Even if I WAS an uncouth, dumb as a pile of sludge racist jerk, I wouldn’t want to hang around with the pack of skinhead vermin in Randolph Kret’s chilling but jumbled “Pariah.” Led by charismatic head jerk Crew (the late Dave Owen Ward) but perhaps best personified by David Lee (David Lee Wilson,) a hate-filled thug so repugnant even the rest of the gang despises him, this feral pack of monsters gets its kicks by beating up on blacks, Jews, homosexuals or anyone else they perceive as being a threat to the white race.
Any white person involved with a non-white earns their particular ire. Like Steve (Damon Jones), for instance, a white man who’s dating the attractive, but black Samantha. Just for kicks, Crew’s gang jumps the couple in a parking garage. Holding Steve down, they force him to watch helplessly while they repeatedly gang-rape Samantha. The traumatized woman commits suicide, prompting her heartbroken boyfriend to transform himself into a skinhead and infiltrate the gang in an attempt to get close enough to exact his revenge.
Not a particularly novel plot device, although the sudden renewed attention being paid to hate crimes perpetrated by white supremacist groups as a result of the recent racially motivated shooting spree in Illinois makes this take on it frighteningly topical.
It doesn’t help that the film lurches from scene to scene without much cohesiveness, reinforced by Jones’ wildly uneven portrayal of Steve. By turns a coldly dispassionate observer, reluctant participant or gung-ho gang member and then back again with a disconcerting randomness, Steve doesn’t ever really seem to know what he plans to do. Though he coolly identifies each gang member’s weak spot, he never really gets around to exploiting those weaknesses, making for a rushed, almost accidental, and largely unsatisfying resolution.
In spite of all these problems, “Pariah” is nonetheless a brave, in-your-face attempt to handle a very tough, highly unattractive subject. The result is a commendable, if unpleasant, near miss.