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Movie Review

Release Date: 05/20/22
(In Cinemas)
Genre: Comedy/Drama/Thriller

Studio: Amazon Studios


"Ready for a night of legendary partying, three college students must weigh the pros and cons of calling the police when faced with an unexpected situation."


When you’re growing up, they teach you all the colors in the crayon box, but they never tell you that some matter more than others. Red is the cost of conquest. Green makes the world go round. White gets to make the rules. Blue gets to enforce them. Black and Brown stay sidelined, and when they are used it’s only to make the other colors pop.


Regardless of where you stand on the spectrum of shades, it’s impossible to ignore the fact that on top of having limited access to opportunity, those with Black and Brown skin also don’t have the best relationship with those who wear Blue.


Rodney King, Eric Garner, George Floyd. Those are only the most recent reasons. And although we know their names and have felt their pain, no amount of reform can change the amount of fear and vicarious PTSD that emerges in a person of color when they cross paths with a cop. I say that from experience.


Now, those feelings are perfectly depicted - and humorously dissected - in Amazon’s new film Emergency. An expansion of the short film of the same name, the feature follows 3 male college students of color whose lives are turned upside down when they discover an unconscious White girl on the floor of their dormitory. 


Immediately and instinctually, one of the students tries to call the cops. But not before another becomes paranoid about how cops will interpret the situation. All three protagonists pause to figure out an alternative solution, but before they know it so much time has passed that if they do call the cops it’ll seem suspicious. If you’re worried that this is giving away the film, this all happens in the first 15 minutes. 


The remainder of the runtime revolves around their quest to get the girl help and the lengths they literally go to do it, just to avoid being detected by cops. The result is a satirical Superbad meets Weekend at Bernie’s - sans the dead body.


That’s one of the most admirable things about the film. Despite the seriousness of its subject matter, it isn’t afraid to be funny. On one hand, writer KD Davíla delves into the dramatic possibility of three young men losing their lives while trying to save another simply because of the color of their skin. On the other hand, she understands that these characters are prone to make dumb decisions because they’re still young. One of the best examples of this is when the trio accidentally rolls up to a friend’s party with the unconscious girl. It solidifies the film’s status as a literal Black comedy.


As the film shifts from comedy to drama to straight up thriller (in its climax), it’s director Carey Williams’ cohesive vision that makes it feel like you’re watching real life unfold rather just a string of events. I particularly loved how haunting the film’s final shot is too. It’s so simple, yet so sobering that I doubt I’ll shake it anytime soon. 


RJ Cyler, Donald Elise Watkins, and Sebastian Chacon star as the three main characters, college students Sean, Kunle, and Carlos respectively. Although their dynamic as a trio is great, the film opts to focus on the contrast between Sean and Kunle’s world views. It’s not that Carlos’ experience and perspective as a Hispanic doesn’t matter - it is explored to an extent- but as the film goes on it becomes clear the conflicting viewpoints of Sean and Kunle align more with the general public. One has faith in humanity, while the other believes that the world is out to get him.


Rather than prove that one is better or more accurate than the other, however, by the end it’s established that both ideologies can and do co-exist. That’s similar to the way the film as a whole can be described as both conversation-starter and a cautionary tale. 


Funny, frightening, purposeful, and entirely possible, Emergency is a film everyone needs to see. If not to understand the nation’s current mindset, then to see why the color of your skin impacts the experience you have - for better or for worse.

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