If Lakeith Stanfield had you talking in Get Out, you haven’t seen anything yet.
To say the world now needs art more than ever would be an understatement. More poignantly the world needs honest, unflinching art. Matt Ruskin’s “Crown Heights” starring Lakeith Stanfield (Get Out and Straight Out of Compton) and Nnamdi Asomugha (Beasts of No Nation) fills that exact need.
Based on a true story, Crown Heights follows the life of Colin Warner (Stanfield), a black man wrongfully convicted of murder. Starting when Warner is 18, the film spans more than 20 years of his life, through the day he’s arrested until he’s released at 39. The audience also gets a personal look into the life of Carl King (Asomugha), Warner’s best friend, who dedicates his life to proving Warner’s innocence.
Matt Ruskin adapted the script from a This American Life episode which he went on to also direct. The consistent vision of the writing paired with the direction is evident from the film’s first few scenes. Although film offers nothing groundbreaking in cinematic terms, due to its timely release, it’s sure to have audiences talking. Although the plight of discrimination people of color face daily in the U.S. is not new territory, the entire cast anchors this heartbreaking tale in such grim reality it can’t trigger an emotional response.
Along with Stanfield and Asomugha, Natalie Paul delivers a simplistically beautiful performance as Colin Warner’s eventual wife that elevates the entire performance. The actors’ performances paired with the, somewhat slow, build of the film does an excellent job of bringing in the audience to the high tension situation with the ever-growing frustration and hopelessness one can only imagine that Warner was going through. A frustration that highlights the main issue that is often misrepresented in these types of films.
The frustration of the fact that it was not simply “one bad egg” that happened to fail Warner. The entire system failed him. Time and time and time again. Through the exit of the 70’s and the Regan administration, through Clinton’s three-strike policy, the audience is forced to confront how everyday choices and election votes took away over two decades of a man’s life. Crown Heights shouldn’t be seen because of the compelling story line or the tremendous acting performances, although it has both of those qualities. It should be seen because it’s time that America stops running blindly away from what we’ve created.
The film hits theaters this Friday.