The Hate U Give (2018)
Directed by George Tillman Jr. (The Longest Ride, Men of Honor) and screenwritten by Audrey Wells (A Dog’s Purpose, Disney’s The Kid), The Hate U Give (a.k.a. THUG) is a drama based on a 2017 young adult novel of the same name by author Angie Thomas. The story follows a 16-year-old black girl named Starr Carter (Amandla Stenberg) who lives in a poorer neighbourhood and goes to a private school attended by mostly white students. One night while the way home from a party, she witnesses her unarmed childhood friend, Khalil (Algee Smith), get shot and killed by a white police officer. As the sole witness, she has to decide whether or not to go public and testify in front of a grand jury but doing so may put her and her family in the spotlight and negatively impact their lives.
With all the racism issues and trigger-happy cops that keeps coming up in the news in recent years, this could be one of the most relevant and important films of the year in the United States. The story itself was based on the 2009 incident where an unarmed black man named Oscar Grant was shot and killed by a policeman while being he was already being pinned down by two other officers. But apart from police brutality, bias media and the justice system, the film also explores the lives and gang issues in the African American community in a poorer neighbourhood and what a teenager like Starr has to deal with when being among privileged white people. The film avoids being too one-sided by showing how its good black characters can be just as blindly racist to the white and to their “own people”, and that not all white people are racist.
The performance by Amandla Stenberg (The Darkest Minds, Everything, Everything) as Starr is excellent. The role requires her to juggle around with emotions and show the growth of the character from being vulnerable, in dilemma and afraid to finding her courage, strength, voice and her true self, and Stenberg absolutely delivers and makes Starr a fully likable and relatable character that the audience, regardless of age, could easily understand, empathise with and root for. I was definitely feeling very, very angry for her.
The most of the other cast members are fantastic as well, especially the actors playing the roles of Starr’s family. Without their committed performances, some of the dialogue and scenes could’ve felt cheesy. These characters are extremely well developed as well. The only glaring disappointment is Anthony Mackie (Marvel film series, Detroit) as King, the local drug dealer and gang leader who “controls” the neighbourhood. I never found him convincingly menacing or even stop seeing him as superhero sidekick, Falcon, from the Marvel Cinematic Universe, especially when he has the same look here. The writing and his lack of screen time are also at fault for not really allowing him to show how scary this drug lord actually is, considering that the character is a major concern for Starr and her family in the story.
Although the ending isn’t as strong and impactful as I thought it builds to be, it does enough to effectively convey all of its messages after over two hours of well-paced, engaging, heartfelt drama that’s somehow entertaining despite the subject matter. The Hate U Give shows that the young adult genre are not all fantasy romance and cheap sci-fi adventures, but it’s also capable of offering realistic, meaningful stories as well.
What I would’ve named the film: “Noob & Racist American Police”
Malaysian censorship: Don’t recall any skips at the press screening, Don’t think it’s required to censor anything either apart from maybe a bit of the language since it’s rated P13.
Verdict: One of the best and most purposeful films based on a young adult novel.
Rating: 4 / 5
Genre: Drama, young adult
Running Time: 132 minutes
Director: George Tillman Jr.
Screenwriter: Audrey Wells
Cast: Amandla Stenberg, Regina Hall, Russell Hornsby, KJ Apa, Algee Smith, Lamar Johnson, Issa Rae, Sabrina Carpenter, Common, Anthony Mackie
Malaysia Release Date: 15 November 2018 (GSC International Screens only)
Local Distributor: 20th Century Fox Malaysia
Production: State Street Pictures, Temple Hill Entertainment