La Haine – The Criterion Collection (4K UHD Blu-ray Review)

Originally released in America as its translated title, “Hate,” director Mathieu Kassovitz’s brilliant 1995 social thriller, La Haine, has endured for a few reasons. It’s not because of the alarming tone the title implies but because the film is a well-produced commentary on urban riots in France, as well as an engaging character piece, expertly studying the cultural volatility of the times while finding some ways to derive entertainment value, in addition to the stylish filmmaking on display. The film has received multiple releases from the Criterion Collection. Now, it has found its way to a 4K UHD Blu-ray release, allowing the film to look and sound better than ever. Of course, not much else has changed, but that includes the effectiveness of this film.


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Set over the course of 24 hours, following an opening credits sequence that depicts urban riots taking place in a banlieue (a suburb) near Paris, we are introduced to our key characters. There’s Vinz (Vincent Cassel), a young Jewish man with aggression issues and a desire to seek revenge on the police due to the severe injuries that have left a local man in the hospital. Hubert (Hubert Koundé) is an Afro-French boxer with some criminal ties, but he wants to move to a different part of France to make a better life for himself. And then there’s Saïd (Saïd Taghmaoui), a North African Muslim and the youngest of the trio, who is a bit of a troublemaker but also seeks to keep the peace between his two friends.

La Haine is not so much about plot as it is the mood of the environment. However, a crucial part of the story revolves around Vinz possessing a police officer’s lost .44 Magnum. Naturally, this will come into play at various points during the long day we spend with these characters. Also explored – the rising levels of tension regarding the trio’s marginalization, police harassment, and more aspects emphasizing what France’s immigrant population is forced to face.

I first saw La Haine around the time of its 10th anniversary. It’s now nearly 30 years since the film was initially released, and unsurprisingly, its themes and depiction of society are still relevant. Not unlike Spike Lee’s Do the Right Thing (a movie that no doubt influenced Kassovitz to varying degrees), the amount of effort that goes into taking racist actions against marginalized groups, showing off privilege in different ways, and coasting on the sort of power authority figures have consistently leads to volatile situations.

At the same time, while it’s not exactly cause-and-effect that can place accountability at the feet of minority groups, there’s an understanding that these individuals, specifically the youth, are at a point where both their natural inclination toward progressive and evolved sense of thinking and basic attitudes given their treatment by those insisting on power over them, makes it understandable when it comes to why pressure is constantly so high.

It’s wild to think about the idea of putting this on display in America now. Not to date this review, but think of how sensitive people became when seeing the trailer for the very fictional Civil War (a film that ended up being a box office hit and critical success). The assumptions being made about the movie before it even came out make it very telling how people feel about aspects of the country they want to defend. Meanwhile, La Haine is not at all the first French film to specifically tackle the state of their country as a direct response to societal unrest. In fact, so many other countries do this, from The Battle of Algiers to the aforementioned Do the Right Thing and several other American movies, let alone more recent French films such as Athena.

Putting out an in-your-face look at how the population feels regarding the state of the country they are citizens of is a very good thing. Granted, there are levels of appreciation depending on the quality of said feature. However, it speaks to why some films with social justice on their mind can withstand the test of time. La Haine is easily one of them, which also comes down to the filmmaking on display.

Printed in black and white, it’s an obvious but effective way to understand the film’s intentions. However, that also means having interesting uses of shadow and contrast to further add to what the screenplay offers. The music by Assassin, along with the hip-hop-infused soundtrack, also adds to the aims of this feature, modernizing the viewpoint and having constant refrains, referring to the sorts of troubles that seemingly feel universal when it comes to the way authority wants to abuse their power.

There’s also the investment in the film world that comes through thanks to Kassovitz kinetic choices regarding the cinematography by Pierre Aïm. It’s not exactly a Danny Boyle film, but there are crash zooms, split diopters, dolly zoom shots, point-of-view switches, and other ways this film is invested with life. Add to that the three central performers from the leads, and you have a feature that works to provoke yet intrigue the audience, and it has all the makings of a gripping yet exciting movie.

I’ve long admired La Haine for making bold choices while investing the film with life. That it still resonates today speaks to how strong the material on display is, the universality of it when it comes to why these characters act and react the way they do, and what comes from matching innovation with good ideas. From the confrontational opening to the tense climax, La Haine is challenging in presenting what it has to say but never less than effective in pulling it off, with style to spare.


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Encoding: HEVC / H.265

Resolution: 2160p

Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1

HDR: Dolby Vision, HDR10

Layers: BD-100

Details: “Supervised by director of photography Pierre Aïm and approved by director Mathieu Kassovitz, this new digital transfer was created from the 35 mm original camera negative, which was scanned and restored in 4K resolution.”

