By Samantha Ofole-Prince
Miscarried justice often provides the perfect vehicle for emotionally wrenching dramas, and such is the case with Matt Ruskin’s Crown Heights. Powerful and unsettling, this Sundance Film Festival award winner, is based on the true story of a Caribbean immigrant who spent decades in prison for a crime he didn’t commit.
The film starts off in the spring of 1980 when a teenager is gunned down in Flatbush, Brooklyn. A child witness is pressured by the NYPD to identify a suspect resulting in Colin Warner’s (Lakeith Stanfield) arrest. Eighteen-year-old Warner, who is from nearby Crown Heights, is picked up while running errands for his mother and ends up being wrongfully convicted of murder and sentenced to life in prison. What follows is a battle by Warner’s childhood friend Carl ‘KC’ King (Nnamdi Asomugha), who devotes his life to fighting for Colin’s freedom, eventually becoming a legal courier to lead the fight for his exoneration after tireless appeals.
Throughout the film, Stanfield asWarner, emerges as a likable man with an astonishing ability to reject anger and bitterness. At every point, he is at the center of the story, and he carries the film with an impassioned performance. Stellar in the role, playing the character at several ages between 18 and 48, he does a solid job of bringing dignity and realism to the role. Nnamdi Asomugha, (who produces the drama under his company iAm21 Entertainment) as Carl King, Colin’s crusader, also doesn’t disappoint. It’s a film, which explores the power of friendship, for as the movie chugs inescapably forward, King’s unwavering devotion to his friend is remarkable. He dedicates his life to overturning the murder conviction, even risking his own marriage in a quest for justice that toils through 20 plus years of self-sacrifice and heartache.
Ruskin deserves praise for capturing the atmosphere and realism of underdogs fighting against the odds, and its message is noble and notable.
With moving performances and a solidstorytelling Crown Heights is a visual trip worth taking and it’s impossible to avoid being tugged into its human drama, which has been prompted by an endless stream of high profile exonerations.
“You never know how sacred your freedom is until it is jeopardized,” a dejected Warner shares in one mournful scene after yet another legal setback.
If you aren’t compelled to re-examine your conclusions on crime and punishment, then you need to see Crown Heights again until you are.
The Hitman’s Body Guard
By Khaleel Herbert
Samuel L. Jackson and Ryan Reynolds bring the pain and the laughs in The Hitman’s Bodyguard.
In a matter of seconds, Michael Bryce (Ryan Reynolds) loses his triple-A status as a bodyguard after his client, Kurosawa (Tsuwayuki Saotome), is suddenly assassinated before his eyes. Two years later, notorious hitman Darius Kincaid (Samuel L. Jackson) is supposed to be delivered safely by Interpol to Amsterdam as a key witness for a trial against Russian President Vladislav Dukhovich (Gary Oldman), who is secretly a tyrant that kills innocent people.
Kincaid and Interpol are ambushed by Russian assassins hired by Dukhovich. With her comrades wiped out, Amelia Roussel (Elodie Yung) has no one else to turn to for help except Michael. She shudders at the ideasince her and Michael were an item two years ago and he hates her guts because he thinks she was the one who killed Kurosawa. But she knows he’s good at his job.
Michael visits the apartment after getting a call from Amelia and finds Darius. They duke it out for a good few minutes. Darius is Michael’s worst enemy, who attempted to kill him exactly 28 times. But Amelia says if Michael can deliver Darius to the trial unharmed, she can help him earn his triple-A status again. Michael and Darius reluctantly flee together and travel miles abroad fighting goons and forming a bromance. The Hitman’s Bodyguard pairs Reynolds and Jackson like Rush Hour paired Chris Tucker and Jackie Chan. They didn’t see eye to eye at first, but they always busted each other out of a jam. The bloody violence (hallelujah!) is similar to, Reynolds’ 2016 trademark performance. Like Deadpool,the action follows funny one Deadpool-liners and attitude from Reynolds and a cocky Jackson with his one-liners, trademark yelling and swearing.
Like the classic good-cop/bad-cop routine, Michael follows the rules and develops plans to a tee. Darius wings it and follows his own rules to get the best results. It’s funny to see Darius question everything Michael does and Michael annoys the hell out of Darius by following the rules.
Gary Oldman gives a strong performance and convincing Russian accent as Dukhovich. His underhandedness in this film is similar to his role in the 1994 film, Léon: The Professional. Oldman played a crooked cop and Léon (Jean Reno), a professional hitman, and Mathilda (Natalie Portman), a girl he took under his wing after her family was killed, fought against him.
He’s a worthy foe for Michael and Darius.
The Hitman’s Bodyguard is the best action-comedy you’ll ever see. Period. Jackson and Reynolds are a great pair that keeps you laughing until the credits roll. You will not be disappointed.