Crown Heights – Movie Review


Crown Heights


Directed by: Matt Rushkin

Starring: Nnamdi Asomugha, Lakeith Stanfield, Natalie Paul, Luke Forbes, Marsha Stephanie Blake, Zach Grenier, Skylan Brooks, Amari Cheatom, Bill Camp and Josh Pais

Rated: R

Run Time: 1h 34min

Genre: Biography, Crime, Drama

3 1/2 Frames out of 5

By: Shari K. Green


In Brooklyn, New York in 1980, Colin Warner (Stanfield), Trinidadian immigrant and small-time car thief is, at only eighteen years of age, charged with murdering someone by the name of Marvin Grant.  I say someone because they weren’t enemies, weren’t near one another at the time and Colin, in fact, had never seen this person in his life.  Clarence Lewis (Brooks) a teenager himself, near the scene at the time of the shooting, has it strongly suggested to him by a detective on the case, that he pick Colin out of some photos he is shown.  The detective keeps Lewis for hours looking at mug shots until he finally decides to simply pick a person at random to get his session with the police over and done with.  Fine with them.  Outside of this strong-arming the boy into giving his “testimony”, the police have nothing on Colin.  There is no physical evidence whatsoever but the police needed an arrest and are interested more in filling their jails than in an innocent man’s freedom.

At the start of the film, we meet Colin at his place of work where he is friendly with everyone and has an incredibly good friend named, KC.  KC is played by former NFL star Nnamdi Asomugha who also produced the film.  KC sticks with him through thick and thin, shows a dedication that transcends any you’ve ever seen before.  Colin spends twenty-one years in prison and as much as a family member would be there for him, KC is there to support him every step of the way.  Once Colin is forced into his new prison life, we see how hard it is for this innocent young man to get used to being behind bars.  Confused as to what is happening to him KC is there to give him encouragement.  Colin’s angry at the justice system and desperately wants to prove he’s not guilty.  Luckily for him, so does KC.  KC can’t help but put himself in his friend’s shoes and hopes down deep inside that anyone would be willing to do the same for him and for any innocent man.  It’s easy for him to decide he’ll do whatever it takes to free his friend.

Another good friend of Colin’s by the name of Antoinette (Paul) gives him some relief from his pain when she sends him letters that keep him positive in spite of the brutality he endures from time to time.  The film and his prison term span the time three different presidents are in the White House; they are Reagan, Bush and Clinton.  Each had a strong stance on crime.  We see Regan announcing that action against criminals will be swift and Clinton discussing his legislative win when he signs the Crime Bill into law which gave us the three-strikes program.  The political and criminal scenery in America at the time is that of trying to utterly put an end to crime or at least make people pay big when they are caught.  This film shows you what happens when only numbers matter to lawmakers and that this heartless way of seeing things is no way to get to the truth. Colin’s prison term is also over the time when the New York governor was George Pataki who wanted to end parole and weekend release for all violent felons.

This biopic, directed by Matt Ruskin, will have you as outraged at the system as it does Colin and the people who most believe in him.  A few times poor Colin wants to give up but refuses to ever say that he’s guilty of anything, sometimes coming to the realization that prison is where he’ll stay.  Eventually, KC takes matters into his own hands when a lawyer with good intentions sets him in the right direction by spotting and showing him that the proof against Colin simply doesn’t exist.  Eventually, KC and Antoinette, now Colin’s wife, play investigators, raise funds and find the help they need to get Colin a new trial.  Rushkin does a good job of keeping you in the story, making the passing of time obvious.  There’s a lot going on so if it feels like the film drags on a bit, the reason is well intentioned.  Seeing such an outpouring of love in this film and then the outcome of Colin’s struggle with the law is well worth a visit to the theatre this weekend… and so are the incredible performances by the men playing the main characters.

In Phoenix, you can see the film at these theatres:


In Phoenix, you can see the film at these theatres:

About Shari K. Green

Shari became fascinated by films when at the age of seven she saw a movie being made in front of her house. As a teenager she immersed herself in the culture of film working on stage and then became a cinephile, working in a video store. Since then she expanded into film criticism writing for the last eight years and she has now written, directed and produced several short films and is currently working on a feature film project with her production company, Good Stew Productions, which she created with a few of her friends. Her favorite movies are “The Big Chill” and “Lonely Boy” and she enjoys watching Woody Allen films above all others.

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