Licensed to Kill

on January 01, 1997 by Dale Winogura
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   A grim, sober and succinct glimpse into diseased human minds, "Licensed to Kill" does not judge the seven convicted criminals candidly interviewed here. Instead, it urgently tries to understand the causes of their illegal act: gay bashing. What comes through are severe fundamentalist religious prejudices, parental and media conditioning, and psychological disorders involving a lack of compassion for oneself and others.
   Without narration or facile commentary, filmmaker Arthur Dong-- who directs, scripts, produces and edits--insightfully and sensitively examines how fear and self-hatred can make a killer. His film's devastating impact is enhanced by a vivid use of video for the interviews, courtroom proceedings and police investigations. The corrupted, even destroyed innocence on view proves both disturbing and enlightening. The work's one major flaw: gratuitous gory shots of victims at crime scenes, which serve only to bludgeon the point. Still, a more honest and ruthless study of homophobia has not been made yet.    Directed, written and produced by Arthur Dong. A Deep Focus release. Documentary. Unrated. Running time: 79 min.
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