Courtroom Docudrama Recounts Real-Life Miscarriage Of Justice
In the spring of 1980, Colin Warner (Lakeith Stanfield) was wrongfully accused of murder on the streets of Brooklyn by a 15-year-old juvenile delinquent (Skylan Brooks) who picked him out of a photo lineup provided by the police. That supposed “eyewitness” testimony was the only evidence linking Colin to the crime, but it didn’t prevent a jury from convicting the 18-year-old in spite of a credible alibi and the absence of a motive, weapon or connection to the victim.
Soon, he was sent up the river where he began serving a life sentence for a crime he didn’t commit. Truth be told, the only thing Colin was guilty of was being born poor and black in the inner-city, which meant he was very vulnerable to a criminal justice system totally indifferent to the plight of an innocent, indigent, African-American defendant.
And he would very likely have merely wasted away behind bars forever were it not for the commitment to his cause of his BFF (Nnamdi Asomugha). Lucky for Colin, Carl King would remain obsessed with reversing the miscarriage of justice even after his appeals ran out and his attorneys, family and other friends had given up hope.
Written and directed by Matt Ruskin, Crown Heights is a riveting courtroom drama which recounts the events surrounding the shameful case. We watch Carl settle on his career as a paralegal with the goal of one day exonerating his lifelong friend. We also see the toll that that devotion would take on his marriage.
Fortunately, Carl did ultimately get Clarence Lewis to recant his testimony and admit that he’d lied under oath for orange juice and a candy bar. Too bad, that it took over 21 years to clear Colin’s name.
A sobering indictment of the legal system that’ll leave you wondering how many other Colin Warners might be incarcerated by a heartless prison-industrial complex routinely doling out a color-coded brand of criminal justice.
Excellent (4 stars)
Rated R for profanity, sexuality, nudity and violence
Running time: 94 minutes
Production Studio: Washington Square Films
Distributor: Amazon Studios
Partisan Polemic Revisits Mike Brown Shooting In Ferguson, Missouri
On August 9, 2014, Mike Brown was shot a half-dozen times by police officer Darren Wilson on the streets of Ferguson, Missouri, a predominantly-black suburb of St. Louis. Because several eyewitnesses said the 18-year-old had his hands up at the time, the incident triggered nationwide civil unrest which gave rise to the Black Lives Matter movement.
But Wilson was not even indicted by the grand jury which deemed his testimony credible. He claimed to have pulled the trigger in self defense after Brown had punched him and tried to grab his gun. The legal case divided the country along color lines in the same way as the O.J. Simpson trial, with African-Americans generally feeling that cops are too quick to shoot young black men, and most whites being inclined to give law enforcement the benefit of the doubt.
Co-directed by Damon Davis and Sabaah Folayan, Whose Streets? is an incendiary documentary which revisits the tragedy in partisan fashion, arguing entirely in favor of Brown’s innocence while conveniently ignoring the mountain of evidence which ultimately exonerated Wilson. Granted, this provocative polemic might serve as a Black Lives Matter recruiting tool, but it is likely to be of little value to any truth seeker interested in an impartial investigation.
After all, there was video proof that Brown and Dorian Johnson had robbed a convenience store just three minutes before the encounter with Wilson, who was summoned to the scene by a police dispatcher. Furthermore, the county, federal and independent autopsies corroborated the cop’s story while simultaneously refuting Johnson’s claim that his accomplice had been shot in the back and with his hands up. After an exhaustive investigation by the U.S. Department of Justice, even Attorney General Eric Holder concluded that Wilson was innocent.
So, what’s dismaying about Whose Streets? is how its presentation of a thief as an altar boy flies in the face of Dr. Martin Luther King’s appeal that black people be judged not by the color of their skin but by the content of their character. Why make Mike Brown the poster child for the Black Lives Matter movement, when there are so many martyrs far more deserving, like Trayvon Martin, Jordan Davis and Tamir Rice, to name a few?
A soulful cinematic sermon elevating a sinner to sainthood for the sake of an uncritical Amen choir still in denial about the truth of the Mike Brown case!
Good (2 stars)
Rated R for ethnic slurs, mature themes and pervasive profanity
Running time: 101 minutes
Distributor: Magnolia Pictures
OPENING THIS WEEK
For movies opening September 1, 2017
Do It Like a Hombre (R for pervasive sexuality) Out-of-the-closet comedy about a lifelong friendship which is tested when a guy (Alfonso Dosal) reveals to his homophobic BFFs (Mauricio Ochmann and Humberto Busto) that he’s gay. With Aislinn Derbez, Ariel Levy and Ignacia Allamand. (In Spanish with subtitles)
Dolores (Unrated) Reverential biopic about Dolores Huerta, the political organizer who co-founded the country’s first farm workers’ union with Cesar Chavez back in the ‘50s.
Goon: The Last of the Enforcers (R for violence, crude sexuality and pervasive profanity) Seann William Scott reprises the title role in this ensemble comedy about a retired hockey player who returns to the rink for one last hurrah, over the objections of his worried wife (Alison Pill). Cast includes writer/director Jay Baruchel, Liev Schreiber, Elisha Cuthbert and Callum Keith Rennie.
Jackals (Unrated) Intervention thriller about a brainwashed young man (Ben Sullivan) who is kidnapped from a religious cult at gunpoint by deprogrammers hired by his family, only to end up in a cabin surrounded by members of the sect demanding his release. With Stephen Dorff, Deborah Kara Unger and Nick Roux.
Jesus (Unrated) Coming-of-age drama, set in Santiago, Chile, about a troubled 18-year-old’s (Nicolas Duran) self-destructive descent into a depravity marked by sex, drugs and violence. Featuring Gaston Salgado, Sebastian Ayala and Alejandro Goic. (In Spanish with subtitles)
The Layover (R for sexuality, drug use and pervasive profanity) Romantic comedy revolving around the love triangle which develops when a couple of BFFs (Kate Upton and Alexandra Daddario) both fall for a fellow traveler (Matt Barr) during a long layover in St. Louis. Support cast includes director William H. Macy, Kal Penn, Molly Shannon and Matt Jones.
Mike Boy (Unrated) Hugh Massey plays the title character in this suspense thriller as an orphan pressured by a shadowy figure to join a secret society bent on world domination in accordance with an ancient prophecy. Featuring Emily Killian, James Wellington and Gerard Sanders.
Tulip Fever (R for nudity and sexuality) Romance drama, set in 17th Century Amsterdam, chronicling an artist’s (Dane DeHaan) passionate affair with a married woman (Alicia Vikander) whose portrait he’s been commissioned to paint. With Christoph Waltz, Zach Galifiniakis and Dame Judi Dench.
Unlocked (R for profanity and violence) Suspense thriller revolving around a CIA Agent (Noomi Rapace), lured to London, where she enlists the assistance of a former soldier (Orlando Bloom) to prevent an imminent biological attack. With Michael Douglas, Toni Collette and John Malkovich.
Viceroy’s House (Unrated) Hugh Bonneville plays Lord Mountbatten in this historical drama, set in New Delhi in 1947, recounting the Viceroy of India’s overseeing the country’s transition to independence. Co-starring Gillian Anderson, Michael Gambon and Simon Callow.