‘The Hater’ Review: Resentments and Revenge via Digital Disinformation

“The Hater,” a new Netflix movie directed by Jan Komasa from a script by Mateusz Pacewicz, does a lot of telegraphing before getting down to jackhammering. Tomasz (Maciej Musialowski), the title character, is first seen as a law student in Warsaw being called to account for plagiarizing a paper. Facing his professors, one of whom he obsequiously flatters, he smirks in a way that suggests he might soon break out into “Tomorrow Belongs to Me,” the Nazi anthem from “Cabaret.”

The director and screenwriter last collaborated on the feature “Corpus Christi,” which was nominated for an Oscar last year, about a criminal who tries to become a priest. The duo clearly have an affinity for hot-button parables. Here Tomasz, after being expelled, spies on his family’s friends Robert (Jacek Koman) and Zofia (Danuta Stenka), who’ve been helping him financially, and woos their daughter Gabi (Vanessa Aleksander). And he joins a sleazy marketing and publicity firm devoted to undermining cyber-businesses and political candidates.

After a snub from Gabi, Tomasz determines to destroy a liberal politician that Robert and Zofia support. “I’ll kill myself if he loses this election,” Tomasz hears Robert exclaim, which practically sets off a Wile E. Coyote light bulb over Tomasz’s head. He sets about doing amazingly evil things with his computer, webcams and more. The movie is most effective in detailing how disinformation campaigns work. It also offers some scary insights into the rise of white nationalism in Poland. (The movie’s Polish release was reportedly delayed when one of the film’s darkest turns was enacted in real life.)

But more often, “The Hater” plays like something Krzysztof Kieslowski might have made had he been desperate to get work in Hollywood. As Tomasz, Musialowski puts across the character’s one-dimensionality with consistent commitment. The movie’s sensationalism is sometimes inadvertently funny, as when Tomasz, flush with success, starts dressing like a Bond villain on winter vacation.

The Hater
Not rated. In Polish, with subtitles. Running time: 2 hours 15 minutes. Watch on Netflix.

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