Year Released: 2002
Distributor: Film Movement
Running Time: 107 minutes
Rating/Recommended Audience: 13+
Related Films/Series: N/A
For Fans Of: The Visitor, Felicite, A Screaming Man
-Sports fan bonus: Congolese-Belgian soccer player Emile Mpenza is not only mentioned in the film, but he makes a cameo. The crazy part is his presence becomes a plot point later in the film.
-Hop was nominated for the Grand Prix Award by the Belgian Film Critic’s Association. Unfortunately, it lost to Strokes of Fire that year.
-The paranoid anarchist who takes Justin in is played by veteran Belgian actor Jan Decleir. He was also featured in films such as Running Free, The Memory of a Killer, and the Surprise. Interestingly enough, he declined to be in Eyes Wide Shut and The World Is Not Enough.
I remember watching trailers for so many movies a long time ago. When I first discovered Film Movement in my teens, I would remember seeing all these titles be mentioned in the trailers of the DVDs I watched. There was one Belgian movie I heard about over a decade ago and I never had the chance to watch it until this year. Even though this movie was made in the early 00s, I find some of the topics to be even more relevant now given the immigration issues going on and how this affects the main character of this European film.
Before I begin the review properly, I have to make this obvious joke. NO! This movie has nothing to do with CGI cartoon Easter Bunnies!
Hop is about the life of a Burundian immigrant child named Justin Karikuruba. He and his father Dieudonne live in Brussels. Justin is a straight-A student and he was able to school the class (no pun intended) by having his lesson be about a mysterious technique that the Twa (I will not refer to that naturally short ethnic group by using a certain P-word) used to tame elephants and defeat conquering forces. He knew about this because his late mom was Twa, so she shared the stories with him. On one fateful day, Justin tries to steal cable so he and his dad could watch a soccer game, things get heated as racist neighbors grab their TV and toss it out of the high-rise which lands on a bystander’s car. They frame Dieudonne and he’s arrested while about to be deported to Kinshasa, DRC despite him being from Burundi and not the Congo. Justin escapes and is forced to live with a grumpy anarchist named Frans who begrudgingly takes him in. Both of them hatch a plan to get Justin’s dad back, but it’s really rough when Frans hates the cops with a passion and wants to get back to his days of raising hell against the government with this immigrant child as an accomplice.
Hop was certainly an interesting watch and it has been a while since I watched 21st-century black & white films. Okay, I’m kind of cheating because there are brief moments where there is red in the film for artistic reasons, but that’s beside the point. For starters, it was awesome seeing an intelligent Black boy being shown in a movie like this. Most American movies wouldn’t even try that and I’m surprised that a movie in Belgium with a smaller Black population would have a main character like Justin, so props to that. His character was interesting and his situation is quite sympathetic with his dad being sent to a country he’s not even from for property damage that he didn’t even do. Side note: I swear his actor looks like he could pass as Chiwetel Ejiofor’s (12 Years a Slave, The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind, Talk to Me) older brother. Anyways, The characters were certainly colorful. Frans is very snarky and beaten down by life, but he’s able to help out Justin even if his methods get quite legally dubious with the dynamite and pranks going on. The filming was on the lower-budget level, but it does have a good sense of realism throughout the whole film. It was certainly fine over there. The immigration and racism issue is very accurate and it makes the film very timely still despite the obvious early 00s technology or fashion. You have racial profiling going on with the cops harassing Justin’s family, the neighbors throwing dog-whistle terms at them, and the cops almost shooting Justin at one point which easily invoked memories of Tamir Rice being gunned down. The themes work really well and I wanted the family to be reunited despite the odds stacked against them.
This Belgian film does falter at moments. While Justin is a likable character and has a situation where I want to root for him, some of his actions where he tried to take matters into his own hands made me root for him less. One can argue that because he’s still a child and he’s acting on emotional impulse, but some of those aspects, he should’ve known better. Some of the humor gets off-color like an outhouse exploding with the dynamite or a joke involving elephant genitalia (the sad part is that it’s a callback to Dieudonne explaining the hop concept to the cops). Frans’s past is brought up and it is quite sketchy as he’s done worse things while not going to jail for it while Dieudonne gets deported for a shallow and unjust reason. I also thought the cops while being believable with their bigotry get over-villainized when they have search dogs named Caesar and Brutus. Really? Do you know who else had an animal named Brutus? Madame Medusa from The Rescuers. I don’t need to be reminded of Disney villain henchmen in a realist drama movie. I could also make a joke about the other dog sharing a name with Kimba’s late father, but that would be too prideful of me. The criminal behavior of Frans doesn’t make it harder even with his issues with the government and everything.
Hop was a good watch though. The drama has the right amount of intensity and heart to make it work. The realism of bigotry and immigration issues works very well. There were some dated aspects like technology and fashion, but the other things worked just fine. I do wish they would’ve changed the development of Justin and Frans without resorting to some rash decisions, but I’m glad the ending more than made up for it though. Hop did stand on its own two feet for this particular film.
Adjustable Rating System:
Add 1-2 points if you like realism or dramas.
Subtract 1-2 points if you want something with a higher budget.
-Good realistic camera work
-Likable main characters
-Relevant story concepts
-Aspects of protagonist-centered morality
-Dated elements like the cell phones
-Some bawdy humor that was unnecessary
Final Score: 7/10 points
Content Warning: Hop is best for teens and up. The language is brief but gets quite strong. There’s some mayhem with dynamite and explosions going on. Some of those pranks would’ve killed people if they were in the wrong place. The racism on display is both subtle and overt with the characters discriminating against Justin and Dieudonne.
All photos property of their respective owners and used under US “Fair Use” laws. Hop is property of Film Movement. The DVD cover is from IMDb and is property of Film Movement.