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The following contains major spoilers for The Hate U Give. See the movie, then come back here.
The Hate U Give is a powerful film that deals with subjects of race, class, culture, and violence. We see the cycle of violence play out in the form of Russell Hornsby's Maverick, who leaves the gang life working with Anthony Mackie's King in order to try and save his children from that life. All of it comes apart, however, when Maverick's youngest child takes his father's gun and points it at King, while a pair of police officers arrive on the scene. Our own Hannah Saulic had a chance to ask Anthony Mackie what King was thinking at that moment. The actor responded...
In a movie that has many emotional and heartwrenching moments, this one may be the most terrible. Sekani is only about eight-years-old and here he is holding a gun while a couple of cops are pointing guns at him. Having seen the worst thing possible happen the last time a cop thought somebody had a gun, the audience is trained to expect something terrible to happen once again.
For all intents and purposes, Anthony Mackie's King is the "villain" of The Hate U Give. He's the local drug dealer who threatens Amandla Stenberg's Starr because he's afraid that if she comes forward and tells what she knows about the police shooting she has witnessed, it will cause his business problems. However, Anthony Mackie says that when King sees this little boy holding a gun, he's not selfishly thinking he might be shot, he's realizing how his actions have led to this terrible outcome, and how far-reaching the consequences might truly be.
The title of The Hate U Give comes from a line made famous by Tupac Shakur, "The Hate U Give Little Infants Fucks Everybody" which transforms into the acronym THUG LIFE. That is exactly what we see in this scene, as the next generation is showing that they have adapted to the violence that they have seen around them. The cycle is continuing rather than stopping.
The Hate U Give ultimately ends with a message of hope, rather than despair, but the fact that it's such a close thing is what the audience really takes away.
Check out the video below for Anthony Mackie's complete comments on the end of The Hate U Give as well as Russell Hornsby's response to how his character, the boy's father Maverick, is feeling at that same moment.