"The Hell of Prison"
A Review of "Crown Heights" by Nathan H. Box
Director: Matt Ruskin, Writer: Matt Ruskin, Starring: Lakeith Stanfield, Hunter Emery, Nestor Carbonell
Rating: 5 Stars, SHOWTIME!
For my 18th film of the 43rd Annual Seattle International Film Festival, I wanted to see a film that would get me spitting mad at the system. "Crown Heights" follows the life of Colin Warner who is wrongfully convicted of murder and spends 20+ years in prison for a crime he did not commit. If he possesses any luck at all, his best friend, Carl King, tirelessly devotes his life working to prove his innocence. Needless to say, this film did a fantastic job of getting me mad. It made me feel the same way "The Hurricane" starring Denzel Washington did back in 1999.
The focus of this film, Colin Warner, is not without his faults. He steals in an attempt make it in New York City. Still, he doesn't find himself succumbing to the violence that plagued NYC through most of the 70's and 80's. Then one day, out of the blue, violence visits his doorstep. A homicide occurs in his neighborhood of Crown Heights. In the panic, Colin is wrongfully seen as the shooter and later arrested. These moments will continue to be the focus of the film.
When Colin arrives in prison, he does so with the knowledge that he is an innocent man. This realization keeps him going and fighting a false conviction. Sadly, he soon learns prison is hell. Lawyers, guards, and the parole board couldn't care less about his innocence. Some of the most dramatic moments of the film are when Colin finds himself in solitary confinement. These scenes are tortuous and hard to watch. They offer a small glimpse of how the modern prison system conducts business.
On the outside, Colin's friends and family never quit fighting for him. They raise money from the neighborhood to afford lawyers and court fees. They educate themselves on the system. His friend Carl even volunteers time in a lawyer's office to get them to take the case. These acts just go to show you there is power in love; a power that can reveal the truth.
I won't tell you how the films ends. I will say that it is powerful. The last thirty minutes made this a five-star film for me. Which is why I recommend you head to your local theater and find a seat.
Be good to each other,