Ryan Easby

Review: The Hate U Give

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For the first twenty minutes of The Hate U Give, I was prepared to completely slate this film.

It seemed like it was just going to be a generic teenage romance, with all the clichés that come with that genre, and a bad teen rom-com at that. Then twenty minutes in, the entire film shifted genres and became something completely different. Something a lot better than it had any right to be, given the place it started. Twenty minutes in, an unarmed African-American child was shot dead by a police officer, and the entire film found its focus.

The Hate U Give is about a young girl, Starr, who goes to a party and runs into her friend, Khali, at the party. There’s a ruckus at the party and the pair of them leave, ostensibly to go home. But they’re pulled over by the police and Khali is killed in cold blood by one of the officers. Now it’s up to Starr and the rest of her community to come together to bring down the police officer responsible for the death. While I’ve not read the book this is based on, I’m told this is also the general gist of the book too, a tale about racism and racial profiling in America.

It’s hard-hitting stuff, it’s not meant for anybody who is of the light of heart.

The cast doesn’t quite live up to the plot however. Amandla Steinberg plays the main character, Starr, and her performance, while often emotional and honestly alright, lacks subtlety. Something just feels off about the whole thing, there’s something missing I can’t quite put my finger on.

The rest of the cast is alright too, but this film mainly works based off plot alone. The acting is passable, but the story is strong enough to carry the film. The three other notable actors in this film that deserve discussion in more than a passing comment are KJ Apa, who plays Chris, Anthony Mackie (he of Falcon fame), who plays King and Algee Smith who plays Khali.

Algee Smith is great as Khali. His performance, while short (for a good reason, he is shot dead after all), is compelling and is cause enough to drive the entire plot forward. But you can still feel his presence throughout the film, seeing as the entire thing is about him. Anthony Mackie is horrendously underused however. If you’re going to employ an actor who is most known for Marvel, why don’t you use him a bit more? Maybe focus a subplot on him that doesn’t feel tacked on. But, alas, that’s what happens here.

As for KJ Apa’s performance, I’d quite like to know who keeps casting these Riverdale actors in film roles. Who, honestly, thinks they can actually act in any meaningful role beyond ‘Teen’?

As it stands,  The Hate U Give is a decent enough film. It’s nothing special per se, but it’s not particularly bad either. Sadly, I can’t recommend the film based on its own merits, but if you can catch it on television or through other means in passing, it’s definitely worth checking out.