty of bad movies out there. Unfortunately, many gay film emphasize the flamboyant gay characters, which we've seen a thousand times before and often done better.

I don't think Hate Crime is necessarily geared at strictly gay audiences, but my guess is that is ultimately who is going to turn out to see the film. While the film has many shortcomings, I liked that it chose to focus on two men living in the suburbs, on the verge of a commitment ceremony talking about real issues (other than sex) and contemplating starting a family.

Robbie (Seth Peterson) and Trey (Brian J. Smith) are the perfect suburban couple; their neighbors love them; and they seem mature and stable enough to have conversations about things other than musicals and Judy Garland (I'm making a point here: if my only exposure to gay people was films, I'd have a seriously disjointed view of the culture).

A new neighbor named Chris Boyd (Chad Donella) moves in next door, and it doesn't take long to realize he's an gay-hating religious zealot (and the son of a Paster played by Bruce Davison) who takes an instant disliking to Seth Robbie and Trey. A few days later while walking the dog, Trey is violently beaten in the park. Immediate suspicion falls on Chris, but with no evidence, the crime goes unsolved. In fact, when the case goes from an assault to murder, the homicide copy (Giancarlo Esposito) begins to think Robbie had something to do with the killing since Trey had a large life insurance policy.

Robbie, Trey's mother (Cindy Pickett), and some of the neighbors set out to discover who the real killer is (they do) and get justice that the police clearly aren't willing to deliver. Some of the film's final scenes, in which Robbie and crew, carry out an elaborate revenge scheme may hit some audience members the wrong way. Is there justice just as bad as the crime against Trey? One of the shortcomings in first-time writer-director Tommy Stovall's film is that it assumes that the punishment fits the crime.

Perhaps it does, but with no voice in the film to say question this, the film feels only half complete, which undercuts Hate Crime's solid writing on the subject of police homophobia and the place of homosexuals in the church. I also thought the scenes where both Robbie and Trey's mother share their pain at Trey's death were extremely genuine and well acted.

Hate Crime exists in a world where consequences don't always matter or even exist, which is not the real world. I give Stovall credit for showing a side of gay life rarely shown on screen, and I applaud him for throwing a challenging and scrutinizing eye at justice.

This is a complicated and thought-provoking work that is a little sloppy with its morals, but that almost makes it more worth watching and discussing. The acting is hit and miss, and the writing is clearly that of a first-timer, but it's an encouraging bit of work from Stovall.


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