By Chardae Bazemore, NDG Special Contributor
Crown Heights is Matt Ruskin’s fact-based drama, portraying the pain and frustration Colin Warner (Lakeith Stanfield), an 18-year-old living in Brooklyn, faces when he is convicted and imprisoned for more than two decades for a crime that he didn’t commit. It is a story we have seen played out all too frequently in our headlines. Perhaps this particular crime and two decades of a man’s life lost did not become as well known through the news, but it is one which will stay with viewers.
Warner isn’t the only one experiencing pain from this injustice, but his childhood friend, Carl King (Nnamdi Asomugha), experiences financial strain and a strain on his marriage as he joins Warner in his fight against a broken legal system, crooked cops, and witnesses who fear speaking up. The strong performances of Lakeith Stanfield, Nnamdi Asomugha, and Natalie Paul (love interest of Colin Warner) help audience members feel the distress and powerlessness Warner and his loved ones must have suffered during this difficult time.
The compelling story reminds us there are others who are serving sentences for crimes they didn’t commit, an estimated 120,000 according to the statistic presented at the end of the film. At different points in the movie, we see American presidents calling for longer sentences, more prisons, and more police. This adds tension to the already mentally and physically exhausted characters, and reminds us the issue of young men of color being viewed as predators by individuals in positions of authority isn’t just a concern of the past.
One of the most powerful remarks in the movie is the statement “It could have been me”, made by King as he expresses the reason for his dedication to Warner’s exoneration. This is important because we learn King is fighting not only for Warner but for something greater. We are never given an elaborate explanation as to why King won’t give up. However, because of his efforts, audience members can walk away hopeful knowing we’ll continue to deal with injustice, but it’s harder to silence people who know the law and can identify when the law is being abused.
Crown Heights was released on Sept. 1 in limited release in DFW at the Angelika Film Center Dallas, AMC Mesquite 30, AMC Grapevine Mills 30 and AMC the Parks at Arlington.