La Haine - Blu-ray Review

'stick with La Haine and you'll find an ambiguous philosophising that neither feels preachy nor conclusive'

Whilst the literal English translation of Mathieu Kassovitz' film might read as 'The Hate', there's a lot more going on here than this simple and affronting moniker might suggest. Which isn't to say that, the final few moments aside, you don't have to look fairly hard past Vincent Cassel's confrontational stare, the stark and threatening Parisian estates and Kassovitz' direction-by-minutiae to find it. But really, stick with La Haine and you'll find an ambiguous philosophising that neither feels preachy nor conclusive.

Our three companions to this journey through 'a Paris you won't find on any tourist map', as the DVD cover says, are Vinz (Cassel), Hubert (Hubert Koundé) and Saïd (Saïd Taghmaoui), a group of under-privileged youngsters from a desolate estate in the French capital. In the main, they conform to the average stereotypes of a buddy road movie; Saïd is the cock-sure comedian whose body can't back him up when his mouth gets him in to trouble, Hubert (with Koundé powerfully channeling Sidney Poitier in both looks and physicality) is the gentle giant - an accomplished boxer who none-the-less discourages Vinz' aggressive streak.

The final one of the three is Cassel's wayward skinhead and it is in him that we get a first glimpse of the depth of Kassovitz' work. For all of our complete antipathy towards him (maybe even, dare you say it, hatred) Kassovitz and Cassel manage to give an unsure and innocent vulnerability to his tragic existence. Vinz is both a product of the society the director wants us to examine and a product of himself, a crafted front to someone else that (and here's the tragic part), we never get to fully see on camera.

Whilst we may occasionally feel like we are having our time wasted with scenes of boredom which are, well, boring, there are some real gems here too. As the trio converse flippantly and at length in a bathroom, an old gentlemen makes his way out of a cubicle, first to expound the simple pleasure of 'taking a shit' and then to paint a picture which purports to be something much deeper than that, although, of course, Kassovitz is comfortable enough to not point us too far in either direction. Similarly, a madcap confrontation with a insane associate in an apartment is delicately but captivatingly handled, suggesting perhaps, a more cynical view of what happens when the characters here enter a supposedly polite society.

For the first time, the director's finale pushes something much more concrete in our direction. What it doesn't do however, is pretend to draw sociological conclusions in a tiny run-time which largely recognises philosophy doesn't have to be ponderous and treats us to the introduction of several notable talents.

Look further...

Ross vs Ross listed director Mathieu Kassovitz in their 'Top Ten Lacklustre Follow-Ups' article. His crime? Following this with the little seen Assassin(s). Worse was to come though as he's since made Gothika and Babylon A.D.


  1. I keep forgetting about this movie but I've wanted to see it for years. Good review, gonna have to bump this up on the queue.

  2. Yeah, it's definitely worth it. The technical direction alone (which I didn't get round to talking about) makes it a film of note but the story too is tightly told in 90-odd minutes. Really decent.

  3. Same as Aiden, I keep writing down the name of the movie so I can pick it up some day but it's been months and still haven't done it...

  4. I think my blu-ray of it cost £8 which is fairly cheap for a BD. I'm sure you can probably get it on DVD for a couple of quid/dollars off ebay or play trade or somewhere. As I say, definitely worth getting hold of it and giving it a watch.