Social problem films are often kind of a difficult sell for me, but I was hoping some of the stylistic choices on this one would win me over and they did help quite a bit. Some people complain that Antoine’s delinquency in The 400 Blows (my #2 film of all time) is too mild to warrant the kind of response it gets; La Haine is kind of like what The 400 Blows might be like if the delinquency were more extreme (and the film were more overtly stylistic and less lyrical). In the wake of police brutality and riots, the youth of Paris are on edge, trigger happy, and ready to bust some heads. Quickly our main trio of characters differentiate themselves – Hubert, a black youth who’s jaded about rebelling against authority and really just wants out of the situation; Said, of Arab descent, who’s wound tightly but is also kind of a goofball; and Vinz, who is truly full of the hatred of the title.
Stakes are raised when Vinz reveals he’s got the gun lost by a police officer earlier in the riots. Some stuff like this struck me as culturally odd – in the US, it seems likely that smalltime hoods like this would already have access to guns, but perhaps things are different in France, or perhaps I’m overestimating the ease of access even here thanks to firearms’ ubiquity in movies and TV. Anyway. The point is he’s got a gun, and the interplay between the three friends as they figure out what to do with it (and what NOT to do with it) is dynamic and interesting, as Vinz is gung-ho on mindless revenge and Hubert wants to de-escalate the situation.