Hate Crime is a drama directed by Steven Esteb starring Kevin Bernhardt and Amy Redford who play Tom and Ginny Brown, two parents whose son has committed murder against a young, gay man and will be executed. The film follows the two as they struggle to deal with the consequences of their son’s actions.
This film was sent to me by TriCoast Worldwide, this is the third film I have reviewed from these people and as always, I thank them for giving me the chance to review this film. I’m hungry to see the work of up and coming filmmakers and to critique them in a supportive way.
From the word go, Hate Crime is a film you immediately know is going to be heavy. This is not the time to be munching on popcorn or making noise. You must give yourself into the film’s story and just watch as heavy drama invades the senses of your body. If you can get through the difficulty of the subject Hate Crime is portraying, you are treated to emotionally demanding performances and an equally emotional story.
First, I’d like to talk about the film’s leads in Kevin Bernhardt and Amy Redford. They look to give everything they’ve got into roles that feel very challenging. Their characters are going through a big fracture in their life and the performances are focused into showing you how what they’re son Raymond (Jordan Salloum) did is destroying their lives and relationship.
The characters themselves are easy to place in reality because we learn things about them that fit into the story in clever ways. For instance, I know that Tom (Kevin Bernhardt) used to be a hunter because the film shows us the couple’s dogs that he used, which also function as the parent’s last memory of happiness. I hoped that the filmmakers would push this element in the story, and they did in all the right places. Little pieces of knowledge like that make for complete characters, believable characters which makes what they’re feeling/going through more real.
You can look towards films like Hate Crime as examples of never losing control over the mood. The film feels like you can never escape something emotionally impactful both on audiences and characters. Steven Esteb and writer Jonah Tapper are excellent when it comes to these types of scenes, Esteb in particular for getting the performances out of the actors.
This is also a very well shot film. Some of the composition in the cinematography is a fantastic achievement, especially at the beginning of the film. A lot of gloomy locations are chosen for this film, there are very few bright scenes in the film so when something is lit you get these intense shadows that make the mood of the film more clearer and more intense.
There are however, tiny glimpses that take you away from the heavy drama both technically and narratively, let’s start with the technicality, while the cinematography was excellent, the same can’t be said for the sound department. While sound may not be the most challenging aspect of the film, the quality is cheaper than other aspects of the film. From time to time, the sound will get quieter because the boom mic wasn’t moving in time with actors and some sounds are muffled and/or crackling. This can be heard all at once sometimes, for instance, the first scene in the prison before the execution. Much like with most technical issues I’m lenient towards them unless they’re a recurring problem, and I’ll give Hate Crime a bit of leeway because it doesn’t distract from the drama.
Speaking of which, there were times when I felt the film could have driven a story point even further. As well as seeing Tom and Ginny’s struggles, we also from time to time see the struggles of the victim’s parents John (John Schneider) and Marie Demarco (Laura Cayouette). We learn that these parents have gone through similar ordeals to Tom and Ginny such as anonymous phone calls, breakdowns in their relationship, etc. realizing this, I found myself thinking that this parallel dynamic could have been much larger.
The first scene we are shown is the end of the crime committed by Raymond which at first, I didn’t think much of, but as the film progressed, I realized that the purpose it was supposed to serve was made a little redundant. By not showing the crime and letting the audience only hear about it, it builds expectations up so when it’s finally revealed what went down, the events and revelations are more shocking. It may be only a few seconds of footage but it’s a few seconds of footage that get less needed.
I’ll be the one to admit that Hate Crime is surprisingly brilliant in its effort of telling an engaging story, that fact it can remain just that all through the power of a dramatic script is something to cherish. I challenge anyone to walk away from Hate Crime having unaffected emotions, you won’t be able to thanks to demanding performances that are given 110% with the focus on character suffering. Films like Hate Crime are why I get so excited when some new talent comes along and is given a chance, not with an already established franchise, but a film where they can express their own creativity.
Final Result: 7/10 – Good
Hate Crime is available now on Digital Platforms (Amazon, InDemand, DIRECTV, FlixFling, FANDANGO, Hoopla, Vimeo on Demand, Vudu, AT&T, and Sling/Dish).