Depicting life in the French slums with an authenticity and a vivacity that is second-to-none, black and white 90’s masterwork "La Haine" is a seminal work of social realism. Deconstructing race relations, violence, and social order with a gusto and a commitment sure to alienate the more idealistic viewers of his work, director Mathieu Kassovitz follows three men on the day one of their friends was brutally beaten by riot police. His observations about their misplaced anger, their mislaid need, and the tragic consequences their actions bring about are as striking as his unexplainably strong visuals. This is a film with power.
And a lot of the credit for that deserves to go to Vincent Cassel ("Black Swan," "Eastern Promises") who gives a breakout performance here as Vinz; a violent hothead who is basically the de-facto leader of the gang. He’s a ticking time bomb - every moment he’s on frame, you’re waiting for the shoe to hit the floor; for the bomb to explode. And it’s not even the tight narrative doing that, it’s the pure insanity in Cassel’s eyes, the hate we see in every inch of his face. It’s pretty clear by now that this movie is no crowdpleaser. But for those who can handle some darkness, Cassel’s performance is the vision of rage and anger.
Criterion brings "La Haine" to Blu-ray with its normal bells and whistles; and as always, their picture quality is second-to-none. But we also get a number of extra features - a director’s commentary, a ’ten years later’ retrospective, a booklet, and a number of other featurettes (perhaps most notable is an intro to the film from one of its biggest fans, Jodie Foster.) "La Haine" isn’t for everyone, but for those who can swallow its grim look at the world, it is a singular look at the streets.