Director: Tommy Stoval
Stars: Seth Peterson, Chad Donella
* (out of five)
There are plenty of things to be said about the persecution of minorities by organized religion, and there are plenty of things to be said about the ingrained prejudice against gay couples in middle-class communities. Hate Crime doesn’t say any of them; it just uses them as set dressing around a patchy reworking of In the Bedroom.
Hate Crime purports to be a hot-button drama about gay-bashing and religious intolerance, but it’s not — it’s more of an After-School Special with delusions of relevance, undone by atrocious dialogue, shockingly bad performances from both unknowns and veteran character actors and clumsy storytelling.
The plot does turn on a horrendous incident in which a gay man (Brian J. Smith) is beaten half to death with a baseball bat by an unknown assailant, leaving his longtime partner (Seth Peterson) in shock and their suburban Texas community unsettled.
The couple’s rabidly homophobic next-door neighbor (Chad Donella) is the prime suspect, but he’s the son of the local pastor (Bruce Davison), who’s provided him an apparently airtight alibi.
Since writer-director Tommy Stovall has structured Hate Crime as a mystery, sort of, nothing is entirely as it seems ... although Stovall’s such an inept writer that you’ll see his meager twists coming a mile away. He doesn’t do much to create any kind of tone or atmosphere, leaving the film with a flat, made-for-TV feel, and he’s useless with actors.