Fjords Reviews

HOME | ART REVIEWS | It’s not about the Battle
It’s not about the Battle
Crown Heights—

A Film Review by Jennifer Parker

August 18, 2017
Share Button


Crown Heights Historical Fiction as a genre can often run the risk of revisionist history. In the case of Crown Heights, the least history can do for Colin Warner, his family, the sixteen-year-old boy, Mario Hamilton, whose life was senselessly ended on April 10, 1980 and the estimated 120,000 wrongfully incarcerated people in our country is to enable audiences to witness from beginning to end the story of how one lie can unravel the criminal justice system and render it unjust.

The gestalt of Crown Heights is that the problem of wrongful incarceration is bigger than Colin Warner (Lakeith Stanfield). The story is bristling with booby traps for any writer and director. Matt Ruskin (Booster) is making a dramatic film about men he respects for moviegoers that are more of a spectrum than an audience. Some may know parts of the story or nothing at all, some may have a vested interest in the story, some may be closely aware of the details but may or may not be invested in the story. It’s a challenging task for a filmmaker dedicated to both craft and historical authenticity.

On February 11, 2005, an episode of This American Life entitled, DIY, aired introducing public radio audiences to Warner and his best friend, Carl King (KC). It was King’s odyssey through the legal system with his only motive being Warner’s exoneration that became the cornerstone of the film. Writer and director, Ruskin dramatizes this horrific miscarriage of justice and the result is a loving film that’s also a testament to why our country shouldn’t live without public radio. Said Ruskin – “I remember when I heard the piece, I couldn’t get it out of my head…I knew their story would make for a really compelling film.” Indeed, Colin Warner is a dynamic means for bringing the story forward.

(l-r) Actor Lakeith Stanfield and Colin Warner, CROWN HEIGHTS, Photo Courtesy Amazon and IFC Films.
(l-r) Actor Lakeith Stanfield and Colin Warner, CROWN HEIGHTS, Photo Courtesy Amazon and IFC Films.

Arrested at the age of eighteen, convicted and sentenced to fifteen years to life in prison, Warner was swallowed by a machine of injustice, fueled by a political climate that was obsessed with convictions. The result is that we never get to know Mr. Warner like we get to know King. The film becomes less about the experience of a man who is wrongfully incarcerated than it is about the man who fought tirelessly if not obsessively to the point of almost destroying his marriage and losing his home as played by actor and former NFL player, Nnamdi Asomugha (Hello, My Name is Doris). What is missing is the impetus for King’s fervor. It thins the story that is otherwise so rich in context. He does offer the rationalization that it could have been him but somehow it doesn’t come through as reason enough.

Actor Nnamdi Asomugha, CROWN HEIGHTS, Photo Courtesy Amazon and IFC Films.
Actor Nnamdi Asomugha, CROWN HEIGHTS, Photo Courtesy Amazon and IFC Films.

What does come through the film is the gross unfairness of the criminal justice system to people of color who can’t afford adequate legal representation. Ruskin has a knack for knowing when it serves the story to dramatize events and when to allow history to speak for itself. There is a parole hearing that was taken from transcripts of Warner’s actual hearing that can only be described as a Catch-22. Not to spoil it, but we can only wish they were from the writer’s imagination and not from recorded history. Through Stanfield’s (Get Out) solid performance we are privileged a glimpse of Warner’s transformation from a justifiably angry victim to a quiet leader within the prison. It is not a matter of capitulation, rather a decision to live his best life—a film worth seeing.


Rating: R (for language, some sexuality/nudity and violence)
Genre: Drama
Aug 18, 2017 Limited
Runtime: 99 minutes
Studio: Amazon Studios and IFC Films


Santoalla-- the Spaces Between

Reading Arthur Miller in Tehran, The Salesman

Bewitched, Bothered and Beguiled, The Beguiled– A Film Review

A Spoonful of Sugar-- Not Saccharine The Big Sick: A Film Review

Fiona and the Tramp, Lost in Paris- a review

Movie Review: Beatriz at Dinner

Not Made in America - Three films that get it right: The Wedding Plan, One Week and a Day, and The Commune

Teddy Thompson’s Ultimate Funeral Mix Tape

Cattelan the Perspectivist

Jason McLean

Moray Hillary, Pre-New Reflective by Heather Zises

Cameraperson, dir. Kristen Johnson: stories from behind the camera lens

SELFISH, Review by Heather Zises

Winter Realm Series by Noah Becker

Winter on Fire: Ukraine’s Fight For Freedom, dir. Evgeniy Afineevsky

Paul Rousso at Lanoue Fine Art

Strange Days directed by Kathryn Bigelow (1995)

Airan Kang, The Luminous Poem at Bryce Wolkowitz Gallery

Damien Hoar De Galvan at Carroll and Sons

Antigone, 2015, directed by Ivo van Hove

3 Women, Directed by Robert Altman, 1977

World of Tomorrow and the Quit-Bang Language of the Future

Karen Jerzyk's unsettling Parallel World

Quintet, Directed by Robert Altman, 1979

Classic Movie Short Review: Croupier (1998)

CEK - Concrete Functional Sculptures

Popeye, Directed by Robert Altman, 1980

Alexis Dahan, ALARM! At Two Rams

Do Ho Suh, Drawings, at Lehmann Maupin

Kingdom of Dreams and Madness

Nir Hod, Once Everything Was Much Better Even the Future

Reuven Israel, Multipolarity

Review of Boyhood

Exhibition Review: Mario Schifano 1960 – 67

Subverting the Realist Impulse in the Work of Shauna Born

Linder: Femme/Objet by Erik Martiny

What We Do in the Shadows by Jemaine Clement and Taika Waititi

Kara Walker, A Subtlety

Justin Kimball at Carroll and Sons

Kay Rosen: Blingo

Told & Foretold: The Cup in the Art of Samuel Bak, at Pucker Gallery

Collective Memory Manipulated: Sara Cwynar’s Flat Death

Letinsky’s Creases Turn Sour

Universal Archive

Art Paris Art Fair 2013 Review

Paris Street Art Musée de la Poste

Trellises by Katherine Tzu-Lan Mann

Accumulation: Sculptural work by Alben at Gallery Nines

The Colour of Laughter

Topography of Destruction Kemper Museum

L'art en Guerre : France 1938-1947

The Louvre Relocates to Africa

Hopper the Frenchie

A French Priest, Tears and Fire the Art of Jean-Michel Othoniel

North Korean Defector's U.S. Art Premiere