This true story aims straight at the heart with a compassionate delivery of one of America’s anomalies, wrongly convictions for a crime. According to the film 2.4 million people are in prison and an estimate 120,000 are innocent. Quite a statement don’t you think? The movie drama Crown Heights follows one such innocent convict showing how the penalty system can fail.
Not the most honorable citizen Colin Warner (Lakeith Stanfield), a young black man, has tired of being part of the low end of the totem pole. Wanting to make a fast buck he asks his boss at the garage he works for if he is still paying for jacked cars. He gets a positive answer and that afternoon he robs a car in a different neighborhood and things don’t end well. Simultaneously a murder takes place in another part of town.
Sometime later following a visit to Antoinette (Natalie Paul) his love interest, he gets arrested for the murder. Accused of killing Marvin Grant, he’s taken into custody and grilled for the crime. He won’t sign a paper that he was involved and they put him in jail without bond. For months he waits for a hearing and during that time he gets information from an inmate named Charles (Leon Morenzie) that the shooter they are looking for is Anthony Gibson (Luke Forbes) who killed Marvin Grant out of revenge. Detectives question Charles and find out the facts, but believe that Colin was part of the crime and refuse to let him go.
At the hearing the judge approves a trial for both Colin and Anthony Gibson to be tried together for homicide. When Colin gets convicted using his court appointed attorney, his best friend Carl “KC” King (Nnamdi Asomugha) sets out to find someone who would come forward to help get the conviction overturned. Writer and director Matt Ruskin does a very good job of moving his film along slowly showing the steps it takes to get an an appeal, then a pardon and finally something positive.
The movie makes one wonder several things, but foremost the pressure detectives are under to solve a case. Especially in crime ridden city like New York City where this true story takes place. Although pressure may be the excuse for improper detective measures as you will find in Crown Heights, the film shows the travesty of the investigation of Colin’s accused crime. It also brings up the travesty of the court system for not adjudicating a just verdict.
The acting by Lakeith Stanfield is extremely good and very realistic in the role of Colin. He shows all sides of the young man of 18 who finds himself falsely accused of a heinous crime. He has love for his mother who does tricks for extra income, works hard in the shop where he’s made friends and shows Colin’s strong will to believe in his rights and never give up.
Stanfield is no stranger to the big screen acting in several hits like the recent Get Out, the TV series “Atlanta” and as Snoop Dog in Straight Outta Compton. While there’s a lot of good performances by male stars this year, I would love to see Stanfield get another strong dramatic role in the near future to prove his ability.
Crown Heights has been rated R by the MPAA for language, some sexuality/nudity and violence.
FINAL ANALYSIS: An excellent dramatic presentation of a heartrending true story. (4 out of 5 stars)
Additional Film Information
Cast: Luke Forbes, Lakeith Stanfield, Adriane Lenox, Nnamdi Asomugha, Natalie Paul, Amari Cheatom, Marsha Stephanie Blake, Nestor Carbonell, Zach Grenier, Josh Pais, Yul Vazquez, Ron Canada and Bill Camp
Directed and written by: Matt Ruskin
Genre: Crime, Drama, Biography
MPAA Rating: Rated R for language, some sexuality/nudity and violence (also includes language)
Running Time: 1 hr. 34 min.
Release Date: September 8, 2017
Distributed by: IFC Films
The comments within this review are the critic’s expressed opinions.