First Hit: A fantastic film about the existence of racism and, as indicated here, in our police departments as well.
I’ve seen three films this year that deal directly with racism, Blindspotting, BlacKkKlansman, and this film The Hate U Give. In both Blindspotting and this film, we have a white policeman shooting and killing an unarmed black man.
The film starts with Maverick “Mav” Carter (Russell Hornsby) giving his children; Starr (Amandla Stenberg), Seven (Lamar Johnson), and Sekani (TJ Wright), “the talk.” Mav’s been to prison, he’s fought the hard life but wants to stop the cycle of violence and pain in the family.
He's giving his children the talk about how to act when they are stopped by police for any reason because he knows how they will be viewed being black.
I was deeply saddened listening to this because it’s 2018 and I don't understand why haven't figured out that racism, in any form, is wrong. It shows that we’ve barely grown as a country.
Their mother, Lisa (Regina Hall), doesn’t want them exposed to the school in their ghetto neighborhood so she sends them to a mostly white college prep school. She wants her children to not be unduly influenced.
Before long, it happens. Starr is being driven home with her lifelong friend Khalil (Algee Smith), when they are stopped for changing lanes without signaling. Khalil, despite Starr’s insistence that he follow the cop’s commands, mouths off to the officer and eventually follows the officer’s commands. Standing outside the car, facing the car, while the policeman checks his ID, Khalil reaches in the car to get a hairbrush, and the officer shoots and kills him. Starr witnesses the whole thing and is in shock.
Starr testifies in front of the Grand Jury, the jury decides to not indict the officer, and the city goes into an uproar. Sound familiar? Yes, this scene has been happening across the U.S., and even with incriminating video footage we’re not holding policeman responsible for their quick trigger behavior.
This film explores this issue when Starr asks her uncle Carlos (Common), who is a black police officer, why police act this way. When he starts his monologue about how a policeman has to act and respond to tense situations, I found myself thinking, wow this is a compelling argument and I can nearly see why a policeman would react this way. However, when Starr asks would the cop shoot a white guy dressed in a suit driving a Mercedes, or would he ask the white guy to put his hands up. Carlos pauses, then says, he’d tell the white guy to put his hands up.
This is the issue. Why would a black police officer shoot the black man but tell the well dressed white man to raise his hands.
Other race issues show up when Starr’s closest friend at her prep school, Hailey (Sabrina Carpenter) shows her true colors as Starr becomes more vocal about her community in her community. A great juxtaposition was her white boyfriend Chris (K.J. Apa) who supports Starr in her quest to be seen and speak her truth. My only criticism of this film is that there are sections that seemed elongated or unnecessary that altered the intense pacing of this film. I would have rather had some smart trimming to keep the pacing at the higher level.
Regardless, this film has things to say and in summary, we’ve got a lot to learn and it starts with each of us doing soul searching.
Stenberg was sublime as Starr. She was both verbally and visually expressive at the right moments. Hall was wonderful as the strong mother who wants the best for her children but also gives them enough reign to grow. Hornsby was fantastic as the father. His pent up and controlled rage channeled to help his family was perfectly expressed in this film. Common was strong and his discussion with Starr about “what if…” was key. Apa was extraordinary in his role as the white boyfriend. Johnson and Wright were amazing as Starr’s siblings. Hall was wonderfully charismatic and excellent as the young man killed by the white officer. Anthony Mackie was very strong as King, the neighborhood drug dealer, controlling the actions of many. Audrey Wells wrote a strong script. George Tillman Jr. did a wonderful job directing this story and strong actors keeping the point of racism in focus.
Overall: This was an emotional film to watch as witnessed by the numerous times I had to wipe my eyes.