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
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.