Crown Heights Movie Review
“Crown Heights” is a story of a man unjustly sent to prison for a crime that he did not commit. But because it was in 1980 and it was a period of high criminal activity in New York City, this man had no chance. Even worse, he was a black immigrant from Jamaica. His life was changed when some dishonest cops pressured some young teenagers to testify against him. But he had one thing that kept him going, a good friend on the outside who would stop at nothing to see him set free.
Colin Warner (Keith Stanfield) was originally from Trinidad in Jamaica. But his family moved to the Crown Heights area in New York. When he was 18, he was picked up by the police for a murder that happened a few blocks away. Colin’s friend named Carl King (Nnamdi Asomugha) attempted to get him released. But the police had gotten some local kids to falsely testify that Colin was involved in a drive-by shooting. There was another guy who was picked up for being the actual gunman, but the police claimed that Colin drove the car in the shooting. Even when in truth there was no drive-by and there was no car.
Colin was railroaded and he thought that being innocent would save him. It did not. He was found guilty and was sentenced to 15 years to life. He had no idea that the legal system would not help a young black man when the cops wanted to close a case at any price. The price for Colin was his freedom. Carl King, along with Colin’s family and local friends did everything to come to his aid. They tried to publicize his case, but to no avail. They raised money for a legal defense to attempt an appeal to Colin’s conviction. But the lawyer they hired did not care about the case and it went nowhere.
Colin’s months in prison turned into years. His frustration grew to the point that he attacked a guard. He then spent two years in isolation. He just about gave up hope, but a local woman from his old neighborhood remembered about Colin. Antoinette (Natalie Paul) started to visit him in prison, and they eventually became sweethearts. Years later, they were married, even as Colin was still behind bars. His friend Carl would never give up on his quest to free Colin.
Carl’s devotion to the goal took a toll on him and his family. He lost his job and his wife separated from him and took their children. Still Carl sees that he could do some good. He became a process server to learn the legal system and to meet more lawyers. He soon meets an honest lawyer named William Robedee (Bill Camp). Carl make his plea to Bruce and asks him to review the case. Bruce is fascinated that such a miscarriage of justice can occur and that nobody has appealed correctly.
Meanwhile, Colin has been rejected for parole and has become resigned that he will be behind bars for the rest of his life. He is aware that Carl has found some lawyer who will review his case, but that does not give him much hope. There is not a day that Colin wakes up in the morning with his eyes closed and he does not say “Please don’t let it be a cell”.
Based on true story, this is a tale of a broken legal system that delivers justice as an after thought. Especially when the person charged is a young black man in New York City. Even with such a depressing topic, this movie shows that the underdog can always have the last word in court. The fact is that Colin Warner was convicted based on false evidence, and that he was finally released, 21 years later. But by then, Colin had spent more years in prison than he had spent as a free man.
Keith Stanfield and Nnamdi Asomugha do tremendous work as Colin and Carl, respectively. There is a worn-down acceptance that Colin has in his face over time. And Carl also faces adversity, but in a different way. He needs to teach himself the rawest points of a flawed legal system, so that he can use any pressure that he can to free Colin.
This movie is co-presented with Amazon Studios. So there is a lot going for it in the movie marketplace. In the Phoenix area, this movie will be playing at these theaters:
- Harkins Gateway Pavilions
- Harkins Christown
- Harkins Arizona Mills
- AMC Westgate
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Crown Heights Review
Crown Heights Summary
Written and Directed by: Matt Ruskin
Starring: Keith Stanfield, Nnamdi Asomugha, Bill Camp, Natalie Paul
MPAA Rating: R for language, some sexuality/nudity and violence
Length: 99 minutes
Genre: Prison Drama