Emergency ⭐️⭐️⭐️ 1/2 Review by Andrea Carnevali
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. Available to watch on Amazon Prime.
Underneath what looks like your typical frat-college-comedy and your average all-in-one-night type of thriller, hides a film which is actually a lot smarter than one might originally think, with a lot to say about Black people’s experience in America, prejudice and fear of police brutality, as well of course as friendship (though that’s the least important part of this film).
The plot centres around Kunle and Sean, two best friends, both Black (their race is important), who, just when they’re about to embark on a wild night filled with college parties, they come back home to discover an unconscious, white girl on the floor in their living room.
Their first reaction is to call 911 is suddenly hampered by one realisation: how this would look to the police? Two Black men (and their Latino friend, who joins them soon) and a passed-out white young girl… So they decide against calling for help and agree to take the girl to the hospital themselves. But of course, nothing is as easy as it sounds…
What follows is a series of misunderstandings, misconceptions and twists as things get heated, messy, and hilarity and tension mount.
This is Carey Williams’s second feature film, after R#J, an interesting but ultimately flawed updated/revised version of Romeo & Juliet which used diverse actors, social media and modern storytelling techniques.
There’s no denying that the central conceit of Emergency is really quite clever and the mix between comedy, thriller, drama and “social relevance” is mostly well-balanced. Williams walks on a tightrope and handles some really tricky subjects with both confidence and lightness.
The film does tip over in a few places, when it becomes a bit too blatantly “spelt-out”, particularly in its last extended epilogue (or I should say “epilogues”), but when it works, it really does work beautifully, mainly thanks to some likeable performances and its pointed satire, so painfully relevant, but also so irresistibly hilarious.
Unfortunately there’s also a lot of fat, which betrays the film’s original roots. Emergency is in actually adapted from the director’s own previous short film with the same title, which won the Special Jury Prize at Sundance and the Grand Jury Prize at the SXSW in 2018.
You don’t have to have seen the original to work out what it must have been about and what’s been added to make it into a feature-length.
But there’s still a lot to praise even if you just treat it a simple action-comedy: it’s gripping, it’s funny and it’s sweet. It might not be very subtle, but maybe it’s not such a bad thing to spell things out in the hope that in a decade or so this might look very dated.
Andrea Carnevali is a Bafta winning film maker who lives in Chiswick
Emergency is available to watch on Amazon Prime.
See all Andrea’s film reviews here: Film reviews by Andrea Carnevali
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