What makes the film Crown Heights, which is the latest cinematic retelling of the true story of the wrongful incarceration of a Black man in the United States; difficult to watch… is that it wasn’t difficult to watch at all.

Sadly, because of podcasts and Netflix documentaries and the current saturation of true crime and truer police corruption and ineptitude, Crown Heights becomes just one of the many stories brought to light evidence that racial discrimination is abundant in our criminal justice system. And yes, this story needs to be told, especially because it sounds so similar to other stories of its kind. That’s the point. Black lives are being stolen. Each one matters. Sundance agreed, and awarded it the “Audience” prize.

Crown Heights tells the story of Warner (played by Atlanta’s Lakeith Stanfield) and his best friend, Carl “KC” King (played by Beasts of No Nation Nnamdi Asomugha). In a shocking case of mistaken identity, institutional racism and tortuous legalese, Warner was wrongly convicted of the murder of another teenager. Even though the key witness changed his story, Warner had an alibi and the real murderer eventually admitted his guilt, Warner was kept in Prison 21 years while childhood friend, KC, fought to prove his innocence.

Ultimately, King launched his own investigation to prove Warner was innocent. There are many ups and downs in the story, and the film covers each with painstaking detail. It can sometimes feel overbearing, and more of an emotional impact could have been made had the filmmakers chose to focus on a few key aspects. But then again, Colin Warner spent 21 years in Prison for nothing, so perhaps it was totally intentional to feel every single one of those downs and upsets. It’s a privilege to skip to the end. It’s more real to feel the drag of life, and time, and waiting.

Both Stanfield and Asomugha handle the protagonist trade-off like seasoned veterans. Stanfield’s role shows his emotional range and versatility. Asomugha showcased a more subdued, quiet style. They carry the lion’s share of screen time and are quickly becoming names on the tips of casting agents and producers alike.

Overall, Crown Heights curates the emotions of the storyline with measured pacing, and a heavy focus on accurately retelling the details of the case. It is textbook true crime, where some of the emotional impact of the details can’t be felt before being confronted by the next obstacle.

Crown Heights is in theaters now.

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