'Hate' is controversial and stunning

June 21, 1996|By Rene Rodriguez | Rene Rodriguez,KNIGHT-RIDDER NEWS SERVICE

"Hate" ("La Haine") begins the morning after a riot at a housing project outside Paris has left a teen-ager near death in a hospital, the victim of overzealous cops.

During the next 24 hours, three of his friends will pick their way through the debris, stoking their hatred for authority, for their lot in life, for their dead-end futures. One has a gun and is vowing revenge. A sense of impending disaster shadows their every move.

"Hate," which opens at the Charles today and became a cultural (and controversial) phenomenon upon its release in France last year, draws its strength from its unapologetic focus: Writer-director Mathieu Kassovitz, 28, sympathizes with his disenfranchised protagonists, whose antipathy for the police isn't merely a byproduct of under-privilege. Their hatred is justified, and it's pure, and they cling to it as if it were their lone physical possession.

The three friends are from different backgrounds, but in the ghetto where they live, race long ago stopped being a divisive factor. Vinz (Vincent Cassel) is Jewish, the hothead of the group, the one with the gun. Hubert (Hubert Kounde) is black, an aspiring boxer left without a place to train after the neighborhood gym is torched. Said (Said Taghmaoui) is Arabian, a fast-talking witster whose intelligence is at odds with his destructive impetuousness.

As the trio make their way to Paris, Kassovitz shows how tight their friendship is -- and how much it is borne out of desperation. For a movie titled "Hate," it's surprisingly humane, making its tragedies cut deeper.

Stylistically, "Hate" is something to behold: Working in glorious black and white, Kassovitz borrows from Martin Scorsese and Spike Lee, but he has a jittery immediacy all his own. Yet what you remember about "Hate" isn't technique, but emotional punch: This one is a stunner.

"Hate"

Starring Vincent Cassel, Hubert Kounde, Said Taghmaoui, Karim Belkhadra, Edouard Montoute

Directed by Mathieu Kassovitz

Released by Gramercy Pictures

Rated R (vulgar language, violence, adult themes)

Sun score *** 1/2

Pub Date: 6/21/96

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