According to The National Center for Victims of Crime, the prevalence of anti-gay
violence on a national scale remains an unknown. This is partly because victims of
this particular type of bias crime don't always report the incident. There are, of course,
many reasons for this under-reporting, ranging from the fact that victims may still be
closeted to fear of reprisals and retribution for pressing charges. The National Coalition
for Anti-Violence Programs reported 4% increase in bias-related incidents in 2004 (the
last year for which figures are currently available). So it clearly is a concern for members
of the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered community. Writer-director Tommy Stovall
addresses this topic in his debut feature film, called appropriately enough,
HATE CRIME.
After playing the festival circuit, the film is now receiving its theatrical release and, in spite
of some flaws,  I would highly recommend it.

    The film centers on a gay male couple living in a Texas suburb. Robbie (Seth Peterson
of TV's
"PROVIDENCE") and Trey (newcomer Brian J. Smith) have been together for six years.
They are firmly entrenched in their neighborhood and are on the verge of having a commitment
ceremony. Robbie attempts to be friendly with their new next-door neighbor Chris Boyd (Chad
Donella), a youth minister and son of an evangelical Christian minister (Bruce Davison).
But Chris' religious beliefs preclude him from being "friendly" with a couple of homosexuals.
One evening, he confronts Robbie (who is out walking his dog) and informs him that he is
going to hell for his deviant behavior. Several days later, Trey takes the dog out for a walk
and doesn't return. Robbie discovers his beaten body in a park and immediately believes
that his neighbor is responsible. The female detective (Farah White) investigating the case
shares Robbie's suspicions but lacks hard evidence to arrest Chris, especially after his
parents (Davison and Susan Blakely) provide an alibi.

    Trey succumbs to his injuries and the case is transferred to homicide, things
get a little more dicey. The detective (Giancarlo Esposito) in charge suspects Robbie of
the attack. Robbie has to resort to any means possible to clear his name and prove that
the killer is whom he suspects.

    Stovall directs with an assured hand and the plot twists are plausible if a little convoluted.
There's a little too much that is schematic about the movie (such as the inclusion of a neighbor,
well portrayed by Lin Shaye, who has a surprising tie to the homicide detective), but the
strong acting overcomes the shortfalls of the screenplay. Peterson makes a fine hero and
he is ably supported by Cindy Pickett as Trey's devestated mother. Davison delivers another
fine performance and it is nice to see Blakely back on screen. Donella also gives a strong
turn as the preacher's son.

    Special mention should be made of Darrin Navarro's editing, particularly a sequence
that intercuts two different sermons, a fire and brimstone one delivered by Davison, a kinder,
gentler one by Tom Marcantel, which contrast the differences of various Christian sects with
regard to homosexuality.

    Although
HATE CRIME devolves into something of a murder mystery, it also raises
pertinent issues regarding tolerance, acceptance and religion.


                                    Rating:                        B
                                    MPAA Rating:            None
                                    Running time:             104 mins.
                                
Hate Crime
©  2006 by C. E. Murphy. All Rights Reserved.