(Photo Credit: IFC Films)
It Could Be Anyone of ‘Us’
“It could be me in here,” KC (former NFL star Nnamdi Asomugha) told his friend Colin (Lakeith Stanfield, “Get Out”) when Colin asked him why he continued to fight to free him for a crime he said he did not commit.
And although “Crown Heights” begins on April 10, 1981 in Brooklyn, N.Y., for African-American men the year could have been 2001 or 2031, and the town could have been Houston, Abbeville, La. or Kentwood, La., and unfortunately the reality could have been the same.
Colin is by no-means a squeaky clean 18-year-old growing up in the Crown Heights section of Brooklyn in the late 1970s and early 1980s.
Like many teenage boys from impoverished backgrounds, Colin is always looking for an angle to get out of his current predicament, whether it is legal or illegal.
Colin is studying to become an auto mechanic under his close friend and brethren KC and is close to graduation.
However, a bright future is not enough to stop him from hustling some petty cash along the way to legitimate loot.
Colin’s side hustle is stealing cars and trading them in to chop shops for cash.
He is a thief, but he is not a violent criminal.
Unfortunately, his petty crimes somehow lead to an allegation of murder.
The only problem is Colin is not a murderer.
He is accused of being the getaway driver. The only problem with that assessment from the prosecutors is that the alleged getaway driver and the alleged shooter have never met until they are tried for murder simultaneously.
The only alleged witness to the crime is an accused armed robber who wants to avoid a longer jail sentence.
The prosecutors in “Crown Heights” have no murder weapon, no forensic evidence, no motive and no trustworthy witnesses.
Nevertheless, the jury hits Colin over the head with a potential life sentence.
Fortunately for most wrongly accused criminals there is the appeal process.
Unfortunately for poor minorities like Colin, adequate, caring and competent counsel is like finding a needle in a haystack that weighs a ton.
But what Colin lacks in capital, he is rich in caring and compassionate comrades, who view him more like a brother than a friend.
KC makes it his life’s mission to free his friend from wrongful imprisonment even if it is detrimental to his own life.
“Crown Heights” is emotionally good and disturbing because the more things change, the more things stay the same.
African-American men and women continue to face an unjust court system that often only cares about convictions and not true justice.
In the film, the Caribbean accents are good.
The acting is good.
And the script is good.
“Crown Heights” also interjects actual news footage from the early 1980s from President Ronald Reagan to the video “Planet Rock” by Afrika Bambaataa and The Soul Sonic Force to the devastation of the crack cocaine epidemic.
Unfortunately, sometimes “Crown Heights” is not true to the decades being portrayed.
The classic song “The Message” from Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five is played at he beginning of “Crown Heights” about two years before it was actually released on Sugarhill Records.
Furthermore, the climax of “Crown Heights” is very predictable but that does not stop the film from being moving and apropos to everyday life for poor Black and brown people across this country.
Colin’s final lawyer stated that after spending 21 years in prison in New York, Colin was only still alive because he was not from a death penalty state like Texas and others.
Just imagine how many innocent Black men were sent to their deaths for no reason.
Like KC stated, it could have been any of us.