Rated: R for language, some sexuality/nudity and violence. Reviewed by: Jim Release date: September 8, 2017 Released by: IFC Films
Matt Ruskin (co-producer of The Infiltrator) delivers another all-too common fact-based account of what has plagued far too many.
His Crown Heights stars Lakeith Stanfield, Nnamdi Asomugha, and Natalie Paul among a decent ensemble as a watchable, upsetting, but finally uplifting portrait occurs in a rather subdued manner. For some a schematically conserved dramatic structure may be less vivid and visceral than Kathryn Bigelow's recent Detroit, possibly closer to the effectiveness of a more small-screen styled Conviction with Hilary Swank and Sam Rockwell not losing sight of judicial system inadequacies.
The period of early Spring 1980 is well delineated in the eponymous Brooklyn neighborhood where life would go awry for one impoverished, desperate car thief Colin Warner (Stanfield, so good in Get Out) as the 18-year-old Trinidad immigrant would endure much after a wrongful conviction over two decades in the murder of teen Marvin Grant. Austerity entails incarceration, cruel warders and (briefly depicted) solitary confinement.
Law enforcement needs a confession, the District Attorney an easy plea bargain, as Warner professes his innocence which leads to a protracted struggle. From Brooklyn Colin's childhood pal Carl 'KC' King (Asomugha) toils extensively for him, acting like a detective on his case and becoming licensed as a process server to acquire better representation. Paul's Antoinette is another backer of a shaken, wounded Warner also from his stomping ground.
There are the legal hurdles which aren't ignored as the facets of Colin's quandary are presented, part of which referenced in the widely acclaimed Ava DuVernay documentary 13th. Ruskin can't quite render the dynamism cinematically that Warner's situation deserves in terms of truly bracing melodrama. Yet, he still succeeds often because of the actors commitment to the material. From Zach Grenier as a cop and Bill Camp as Warner's best and most pertinacious lawyer to affecting turns from Asomugha (also a producer) and Paul. Best of all is the intuitive, sapient characterization from a quickly maturing Stanfield in a noteworthy arc which signifies an irrepressible adult.