Sundance Film Review: ‘Crown Heights’

Read the full Variety review of Crown Heights here.

Andrew Barker

Senior Features Writer

In case anyone needs a reminder, the fight against unjust policing in black communities long predates the cases that have dominated headlines in recent years, and Matt Ruskin’s film “Crown Heights” shines a spotlight on one particularly egregious injustice that stretched from the dawn of the 1980s all the way to the start of the current millennium...

Adapted from a “This American Life” episode that detailed the case of Colin Warner (Stanfield), who spent 20 years behind bars for murder before being freed in 2001, the movie offers an interesting companion piece to Ava DuVernay’s documentary “13th,” and ought to receive a look from festivals going forward...

As good as Stanfield is in the lead — the actor’s typical laidback demeanor proves an asset here, as he limns a very slow burn from dazed disorientation into focused anger — the film doesn’t really kicks into gear until in the later going, as Carl [Nnamdi Asomugha] becomes the de facto protagonist. Through his eyes, we get to see just how stacked the deck is against the wrongfully accused, as Carl risks his marriage, changes careers, goes into debt, and sometimes wanders into perilous situations to try to buy his friend another shot at freedom, even after Colin himself has all but given up. A former member of the NFL’s Oakland Raiders and a producer on the film, Asomugha really comes into his own as an actor in this role, dialing down the heroic aggrandizement and instead stressing the sheer weariness that such dedication enacts.