★★★★★ - A Review by Cameron Kanachki
To all those, mainly white people, who refuse to accept it: police brutality is a huge issue in this country. Due to outdated teachings & a number of racist white cops, countless unarmed African-American people, too many to name here, have been killed. And barely any of those cops have been punished for their crimes. I am, in no way, shape, or form, generalizing all police officers. But there are enough bad police officers that the whole organization needs to be reformed.
The Hate U Give is one of the few films geared towards teen audiences that has dealt with issues like police brutality, & it breaks new ground for young adult adaptations, as it is an important & well-made drama. Based on the 2017 novel The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas, the film follows Starr Carter (played by Amandla Stenberg), a 16-year-old African-American girl living in the poor African-American neighborhood of Garden Heights. She lives with her parents, Lisa (played by Regina Hall) & Maverick (played by Russell Hornsby), her older half-brother, Seven (played by Lamar Johnson), & her younger brother, Sekani (played by TJ Wright). Her uncle, Carlos (played by Common), who was a father figure to Starr while Maverick was in prison for 3 years, lives in the suburbs while working as a detective. Although their neighborhood lives in fear of gang leader King (played by Anthony Mackie), the Carters remain committed to their neighborhood.
At school, Starr is very different. Starr attends Williamson Prep, a rich, majority white private school. Williamson is where Starr has her 2 best friends, Hailey Grant (played by Sabrina Carpenter) & Maya Yang (played by Megan Lawless), as well as her boyfriend, Chris (played by KJ Apa). Here, Starr tries to not act black at all, much to her own chagrin.
One weekend night, Starr goes to a party in Garden Heights, where she runs into her childhood friend, Khalil Harris (played by Algee Smith), who has turned to a life of crime in order to support his family. While they are at the party, a fight ensues, ending in gunshots. Starr & Khalil run out of the party & into Khalil's car, where he will give her a ride home. However, they don't make it all the way home before a police officer stops Khalil for failing to signal a lane change. While the officer is running the license, Khalil reaches into the car for his hairbrush, but as he does, he is shot multiple times by the officer, & dies within seconds.
After Khalil's murder, Starr is irrevocably changed. Her identity is permanently altered as she begins to identify more with the Garden Heights community. However, she does not know what to do as she is called as the main witness to Khalil's murder. But activist April Ofrah (played by Issa Rae) helps Starr find her voice, giving her the strength to fight against injustice.
The cast is fantastic. Amandla Stenberg finally delivers on the promise she showed back when she was in The Hunger Games. Her presence is enough to empower the audience. Regina Hall shows that she can do drama as well as she can do comedy. And Russell Hornsby steals the show. He gets a great monologue midway through the film, & he just completely shatters it. He should get an Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actor.
George Tillman Jr.'s direction is excellent. Tillman Jr. is able to powerfully deliver the message of the film without coming off as preachy, & he is also able to get some great performances out of his cast.
And Audrey Wells' screenplay is amazing. Wells does a terrific job of adapting the film from its source material. And since this was sadly Wells' last screenplay, as she died from cancer the day before the film's release, then this was a great screenplay for her to go out on.
This is one of the best films of the year. It's a very powerful & very timely film, showing that there is more to the young adult genre than romance & dystopias.
The Hate U Give was seen by me at the MJR Marketplace Digital Cinema 20 in Sterling Heights, MI on Saturday, October 20, 2018. It is in theaters everywhere. Its runtime is 133 minutes, & it is rated PG-13 for mature thematic elements, some violent content, drug material & language.