Hate Crime Tommy Stovall

Hate Crime is a moralistic thriller about a gay couple whose lives are destroyed by the homophobic zealot who moves in next door.

Robbie and Trey (Seth Peterson and Brian J. Smith) are leading a typical monogamous life, planning a commitment ceremony and arguing about adopting kids when fundamentalist youth pastor Chris Boyd (Chad Donella) moves in next door and starts giving them the evil eye. When Trey is found severely beaten in a local park, Robbie knows that Chris is to blame and, frustrated at the impotence of the police investigation, starts to implement his own strategies for justice and revenge.

Writer/director Tommy Stovall clearly wants to make a point with this film about the massive hypocrisy of the homophobic Christian Right and thus makes the characters espousing those views almost cartoonishly evil. He is careful to juxtapose that fire and brimstone religious interpretation with the kindler, gentler church that Trey’s family attends, so the message becomes about the perils of religious extremism rather than religion in general.

The film is heavy-handed, with slow, almost stilted dialogue, simplistic characters and lots of spooky music foreshadowing the inevitable violence. The story goes some unexpected places but the leaps seem implausible and lazily explained. There’s also an inconsistent tone to the movie, where the thriller gives way to heavy emotional drama about coping with grief and then to a brief examination of religion's many sides and, most disastrously, to a badly-scripted focus on the police work involved before returning to the ending’s revenge fantasy.

It would probably work better as a very special episode of Law and Order or Cold Case, with its lack of subtlety and hasty explanations more suited to the TV crime drama medium than to a feature film. (Paradox)