Clarity/Detail: A black and white film from the 90s is sorta the perfect film to restore in 4K, as this remaster can add to in all the right ways. There’s a great sense of balance, outdoor/daylight scenes have a brightness that adds more detail to the image, and darker/indoor scenes show their own sense of clarity through the deliberate use of shadows and shading. It’s a stable image that no longer has any sense of flatness. It’s a fantastic restoration that better reflects the choices made.

Depth: Look at the scenes featuring crowded streets and hallways. There’s a great sense of how much the spacing and dimensionality of the film works that’s captured well on this disc.

Black Levels: A proper 4K transfer wins again when considering the strength in the black levels. They remain faithful to the film, an improvement on the old Blu-ray, with further emphasis on how shadows look, along with certain interiors. Plus, segments using black & white footage look great here, with very few signs of crushing, partially due to the low budget means of the original production.

Color Reproduction: N/A

Flesh Tones: We see the three main faces that create a range of skin tones and textures to do justice for, and this disc does not disappoint.

Noise/Artifacts: The film looks nice and clean, with no issues in sight.


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Audio Format(s): French DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 and French DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0

Subtitles: English

Details: “The original 2.0 surround soundtrack was remastered from archival digital files.”

Dynamics: I watched the film with the 2.0 track, as that’s what the film originally utilized. I sampled the 5.1 track as well, but there’s no major difference. What matters is the terrific presentation. All that’s needed for this film to sound great is present in this mix.

Low-Frequency Extension: N/A

Surround Sound Presentation: N/A

Dialogue Reproduction: Everyone is heard loud and clear.


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While this release does not offer any new extras, there’s not much more I would really ask for, as Criterion put together a packed release from the start. There’s a commentary, a feature-length retrospective, deleted scenes, further featurettes examining the subject matter and the filmmaking, and more. The fact that having some updated thoughts could only offer so much because little regarding racial and cultural divides has changed is, if anything, just sad, but further speaks to the place in history this film, and the material associated with it, ultimately has.

Features Include:

  • Audio Commentary by Director/Writer Mathieu Kassovitz – Originally recorded for Criterion’s 2007 DVD release of the film. This is available on the 4K and Blu-ray discs.
  • Jodie Foster Introduction (SD, 14:52) – A 2006 introduction to the film from Jodie Foster, who was a big supporter of the film when it originally came out.
  • Ten Years of “La Haine” (SD, 1:23:30) – A feature-length documentary from 2005 covering the history of La Haine, including the inspirations, the film’s festival success, and interviews from the time of it being made and ten years later with Kassovitz, Cassel, Kounde, and the producers. Filmed in French with English subtitles.
  • Social Dynamite (SD, 34:02) – Sociologists Sophie Body-Gendrot, William Kornblum, and Jeffrey Fagan discuss the film’s message and similarities between the banlieues and certain areas of America. Filmed in English.
  • Preparing for the Shoot (SD, 5:57) – The director and stars discussed what it was like moving to the projects in preparation for shooting the film. Filmed in French with English subtitles.
  • The Making of a Scene (SD, 6:38) – Raw footage from the production, focusing on a key scene in the movie. There’s also interview footage with Kassovitz. Filmed in French with English subtitles.
  • Deleted and Extended Scenes (SD) – Interestingly, as the film was shot in color and then printed in black and white, the rough cuts of the scenes are presented in color. Each scene also features an afterword by Kassovitz.
  • Stills Gallery (HD)
  • Trailer 1 (HD, 0:37)
  • Trailer 2 (HD, 1:00)
  • PLUS – An essay by film scholar Ginette Vincendeau and a 2006 appreciation by filmmaker Costa-Gavras.


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La Haine is the kind of film that hit hard when first viewing it, and that was a decade after it was initially released for audiences theatrically. Watching it now, there’s still a great sense of the sort of power this film can have on display, even if it’s somewhat depressing to know Kassovitz could easily make this movie now and not have to really change anything (again, recent French films like Les Misérables (2019) and Athena). However, the film is brilliant, regardless, and is now available in this terrific 4K package, complete with all the essential bonus features and a fantastic restoration. A gripping film worth checking out.

Order Your Copy Here:

la haine


Writer/Reviewer, Film Lover, Podcaster, Gamer, Comic Reader, Disc Golfer & a Lefty. There are too many films, TV, books, etc. for me to list as favorites, but I can assure that the amount film knowledge within my noggin is ridiculous, though I am always open to learning more. You can follow me on Twitter @AaronsPS4, see what else I am up to at TheCodeIsZeek.com & check out my podcast, Out Now with Aaron and Abe, on iTunes.

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