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Lakeith Stansfield

“CROWN HEIGHTS” My rating: C+ 

94 minutes | MPAA rating: R

The real-life miscarriage of justice depicted in Matt Ruskin’s “Crown Heights” is both outrageous and all too common.

In 1980 Colin Warner, a native of Trinidad living in Brooklyn, was implicated in the shooting death of another young man. A witness claimed that Warner drove the killer’s getaway car; the victim’s brother said Warner’s mug shot (Warner had a history of car theft) looked like one of the shooters.

Warner had never met any of these individuals and was at a loss to explain his predicament. Even the detectives who arrested him  suspected that he probably didn’t do it…but they needed to clear the case and move on.

As a result, Colin Warner spent nearly two decades in prison before an extraordinary effort on the part of one of his friends led to his release.

“Crown Heights” is basically a legal procedural that takes a docudrama approach. This is both its strength and its weakness.

Writer/director Ruskin appears to hew closely to the facts of the case. But he also refuses to speculate on his characters’ inner lives…with the result that the film, despite its incendiary nature, feels emotionally neutral.

It’s easy enough to become furious about what happened to Colin Warner; but as drama “Crown Heights” leaves us wanting.

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