Vinz (Vincent Cassel) styles himself of a typical gangster. He hates the police, and when his friend Abdel Ichaha is beaten up by the police shortly before a riot he vows to kill a policeman if he dies from his injuries.
Hubert (Hubert Koundé) is a black boxer who often disagrees with Vinz, but finds himself dragged into the violent world despite his desperation to escape. He has his mother and sister to look after, but won't flee from a fight.
Saïd (Saïd Taghmaoui) often finds himself stuck between Vinz and Hubert and their bickering. He has friends within the police who occasionally bail him from trouble much to Vinz disgust. A lot of people owe him money and favours, and he calls upon his friends to help recover the debt.
La Haine is a million miles from the Paris, the city of love, that we have all been taught about. It is a film that is just as angry as its title (French for "Hate"), and explores a little-publicised part of culture that is prevalent in Paris, just as it is in almost every major city.
For all its anger though, La Haine is more a film about showmanship and surviving on the streets by constantly trying to be top dog. Racism is frequent and perhaps even more so towards - and by - the three protagonists who come from a range of backgrounds. Hubert, the black boxer, is the most level-headed of the three but still ends up exasperated by Vinz, a Jew. Saïd, an Arab, is forced to pick up the pieces of their relationship, but still dishes out his fair share of hate.
The choice to shoot in black and white can initially feel like an odd decision; it is seen as only for older films. Even in a metaphorical context it is incorrect - there is much more to the film than just seeing everything in black and white. The monochromatic landscape does, however, highlight the brutality of the environment.
Actually, because of its lack of action, I wasn't sure whether or not I enjoyed La Haine. It is utterly one-dimensional in the depiction of the estate and there is rarely a moment of empathy for the characters, or even the police. As a result, it had the feeling of a documentary for parts of it.
But then, there's the ending. I have seen some reviews that have criticised director Mathieu Kassovitz for changing the pace for the split second before the credits role, but it is important to remember you are forewarned about it even before the film starts. It was at this point that I realised the film had been bubbling up ready to release its finale like a pressure tank about to explode.
Overall, La Haine sums itself up nicely. It is like jumping from a window. Thud.