Maybe you think you've seen it before: Three racially divergent boyz in the hood bang heads with the riot police in a housing project where drugs, violence and hatred are facts of life. Nothing new here, except that this hood is just outside Paris, and the kick-ass kids curse their fate and the cops in French. The issues in this bonfire of a movie transcend geographical barriers to speak a universal language of unrest.
Prepare to be jolted by the intensity that writer, director and co-editor Mathieu Kassovitz, 28, brings to a plot that uncoils in one agonizing 24-hour period. Primed by the documentary realism of Pierre Aim's black-and-white camera work, Hate jumps off the screen. Said (Said Taghmaoui) is an Arab, Hubert (Hubert Kounde) is black, and Vinz (Vincent Cassel) is a Jew. Each needs to vent his frustration about police brutality that has landed another friend in the hospital. Boxing is Hubert's outlet. Vinz settles for doing impressions of Robert De Niro in Taxi Driver ("You talkin' to me?") – that is, until he finds the Smith & Wesson .44 that sparks the shocking climax after the boys tangle with the cops and a gang of skinheads.
The performances are as white hot as the subject matter. Cassel is especially adept at locating the rage that comes with helplessness. The film is a triumph for Kassovitz. Nothing in his 1994 debut feature, the endearingly romantic Cafe au Lait, suggests the depth of passion and insight that he achieves in Hate. In the urgent spirit of his film, Kassovitz comes right at you.