Rob Reviews "Crown Heights"
There is really only one way for me to start this review, and it is with one word:
Matt Ruskin directs and adapts the true story of Collin Warner to the screen in grand fashion. Warner (played here by Lakeith Stanfield) was a small-time thief who was arrested and imprisoned in 1980 for a role in a murder that he was nowhere near through police bullying by young eyewitnesses. Sent to prison for a minimum of 15 years to life, his family including his brother “KC” (Nnmadi Asomugha) takes up the mantle of his case to do everything he can to get his brother the freedom that he deserves.
Let’s just get to it: this is the best story of its kind that I have seen in a very long time. Ruskin shoots this story in a way that kept my heart rate elevated for the entire almost one-hour-and-forty-minute runtime through tight shots by Ben Kutchins and a score by veteran composer Mark Ge Gli Antoni that held my attention from the first frame to the last and had me emotionally invested at every twist and turn of this truly outlandish story.
Stanfield absolutely crushes it in this film, showing Warner himself as a man who is courageous and determined but also displaying how each and every one of us has a breaking point. His journey through darkness, confusion, and pain is nothing short of riveting, and it is a rare occasion to see a character arc played so intensely as if he himself was going through the mind and story of Warner as he did. There are also standout performances from both Asomugha and Paul as his brother and love interest respectively, whose stories are just as important to this story as Warner’s is as they help him fight even when he doesn’t want to.
There are stories out there of triumph through tragedy, but “Crown Heights” is one that will stick with me for a VERY long time. As I go back through other films like it in the last few years (and I have seen more than a couple), I have to go back to 2010’s “Conviction” as the last film that I could compare its message to that is this impactful. With Amazon Studios gaining more of a foothold in the theatrical release game, this is one of the best acquisitions it has made thus far, and should be on your “must see” list for sure.