Licensed to Kill | Chicago Reader

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This compilation of candid interviews with seven incarcerated muderers seems almost randomly edited by Arthur Dong, who also produced, wrote, and directed, and whose intentions may have been the opposite of what his movie achieves. The subjects—frequently shown responding to questions Dong poses so quietly offscreen he seems unconsciously ambivalent about his role—discuss how homophobia explains their crimes, while Dong cuts back and forth between the interviews, mug shots, crime-scene photos, snapshots of the victims, and archival footage of antihomosexual propagandists, often reproducing vicious quotes from sources such as the Bible over the imagery. He seems to be trying to rack up evidence that systemic intolerance of homosexuality breeds violence—he himself has been attacked—but the most striking thing about the material is that it never reveals any awareness that many of the interviewees are just using the concept of hate crime to rationalize what they've done. In one problematic image Dong uses a clip from a police videotape that records the search of a murder suspect's home and zooms in on a book about John Wayne Gacy. It's unclear whether Dong means to suggest a connection or call into question the investigators' idea that there's a connection—or whether he's even aware of this ambiguity. Like the anonymous police videographer, perhaps Dong just can't resist a little sensationalism. 80 min.

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