TAKING its title from the cautionary message inked into rapper Tupac's 'thug life' tattoo, George Tillman Jr's drama rages against racial division and police violence in 21st-century America.

The Hate U Give is sensitively adapted by Audrey Wells from Angie Thomas's young adult novel, which chronicles the anguished rites of passage of a teenager, who finds her voice in the most tragic circumstances.

Amandla Stenberg delivers a gut-wrenching lead performance as a 16-year-old, who zigzags uncomfortably between worlds of white privilege and black indignation.

Wells' script confidently walks a tightrope between tear-stained cries from the heart and boisterous humour as it sketches the dynamics between a family living in a predominantly black neighbourhood in the chokehold of drugs and gang warfare.

Amandla plays Starr Carter (Stenberg) who lives in Garden Heights, Georgia, with ex-con father Maverick (Russell Hornsby), who turned his back on drug dealer King (Anthony Mackie) to raise a family with wife Lisa (Regina Hall).

To ensure her children have a brighter future, Lisa sends them to predominantly white Williamson Prep, where Starr shares classes with her boyfriend Chris (KJ Apa).

Starr keeps the two sides of her existence separate until the fateful night she witnesses a white police officer shoot her unarmed childhood friend, Khalil (Algee Smith) dead.

Racked with grief, Starr shoulders a heavy burden to speak up for the deceased. However, testifying against a cop could lead to reprisals.

Uncle Carlos (Common), a detective on the same force as the suspended officer, offers comforting words of wisdom while activist group Just Us For Justice urges Starr to come forward.

As protests light the fuse on a powder keg of raw emotion, Starr embraces her family's history with fierce pride.

Tillman Jr's film ripples with fury and despair, but there is an undercurrent of hope that courses through ever frame.

Stenberg's powerhouse lead performance is complemented by splendid supporting turns from Hall and Hornsby, the latter falling back on teachings of the Black Panther movement to encourage his children to stand tall at the very moment they feel like admitting defeat.

Because all lives matter.

RATING: 7.5/10